Custom Harvesters: A Special Breed

Gleaner S77

Gleaner S77 combining wheat near Milesville, SD

We all have our place in harvest, from the South African man here in the United States who supports his family back home, to the consumer who might not always think of the hard work put in by so many people to make the toast they eat every morning. To make the custom harvest run happen, many people must play their role and every now and then, we take the time to show our appreciation.

Nelson Farms (my dad’s crew) just finished up harvest in Pierre, SD on Friday, August 5. It’s been a longstanding tradition with my family to have an appreciation supper for our farmers and crew at Cattleman’s Steakhouse in Pierre. This year, we were glad to have the AGCO Parts Tech Van crew join us at Cattleman’s. The crew from the tech van does a lot for the harvesters and it isn’t often they see how much they are appreciated. Hopefully, one of the best steaks in the country will be a reminder that we depend on and appreciate the work they do for us.

Nelson Farms Appreciation Supper

Fifteen people gathered at Cattleman's Steakhouse as a thank you for playing their role in harvest.

I look forward to the time at Cattleman’s every year, not only for the amazing steak, but also to see everyone relax and enjoy the company. The stop in Pierre lasts two to three weeks and consists of the most wheat acres our combines will harvest in one place throughout the year. The crew runs hard, and by the time the last acre is harvested, everyone is ready to be done.

While my time on harvest isn’t over yet, I couldn’t help but feel the relief of harvest in Pierre being completed. In years past, the end of Pierre’s harvest marked the end of my time with the crew. Every person differs on the feelings they have when harvest is over, but for me, it’s relief mixed with an unquenchable hunger, one that keeps me coming back year after year. That hunger reminds me that I’m a harvester, whether I’m running the tractor and grain cart or tagging along with the tech van crew on service calls. There is a passion that goes along with harvest. I can’t think of anything more rewarding than looking over a field of golden wheat stubble and knowing that you’ve done your part in feeding the world.

We all play our roles, but it takes a special breed to gamble on the harvest run. Custom harvesters drive thousands of miles, hauling machines that cost more than many houses, just to harvest a crop that may or may not be there when they arrive. Harvesters battle weather, breakdowns, fuel costs, lost family time, uncomfortable camper beds, and lots of fast food lunches, but they keep doing it year after year. And that’s something we should all be thankful for.

How do you show your appreciation to your customers, employees and service technicians?

The AGCO Parts Tech Van crew in Billings, MT shows off their Gleaner gear from Ag World Equipment.

Speaking of appreciation, the AGCO Parts Tech Van crew would like to thank James Cook from Ag World Equipment in Kinistino, Saskatchewan, Canada for our awesome Gleaner Super Series t-shirts. I delivered them to the tech van crew in Billings, MT on Saturday, and they were very excited to show them off.

The tech van located in Pierre moved to Bismarck, ND on Monday, August 8 and will be located at the Butler Machinery Company throughout the rest of wheat harvest.

Bill Wright: Running Gleaner for 50 years

While following the North American custom harvest run in the AGCO Parts Tech Van, we met Bill Wright, a custom harvester from Manchester, OK. Bill is a Gleaner man and he has been for the last 50 years. “I started harvesting with my dad at age 11, running Gleaner A models,” Wright said. “We’ve always had Gleaners.”

Bill Wright & grandson, Nick

Bill Wright & Nick, his grandson

It is hard to change brands after so many years, according to Wright. He has learned the machines throughout the years and is comfortable running them.“Fifty years has been a pretty good run with Gleaner,” he said “Knowing the machines has kept me from switching brands.” Besides familiarity, Wright is still running Gleaners because of the in-the-field support offered by the AGCO Parts Tech Van. “The tech van has always taken good care of me and my combines”.

Currently, Wright is operating two R66s on his harvest run. Bill still sits in the operator seat of one combine, and his grandson, Nick, runs the other. “It’s been nice having Nick around,” Wright said. “He’s been around harvesting his whole life.”

The Wrights begin their harvest run in Seymour, TX and end the wheat season in Montana after six more stops in Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, Nebraska and South Dakota. After wheat, the crew usually combines corn, sorghum and soybeans at home in Manchester, OK and in Dighton, KS. However, the weather this year has made harvest difficult. “Nothing’s been easy this year,” Wright said. “Worst luck we’ve had is the weather though. We’ve had good luck with our combines.”

