On the southwest shore of Florida’s giant Lake Okeechobee, U.S. Sugar grows cane on as much as 200,000 acres in a given year. Based in Clewiston, the company processes every bit of its harvest into granulated sugar, molasses and liquid sweetener, all at one plant.
That harvest is meticulously planned, because it has to be. Unlike corn, soybeans or wheat, which can be safely stored for months, sugar cane needs to be processed within 7.5 hours from the time it is cut.
As a result, U.S. Sugar’s cane harvest is timed to cut just enough cane to supply a steady stream of product to be processed without delay. Harvest, which generally begins in October, will continue well into April and runs 24 hours per day, weather permitting.
With such logistical demands, the company, like any agricultural operation, picks its partners carefully. This past year, U.S. Sugar, along with one of its contractors, Glades Planting LLC, used no fewer than 52 tractors from AGCO to help put sweetener on tables worldwide. Between last October into this coming April, U.S. Sugar leased 20 MF7622s that will haul heavy wagons loaded with sugar cane from the fields to rail car elevator collections points.
“When you look at our operation, we put 3,500 hours on a tractor in a season,” says Heather Banky, managing director of grower relations, fleet & special projects. “You don’t see that happen in three or four years in other businesses.
U.S. Sugar is on its second year using the MF7622. The reviews are glowing. “They pull really well,” says Juan Cervera, U.S. Sugar’s harvest operations manager. “They pull better than the John Deeres of the same size. The operators like them. They are comfortable.”
Glades Planting contracts with U.S. Sugar to plant cane, spray crop-protection chemicals and apply fertilizer. In 2015 they leased eight MF5612s, eight MF5613s, and 16 Challenger® MT465B tractors. Like U.S. Sugar, they leased the machinery from Kelly Tractor in Clewiston.
“The biggest thing is to be able to support the tractor,” says Trey Dyess, co-owner of Glade Planting. “And we have to say Kelly Tractor does a really good job.” Dyess and partners also own two of AGCO’s RoGator® sprayers, an RG1100 and an RG900.
U.S. Sugar depends on Kelly as well and, as with Glades, the commitment from Kelly Tractor is solid. “They have to be running all the time,” says Clayton Jones of Kelly Tractor. “Any downtime is expensive. They depend on our parts department, and we stay pretty stocked up. We are on call 24 hours per day.”
A pasture sits empty, virtually devoid of anything living, unless you count the grasses, which went dormant months ago as winter set in. While it’s minus 16 Celsius—a relatively balmy winter temperature for Northern Alberta—the wind is howling at about 50 kph and shooting cold like darts into any exposed skin.
Even the cattle up here don’t venture into the open. They choose instead the shelter offered by a sizable stand of poplar and spruce trees. That is, until they hear the tractor.
Like some sort of dinner bell, the sound of the engine bounces off the frosted landscape and calls the cows from the bush. Some 600 cows and a few calves—just one group from a herd that numbers as much as 11,000—barrel forth and line up, ready for mealtime, before they head back to the refuge of the trees.
The Cattlemen who raise them, Chris Sloan and his brother Frankie, and their father, Frank, run Sloan Cattle Company, a cow/calf operation north of St. Paul, Alberta. With some 30,000 acres owned or managed by them, they believe their ranch is among the 20 largest such concerns in Canada.
Comparisons aside, theirs is a demanding job. The Sloans’ pastureland is spread over some 130 km, while the land on which they grow hay—producing as much as 35,000 round bales in years past—is as far away as 150 km.
“One of the challenges of having [so many] cows,” says Chris, “is finding the feed for them. We fight as hard as we can to graze six months out of the year and feed six months. That’s why we make so much hay and bale so much straw,” as many as 1,000 bales a day, adds Chris. They cut and bale that hay with a combination of Massey Ferguson tractors, and Hesston windrowers and large square balers—all tough enough to handle harsh conditions and long hours in the field.
Even though prices are good now, market pressures are always a concern for ranchers, as they are for farmers. Still, says Chris, “The cattle industry really seems optimistic now.”
It’s a lifestyle the three Sloans absolutely love. “I like working with these two and seeing them grow up on the farm,” says Frank about his sons. “And it’s an awful nice sight to see 650 cows lining up, eating their oats behind a spreader. There’s satisfaction in knowing that you’ve done that … that you’ve raised that food for the whole world.”
