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Robotic Revolution

Murray and Todd Schnarr

Murray and Todd Schnarr

It’s just one of those talks that you have while you’re milking the cows,” says Todd Schnarr. “You know, ‘What do you want to do next?’” he recalls asking his dad and business partner. “‘Where do you think we’re going?’

“We were just way too overcrowded,” says Todd’s father, Murray. “We had to get these cattle moved into an area where they had a lot more freedom, a lot more space and a lot more cow comfort.”

The Schnarrs, who live and work near Alma, Ontario, found what they hoped would be a solution, consisting of two main parts, each working hand in hand with the other. One was a compost-pack barn that would give the cows the freedom to move about inside, which, in turn, would allow them to essentially milk themselves at the second part of this equation: a robotic milking system.

Pioneered in Europe some 20 years ago, significant numbers of dairies in Canada, and more recently the U.S., have begun installing robotics, also referred to as automatic milking systems (AMS). The robotic system the Schnarrs purchased cost them about $400,000. Even with a total cost of $1.7 million, including construction of the new compost pack barn, Murray and Todd hope the system will pay for itself—mainly in the form of increased yields and lower labor costs—in six to seven years from time of completion.

In addition to operating a dairy, Murray and Todd Schnarr run a custom hay cutting, raking and baling business. Farming a total of 550 acres, some of which is planted in cash crops, Todd says he and his dad don’t farm enough land for many new equipment purchases “to make financial sense. So we do custom work.”

That way, he says, he and his dad can spread the cost over multiple uses and “we can get top-quality equipment for our farm. I like helping neighbors, and this way it’s a win-win for us and for them.”

The “top-quality equipment” to which Todd refers is AGCO, including a Massey Ferguson® 8660 tractor, and a 2150 large square baler and 9770 windrower, both of which are Hesston® by Massey Ferguson. Todd says the fuel economy is excellent on the 9770 and MF8660, and the CVT transmission on the tractor makes “the equipment more efficient to run. You can get that exact mile per hour that you’re looking for. Half a mile an hour might not seem like much, but through a whole day or a week, you know you can get a lot of extra work done with that.”

To read more about the return on investment for robotic milking, and more about the Schnarr’s business, see

Barn Weddings Can Mean Big Income Boosts

In 2007, Ron and Diana Mellon erected a handsome cherry-red barn perched on a swath of neatly manicured land. The plan was to use the structure for machinery on their farm, where they run anywhere from 180 to 200 head of Angus-cross cattle, chop silage, rake hay, and raise corn and beans on their rolling 300 acres.

Those plans changed, however, when a couple approached Ron and Diana and asked if they could get married in the beautifully rustic structure. The Mellons’ “Yes” sparked a new venture on the couple’s Lawson, Mo., farm: a booming barn wedding business.

Massey Ferguson equipment helps the Mellons meet their typically tight schedule

Massey Ferguson equipment helps the Mellons meet their typically tight schedule

After management and production, land payments, equipment purchases and employing seasonal help, producers and their families often decide to seek out additional revenue streams. Sometimes, it may be agritourism or hunting leases, or even niche markets. The Mellons entrance into the weddings business was a wise one.

Overall, weddings are a whopping $54-billion-a-year industry in the U.S. alone, and $5 billion in Canada. Then, consider that the Bridal Association of America reports 47% of all 2012 weddings were held outside of a church, 35% of which were outdoors. Barns can offer the warm, rustic charm and back-to-basics feel many [wedding] couples crave.

Mellon’s Banquet Hall officially opened for business in 2008. Diana’s already busy days on the farm became even busier. That new barn is now used for weddings, as well as birthday dinners, reunions and corporate retreats.

“We’ve had more than 200 weddings here, not including corporate dinners, birthdays and reunions,” says Diana, who works every event herself. She also hires seasonal employees to help, but laments, “It’s hard to find good help.”

Diana does have terrific help, however, coming from her granddaughters, who pitch in to help, while the Mellons’ grandsons assist Grandpa Ron on the farming side of things.

“The wedding business has become our income,” Ron says, adding that they have a big cattle sale coming up. Farming still remains the bedrock of family life, and, it should be noted, Massey Ferguson equipment helps the Mellons meet their typically tight schedule.

Most Saturdays, Diana can be found checking in with staff, directing photographers and guests, and soothing the jangled nerves of soon-to-be brides.

“Remember, you are working with brides, and trying to keep their stress level down is sometimes impossible,” she says. “When a bride asks, I always smile and never tell them something can’t be done. I just say, ‘Anything is possible; however, there may be a small upcharge.”

For more, see

MF 35 – the People’s Tractor – launched in Kenya

Massey Ferguson is launching a tractor for the Kenya market which will provide emerging farmers and new-start agricultural contractors with the important first step in farm mechanisation.