One thing is certain with Bill Wright; he doesn’t plan to change brands anytime soon. “Well, we did try one other brand quite a few years ago,” Wright said. “But we didn’t get along too well with that one.”

Do you know anyone who bleeds Gleaner silver like Bill Wright?

Providing Harvest Support: AGCO Parts Tech Van

AGCO cares about their customers, which is why the AGCO Parts Tech Van was formed to support custom harvesters in North America.

Over 53 million acres of wheat were planted in the United States for the 2010/2011 growing season, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). In order to harvest those acres, farmers often hire custom harvesters – men and women who own their own combines and are paid to harvest the crops of others.

While wheat is not the only crop harvesters encounter, it makes up the majority of custom acres. Custom harvesters follow the wheat northward as the crops ripen, often starting in Texas in May, ending in Montana, North Dakota or Canada in August to September, and making several stops between.

Custom harvesting operations include combines, grain trucks and, sometimes, tractors pulling grain carts. Operations vary in size with some consisting of only a single combine and others with 20 or more combines.

These combines  see hundreds of hours and thousands of acres throughout the season. While machines are serviced daily by the crews, combines of every brand experience breakdowns due to the conditions experienced on harvest.

AGCO Parts Tech Van Employees

AGCO Parts Tech Van Employees

“Although we have superior products, every piece has a limit, especially in the tough conditions our machines operate in,” said Todd Davis, AGCO Parts Tech Van supervisor. “Custom harvesters push their combines to that limit every day to achieve maximum productivity, efficiency and profit.”

That is where the AGCO Parts Tech Vans step in to help. With two mobile trailers, the tech van crews follow the harvest, providing parts and repair services to the operators of Gleaner, Massey Ferguson and Challenger combines.

“During harvest, we provide in-the-field service that is comparable to no other manufacturers in the industry,” Davis said.

By having the tech van near the action, harvesters are able to reduce time and money lost due to breakdowns.

“Harvesters call us as the problem occurs, and we get out there as soon as we can,” Davis said. “We have four service trucks that are dispatched from the tech van trailer to assist custom harvesters with problems they cannot repair themselves.”

The AGCO Parts Tech Van arrived Sunday, July 24, 2011 at Butler Machinery Company in Pierre, SD and the crew continues to follow the wheat harvest northward. The second tech van is scheduled to move to Billings, MT on Saturday, July 30, 2011. The Tech Van is open from 7 a.m. US CST to 7 p.m. US CST every day of the week.

Has the AGCO Parts Tech Van ever assisted you with your machinery? Tell us your story on our Facebook page or follow @AGCOcorp on Twitter. For more information about the tech van, visit or ask your local dealer.

Gleaner 2011 Road Show Offers High-tech Demos

We told you earlier during the 2011 Gleaner Road Show, producers will be able to see how the new Gleaner Super Series combine works on the inside as the combine smoothly glides through a field during harvest. Using an AgCam mounted inside the machine, the Gleaner Road Show team will capture video of the combine’s natural-flow two-stage feeding system and transverse rotor as it processes and cleans the crop. The video will be displayed on field-side monitors. The 2011 Gleaner Road Show is occurring from July through November, moving northward with the small-grains harvest and then through the Corn Belt in North America.Gleaner combine

“We’ve talked a lot about the benefits of our natural-flow two-stage transverse rotor system, and now we’re literally showing it in action,” says Kevin Bien, product marketing manager for Gleaner. “By mounting one of the cameras beneath the accelerator rolls, we’ll be able to show producers how the grain is pre-cleaned before it reaches the cleaning shoe. They’ll be able to see how much less material other than grain (MOG) arrives on the cleaning shoe. Our process essentially makes the shoe a secondary cleaning device rather than the primary cleaning system as on other combines.”

With less MOG on the cleaning shoe, the detrimental impact of gravity is reduced, so the machine can operate on slopes of up to 23 percent without self-leveling devices required on other combines. The unique two-stage cleaning system of the Gleaner S7 Series combine also provides increased harvest capacity though the machine is as much as 2.5 tons lighter than competitive Class 7 machines.

To find a 2011 Gleaner Road Show event near you for a view inside the Gleaner S7 Series combine, visit for a schedule or contact your local Gleaner dealer at The online schedule will be updated from July through November as the 2011 Gleaner Road Show moves northward with the small-grains harvest and then through the Corn Belt this fall. Read more.

Are you heading out to a field demo to see farm equipment in action? Which machine? Where at?

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