The last three combines that Erle Brewer has owned have all been traded back to Shoal Lake Farm Equipment shortly after the warranty expired … which means Brewer hasn’t had to worry much about repairs. However, that doesn’t mean the Hamiota, Manitoba, farmer is any less diligent about end-of-season maintenance and inspection.
With 2,500 acres of canola, oats, wheat and barley to harvest each year, the Massey Ferguson® Model 9560 he currently owns gets a good workout by the time harvest season is finished. Hence, the first thing he does before putting the machine away for the winter is thoroughly clean and check it over for needed repairs.
“I go over all the usual things, like checking the belts and chains, and making a list of any repairs that need to be made,” he says. “I can still do a lot of mechanical repairs myself; but with all the electronics on combines these days, I hate to get too far past the warranty. Fortunately, I haven’t had many problems to worry about since I try to keep fairly new machines. Keeping them clean and properly maintained just makes harvest that much more trouble-free.”
Trading in combines just after the warranty expires is a terrific approach to managing a fleet. However, as Brewer notes, it doesn’t eliminate the need for regular maintenance. So, to help farm equipment owners develop or enhance their own system and maximize uptime, FarmLife is offering a series of maintenance checklists.
Check out the latest we’ve crafted with the help of farmers and AGCO dealership and corporate personnel. Also, see parts one and two in the series—on balers and tractors.
For more, see http://www.myfarmlife.com/advantage/dont-wait-for-a-harvest-breakdown/ or visit the maintenance series from FarmLife, our exclusive customer magazine, at http://www.myfarmlife.com/maintenance/.
How about a little good news for the holidays?
“Farms give us food, fiber and fuel, all essentials of life. But now we are also asking for them to give us the secret of why living on a farm makes you healthier.” So says Matthew C. Keifer, MD, MPH.
Keifer is an investigator for a National Institutes of Health-funded study being conducted by the National Farm Medicine Center at the Marshfield Clinic, in conjunction with the University of Wisconsin. The study is looking into why farm children have less asthma, wheezing and allergic reactions than non-farm children. Researchers will enroll some 100 pregnant farm women and 100 pregnant non-farm women, searching for variables that make the difference in their children. For now, the study, which ends in 2017, has focused on farms with animals. “The strongest evidence for this protective effect is in large-animal agriculture—hogs and cattle,” says Keifer.
He adds, “Allergic conditions are overreactions of the immune system. If we can figure out what it is about the farm environment that modulates or calms down the immune system, we can probably develop a method to get that kind of remedy available to non-farm kids.” Stay tuned. Researchers hope to make results from the study available in 2017 or 2018.
From the launch of Fuse Connected Services to new product and partnership announcements, 2015 has been an exciting year for the AGCO farmer. In addition to delivering best-in-class solutions for growers, AGCO continued its commitment to providing resources for growers and dealers that want to understand more about Fuse.
AGCO’s precision farming approach is gaining recognition, and this likely impressed the members of The New Economy judging panel in February 2015, which awarded AGCO with The New Economy Clean Tech Award for Best Agribusiness & Agricultural Solution.
The following month, the global Fuse website, www.AGCOtechnologies.com, won two Interactive Media Awards™ for Outstanding Achievement in the areas of ‘Science/Technology’ and ‘Professional Services’ due to the site’s detailed content and usability. In September the site was also honored with a Silver W3 Award based on design and creative elements. The Fuse website features information about Fuse products and services, as well as support and training resources.
Another resource to learn more about Fuse is our video showcasing AGCO’s vision for the future of precision farming. The video brings a greater understanding of the Fuse strategy by highlighting the benefits it brings to AGCO customers and dealers. Since the video’s release, it has been honored with a Gold Remi Award in the ‘Agriculture’ category as well as a prestigious Silver Cannes Corporate Media & TV Award.
Providing excellent resources to AGCO customers and dealers is just one way AGCO is delivering on the Fuse approach to precision farming. Coming soon in 2016 will be the launch of additional languages of the Fuse website and a new payback calculator tool to help growers understand the value of precision farming, in addition to new videos featuring our products, services and customer testimonials.
Abby Burton is a marketing communications specialist for AGCO’s Advanced Technology Solutions group, focusing on delivering the Fuse message to customers, dealers, employees and investors.