“Straightforward, dependable and affordable, the 36hp MF 35 is truly the ‘People’s Tractor’,” says Richard Markwell, Vice President and Managing Director Massey Ferguson Europe/Africa/Middle East. “This well-proven model offers exactly the right specification and technical features for Kenya’s emerging farm enterprises. It brings mechanisation to a new generation of farmers, farm workers and entrepreneurs. It is the ideal, multi-purpose machine particularly for first-time tractor owners and operators who are ambitious to develop their businesses and transform their families’ livelihoods. Our message is clear – for those who thought that a tractor straight from the showroom was out of reach, then think again because the MF 35 could be the perfect solution.”

Sales, parts, training and service support are being handled by Massey Ferguson’s highly-experienced National Distributor, FMD which has a nationwide network of outlets and mobile service teams. A special package of implements to complement the MF 35 tractor is also under development to include a choice of cultivation, planting and transport equipment.

With strong Massey Ferguson heritage, this latest MF 35 is based on the renowned machine, with the same model number, which cemented its reputation in Africa and around the world over many years. Key features include a rugged 36hp engine, 6-forward/2-reverse speed mechanical gearbox and hard-wearing robust construction. Easy-to-use and maintain, the MF 35 is highly flexible. It is equally at home in cultivation, planting, transport or yard duties, working across a wide range of farm sectors including arable, livestock and horticulture, flower, tea and coffee production – making Kenya the ideal market. The tractor’s compact size means it is exceptionally manoeuvrable on smaller plots of land, while its rear three-point hitch boasts maximum lift capacity of 1100 kg enabling use of a wide variety of implements – ranging from transport boxes and mowers to ploughs and cultivators.

The launch of the MF 35 is part of Massey Ferguson’s parent company AGCO’s commitment under the Grow Africa initiatives of the World Economic Forum. AGCO is a business champion for Grow Africa which is focused on accelerating private sector investment for sustainable growth in African agriculture.

Full Pull: On the Job and On the Track With Joe Eder

White haze filters the bright light around Freedom Hall in Louisville on the first night of the National Farm Machinery Show. Thousands of fans shout approval as 12,000-HP monsters drag a weight-transfer sled down a 245-foot dirt track on the arena floor. The sled weighs 15 tons when the tractor driver hooks up to it. By the end of the run, it weighs triple that. The modified tractors pulling that sled are burning more than 20 gallons of alcohol fuel in the eight-second trip.

“Call it the Super Bowl, the World Series, whatever,” says the event’s announcer, Dave Bennett, a former puller who was also the parts department manager at Livingston Machinery, the AGCO dealership in Chickasha, Okla., for 25 years. “It’s the only pull of its kind.” Eight classes of tractors compete over the four-day event, with preliminaries on the weeknights during NFMS and the finals on Saturday night.

“Run what you brung,” says four-time Louisville Grand Champion Joe Eder, “and hope you brung enough.”

Besides his own pulling prowess, Eder, now 43, is a renowned chassis builder (his customers count among them 21 Grand National championships) and he runs a two successful ag businesses—a custom harvesting enterprise and a mulch operation. And, when he’s in the field or atop a mountain of mulch, what brand of tractor does the power-hungry tractor-pull champ use? Massey Ferguson.

In fact, Eder has just taken delivery on two brand-new Massey Ferguson 8727s. In the mulch business, the MF8727 pushes material, and he uses it for mowing, merging and fieldwork in the custom harvesting business. “Going up the steep slopes of this mulch [mound] requires an immense amount of traction and power to ground,” Eder says. “And other ‘colors’ that don’t have this transmission, they’re not putting the horsepower to the ground, meaning there’s slippage.

“The CVT transmission and the horsepower in these big-frame tractors is the ultimate combination,” says Eder, who knows something about horsepower and chassis design. “It’s the same idea as 12,000 HP in the chassis design we produce” with Eder Motorsports, he says, which has built 92 pulling tractors for teams around the world. “I don’t care if one is 225 horse and another is 12,000 horse; you have to get it to the ground,” Eder says. “That’s where this transmission and motor combination is paying off.”

For more, see

Tough guy Alex muscles up to retain Italy’s Strongman title

Massey Ferguson-supported heavyweight Alex Curletto clinched first place in the semi-finals of Italy’s Strongest Man competition in Pisa. This puts him in a front-running position as the Championship moves onto the finals in Florence in September.

All power to Alex Curletto who came top in the semi-finals of Italy’s Strongest Man Championship.

All power to Alex Curletto who came top in the semi-finals of Italy’s Strongest Man Championship. Photo courtesy of Salvatore Gioia.

Alex works for Massey Ferguson’s parent company, AGCO as an Accounts Payable Analyst based at the Company’s UK operations at Abbey Park, Stoneleigh in Warwickshire.

“It was a double victory for me personally as also I beat the Spanish champion who was the clear favourite to win the Pisa contest,” says Alex who trains for two hours a day, five days a week. “I won Italy’s Strongest Man title last year and I’m fully-focused on retaining my title. I’d like to thank Massey Ferguson for its continued support.”

“My training regime includes weight lifting and cardiovascular work. Right now, I’m consuming 5000-8000 calories daily to maintain my strength and size, and currently weigh in at around 160kg (26 stone). After the Italy Finals in September, I’ll be setting my sights on the World’s Strongest Man Championship 2016.”

Good Luck to Alex for his next test of raw power in Florence!

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