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Taking Care: Craig Holm and His Minnesota Farm

Craig Holm likes to mix things up on his farm in Southern Minnesota. Raising corn and beans on about 2,500 acres, he also runs a custom application business—last year spraying about 10,000 acres—and finishes about 9,000 hogs each year on contract.

Holm, 45, says he’s diversified in part because he saw opportunities, but also because he figured commodity prices would eventually soften. “It’s just the cycle,” he says, a lesson, along with many others, he learned from his father, who was also a farmer, as well as his mother, Sally, who still works with him on a semi-retired basis.

Those lessons have served as a foundation, Holm says, upon which he’s added new technologies and practices. For instance, he injects into the soil some 1 million gallons of hog manure from his finishing operation. As a result, he says he gets about 15 to 20 bushels more of corn per acre than if he’d used conventional fertilizer.

Holm has also re-introduced an older method of planting beans—with a grain drill. With the beans planted closer together, he says, “we get the canopy on, so weeds can’t push through, they don’t come up … and 99% of the fields are picture-perfect clean.” He got some 5 bushels more per acre this past harvest as compared to recent years not using the grain drill.

Holm is always looking for an edge, some new practice or technology that can help on his farm, but only those that offer a solid return. Another such leg up has been his Massey Ferguson® and other AGCO equipment.

“They’re second to nothing, that’s for sure,” says Holm, who runs a variety of Massey Ferguson machines, including a combine and three tractors. He also owns Sunflower, White Planters™ and a RoGator® from AGCO.

“The fuel efficiencies are amazing on these new machines,” he says, but without compromising on power and capacity. “These new engines are set up to use the power that they need, but the computers back them down,” says Holm, allowing the engine to run at optimum rpm and thereby reduce fuel consumption.

Speaking of his MF9560 combine, Holm says, “I couldn’t believe how fast we went through harvest last fall … for that combine to do a 300-acre day is really not even a hard day. It was so impressive.”

So much so that his two agronomy consultants, both of whom rode with him, as well as farmers who run other brands, declared it the best of the lot. “They said the other brands out there don’t compare.”

Holm is a willing but cautious adaptor of innovative machinery and other solutions. “I will use the technology if I think I can make it pay,” he says.

For more, see http://www.myfarmlife.com/features/taking-care-craig-holm-and-his-minnesota-farm/.

AGCO’s Jackson Plant: Better, Stronger, Faster

Imagine taking a brand-new tractor, worth tens of thousands of dollars, and purposefully trying to break it. That’s what the folks at the AGCO manufacturing facility in Jackson, Minn., do just about every workday.

It all happens at Jackson’s Quality Gate Five. The $1.97 million-facility can hold and check two tractors at once, one on the “jounce” and PTO testing station, and the other on a chassis dynamometer.

For the jounce test, a tractor’s rear wheels or tracks are positioned on pads that rock back and forth. This test is used to verify that there are no loose fittings, hoses or electrical connections. Afterward, the tractor is physically inspected to make sure nothing came loose as a result of the shaking, which is so violent no one is allowed to be in the cab.

While still at the first station, the PTO is tested at various speed and load levels, and its output measured across the rpm range. Each tractor is then moved to the second station and the chassis dynamometer. Here, a multi-roller bed is used to verify different functions like the steering, brake, transmission shift quality, DEF functionality and limited powertrain performance.

Six winches hold the tractors in place as they speed up to 33 mph and rev to as high as 400 HP. The dynamometer reads the engine rpm, what gear it’s in and how well it shifts, and when it shifts, how low the rpm goes.

“What we learn,” says Eric Fisher, the plant’s director of operations, “also affects what we do upstream.”

Overall, according to Fisher, the work in Gate Five takes about two hours, and includes 250-plus tests and the analysis of more than 150,000 data points. In just the first month of operation, the inspections, he says, “yielded a 25% reduction in defects, and that’s just a start.”

“Like its customers, AGCO doesn’t embrace technology for its own sake,” says Bob Crain, AGCO Senior Vice President and General Manager, Americas. “There must be a return on investment.”

The expansion and upgrades at the Jackson plant, as well as those throughout the company’s global facilities, offer just that, says Crain, “in the company’s relentless pursuit of its stated goal—to be No. 1 in customer-perceived quality.”

For more on the Jackson plant’s best-in-class quality assurance facilities, see http://www.myfarmlife.com/advantage/agcos-jackson-plant-better-stronger-faster/.

Major award for Little Grey Fergie theme park attraction

Congratulations to the Land of the Little Grey Fergie at Norway’s Kongeparken which scooped a top prize at the Thea Awards in Los Angeles, considered by many to be the Oscars of the Themed Entertainment Industry.

This fantastic attraction area at the Kongeparken in Stavanger, one of Scandinavia’s foremost theme parks, is a celebration of the children’s character ‘Little Grey Fergie’ (Gråtass) which is based on an original Ferguson TE20 tractor.

littlegreyfergie

Against stiff international competition, the team behind Gråtassland were thrilled to receive the Thea Award for New Park Land on a Limited Budget.

Over the last 20 years the original story of Little Grey Fergie’s adventures, written by Morten Myklebust, has grown into several television series, two feature films, ten music albums, live shows and more than 15 books.

Inspired by this success, Gråtassland opened in 2014. It was an instant hit and has been drawing big crowds ever since.

The Thea jury commented: “The charming Little Grey Fergie Land engages adults and children alike. It immerses them in the world of the Little Grey Fergie and is an ideal mix of real environments and fantasy. It celebrates history, modern times and fantasy – all with a goal of entertaining, and teaching about animals, farming and the importance of taking care of our environment…….This is a tremendous success that never strays from the story or the goal of the project.”

TractorsHåkon Lund, CEO of Kongeparken said: “It’s a great honour to receive the award and gain this recognition for our work. In designing Gråtassland, our aim was to engage visitors by changing the focus away from the attraction, to the experience. At its heart is an exciting tractor ride wrapped up in the tale of a much-loved icon telling the story of the Massey Ferguson Brand and its history.”

The international Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) and its awards were created to recognize achievement and talent at visitor attractions and experiences in the leisure and travel sector.

Find out more on Gråtassland at www.kongeparken.no

You can watch the live-action series at www.littlegreyfergie.com

Dairyman’s Digest

It’s tough being a pioneer, but John Fiscalini comes from a long line of them. Scale his family tree, and you’ll find innovation in the Fiscalini DNA going back centuries.

The dairy business is the taproot of that family tree. But the mountains around the Fiscalinis’ ancestral Swiss homeland—the tiny town of Lionza—often made the transport of fresh milk treacherous or impossible, particularly during the harsh winters. So the family turned to cheesemaking as more than added value; it was a way to avoid wasting the work of the family dairy.

“I have milk in my blood,” says John, who with son Brian runs the 1,500-cow Fiscalini Farms at Modesto, Calif., in the San Joaquin Valley. “Going generations back, it’s all dairy, dairy, dairy.” Still, John didn’t bring cheese back into the family business until the turn of the 21st century, this time less as necessity than as craft. At the suggestion of the California Milk Advisory Board, John began attending farmstead cheesemaking seminars and “got roped into the sexiness of it,” he says.

The execution was less than sexy. Cheesemaking was new to California, so even finding the equipment proved a challenge, as did finding the right cheesemaker, an essential partner in the process. But John had the dairy part down pat. Attention to cleanliness and comfort of his cows give John’s renowned cheesemaker, Mariano Gonzales, a blank canvas to “work magic,” as John puts it.

“The milk that John produces—it’s very, very clean,” says Gonzales. “There is nothing in there to interfere with the bacteria I use to create the cheese.” After a dozen years working with that clean milk—the blank canvas—the awards have piled up. Fiscalini’s cloth-bound cheddar has won best cheddar in the world twice at the World Cheese Awards in London—very rare for an American cheesemaker. The dairy’s signature San Joaquin Gold, a smoky, Italian-style cheese aged 16 months, took gold at the World Cheese Awards as well.

Keeping It Genuine

To run their award-winning and innovative dairy, the Fiscalinis rely heavily on their tractors. “Well, we don’t baby these things,” John says of his Massey Ferguson® equipment—all utility tractors in the 80- to 90-hp range. From the newest, the MF491, to the vintage MF285, these are tractors already known for longevity and durability; but John and his dealer Rick Gray from Stanislaus Implement and Hardware still offer tips to keeping hard-working equipment up and running:

Genuine AGCO Parts. “Our guys [at the dairy] do a lot of the maintenance and service, but if something breaks down, we don’t want to put an aftermarket part on there or something that’s gonna be defective or not the high quality we expect from AGCO,” says John.

Good relationship with the dealer. “I’ve known John and his family for more than 30 years,” says Rick. “He is more than a customer. He is part of the family.”

John says the relationship with Stanislaus Implement is generational. “Rick’s father took care of my father,” he says. “They take care of you. The value of these tractors is the support behind them, end of conversation.”

Read the full story, watch the video about the Fiscalini’s digester, access recipes from Fiscalini Farms, and more at http://www.myfarmlife.com/features/dairymans-digest/

Mow It Down

1_12_mower1As a boy, he says he couldn’t get off the farm fast enough. Now, Sherman Barnette dreams of the day when he’ll be able to keep a few horses on his 15 acres near Grenada, Miss.

“The first thing I did when I got out on my own was buy some land and set up a small farm,” says Barnette. “Basically, right now, I grow grass, but I plan to, Lord willing, build a barn and have a few horses.”

Not that there’s any rush, says Barnette, who works for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. “There’s just enough land that I can take care of it myself. I built a cabin up there and I spend a couple of nights there whenever I can. I get dirty, work on the tractor and cut that grass.” Staying on the land, he continues, “is therapy. It’s a good stress reliever.”

His tractor is a MF3635, and he keeps that grass in check with two Massey Ferguson mower implements purchased from Cemar Inc., in Holcomb, Miss.: a rotary flex cutter and a rear-discharge finishing mower.

“I bought them both at the same time, and I haven’t had any problems with them. Now, I take good care of them, but they’re well built,” he notes.

In addition to mechanical parts that Barnette says cut evenly, “the decks on both my Massey’s are thicker than those other [brands’] mowers. That might not seem like much of a difference your first year or two—they’ll do OK for a short period of time—but then you’ll start to see some damage and rust. These Massey’s are built to last.”

Rick McCorkle, agrees. Now retired, the Hollandale, Miss., resident uses a Massey Ferguson rear-discharge finishing mower and rotary cutter to maintain the two acres around his home, as well as prepare a food plot for deer hunting. He also helps maintain some other property, including his mother-in-law’s.

McCorkle, who runs his mowers with a MF1428—all of which were purchased at Cemar—says he prefers his Massey equipment over other brands. “I’ve had to replace belts more often on one of my other mowers, but only once on the Massey. My [Massey] mowers are 5 or 6 years old, but I don’t have any rusty spots on my deck or bad spots on them. They’re built real good.”

For more information on the full line of mowers and landscaping tools from Massey Ferguson, see http://www.masseyferguson.us/products/implements-attachments.

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