April 2011 Archives
New Holland just announced the introduction of its new 200 Series skid steer and compact track loaders. There are seven skid steers and three tracked versions in the line. According to the company, their designs are the result of extensive customer feedback. So these machines should be everything you'd ever ask for in a compact loader.
New Holland is so proud of them, it thinks their introduction calls for something special. So they're holding a skills competition and offering $50,000 worth of prizes to eligible contestants, including a L218 from the new line. So if you have an operation that uses a skid steer loader and you have an employee who regularly operates it, tell him to get some practice, his skills could win you that new loader.
It's all part of the New Holland Super Boom Road Show, which will make 35 stops across the U.S. and Canada. Winning one of those local challenges is the first step in getting to the final event, where the major prizes will be awarded. Here are the three scheduled locations in western Canada:
-May 7 at Moody's Equipment in Saskatoon, SK.
-May 14 at Moody's Equipment in Balzac, AB.
-June 17 at Camrose Farm Equipment in Camrose, AB.
This is how the Road Show competition works. Winners of each of the 35 local events will be flown to the Green Industry Equipment Expo in Louisville, Kentucky, in October for the final round in the competition. The winning operator of that playoff gets a $5,000 prize, along with a few other things; and the company he works for gets the new loader. There'll be about $12,500 in additional prizes to other contestants, too. It sounds like nearly everybody gets a little something.
For exact eligibility rules and to register, visit www.newhollandroadshow.com.
If you enter the event, let me know how you made out. Good luck.
It's auction season, again. Every spring those few weeks between the start of milder weather and the day farmers need to head into the fields are packed with farm sales. This year, however, milder weather is a pretty relative term. Last week when I attended my first sale of the season, I had to come home and drink a pot of coffee to shake off the chill from standing around in two-degree temperature and snow flurries.
Nonetheless, taking in that first auction sale every spring is still a very welcome event for me, and—I suspect—for many others. Aside from being a mechanism for those leaving the industry to clear out inventory, they seem to be a barometer of farmers optimism for the coming season. If producers think there are good times ahead, there'll be a lot of people at sales; and they'll have their wallets out ready to pay for what catches their eye.
Down in the States where it always seems to be auction season somewhere, sales have seen a lot of money change hands in the past few months. U.S. farmers have been paying top dollar for good used tractors. In fact, buyers have been paying record prices for low-hour machines. John Deere's own Machinery Finder Blog is currently highlighting one of those record sales.
A 2002, 7410 two-wheel drive tractor sold for U.S. $61,000 at a sale in Iowa. It only had 618 hours on it, but that price puts it way above normal. To understand just how much, I checked with Ritchie Bros. online auction prices site to see what others have sold for. The site shows only one other two-wheel drive version being sold recently, and it netted only US $37,000. Even the listing of comparable MFWD 7410s doesn't show any of those coming close to that price.
John Deere's site has also shown several other green machines that have set records at U.S. sales this year. In every case it's the clean, low-hour tractors that are creating the highest demand. And models from other brands that show well are seeing strong buyer interest,too.
But until the early April sales are in the book, it's anyone's guess whether or not farmers here are in a buying mood.
If that first sale I attended was any indication, there is some spare change jingling in farmers pockets on the Canadian prairie. That almost always means higher demand for used farm machinery. When I arrived at the sale, there was a sea of pickup trucks spilling over from the designated parking area. So I had a long walk just to get to where the action was. And when it did get there, I noticed even the lineup to get a hamburger or coffee was easily fifteen people deep.
Selling prices were pretty strong throughout the day. Anything in good condition was bringing a good price. But there was one notable change from sales in years past. At one time, it seemed there was a buyer for everything, even what most people would consider junk. At this sale, and those last year, one thing seemed clear: farmers are only looking for good, usable machinery and equipment. Auctioneers no longer need to pull everything out of sheds to add a few dollars to the overall sale tally. The junk can stay in the trees behind the farmyard.
Have you picked up a bargain at a sale this year? Have you seen a machine go for a record price? Let me know what you've found memorable about this year's auctions.
A few days ago a reader wrote and asked me if I could help him find information on how to properly install an auxiliary hydraulic pump on his tractor. He wanted to run it off the front of the engine's crankshaft. Adding more hydraulic capacity to an older tractor is something most of us have probably thought about at one time or another.
In some cases, farmers can turn to a bolt-on kit from a manufacturer like Atom-Jet Industries in Brandon, Manitoba. For others, it's completely a do-it-yourself project from concept to completion. If you're faced with a job like that and not a journeyman mechanic, studying up on the topic ahead of time is a must.
As this year's “Shop Class” segment on oxyacetylene cutting in the print version of Grainews draws to a close, I'm now deciding on what to focus on for next season. If a hydraulic topic like that reader suggested is something you'd like to see, let me know. Or if you have something else in mind, feel free to suggest it.
In the meantime, though, I was able to point that person to some information sources that will help him understand how hydraulic systems are designed and how to work with them. One of those I suggested was John Deere's technical publications website: http://techpubs.deere.com. Their online bookstore includes not only mechanical books but equipment operation and management titles as well.
For years now, Deere has offered detailed mechanical training programs and text books to help train new agricultural and construction machinery technicians. And although I've known for a long time these books could be ordered by anyone, that reader's email prompted me to finally purchase one.
So, I logged onto Deere's website and placed my order for Hydraulics, Fundamentals of Service. Total cost U.S.$ 50.95 plus a small shipping charge.The website accepted shipment to a post office box via the U.S. Postal Service; however, the package arrived via Purolator Courier. And there was an extra $33.50 customs brokerage fee tacked on as a C.O.D. charge. That suggests if you're interested in more than one book, order them all at the save time to save on brokerage fees.
The book was a little worse for wear from the shipping, but there was no serious damage.
I've scanned through it and it covers a pretty wide variety of subjects; everything from system fundamentals to diagnosing and testing. All-in-all pretty good value. I'll likely order a few more titles in the future to add to my library.
Of course, there are other good online sources for technical books as well, www.chapters.ca is one. If the order value is high enough, they even offer free shipping. If you've found a good book or technical information source, post a comment to this blog and share the knowledge.
Last week I was invited to Seed Hawk's manufacturing plant to be an observer at their customer training day. The company held the event to give buyers some hands-on training on how to operate their new seed drills before the season gets going. As seeding equipment becomes more sophisticated, seminars like this become increasingly valuable for new owners. The days of manufacturers just providing a printed owners manual and leaving things at that are long over for many companies.
“Our goal for today is to make their lives as easy as possible in the spring,” said Chris Morson, Seed Hawk's marketing coordinator and sales advisor, during the event. “The goal is to get all of these growers together in one area to ask us as many questions as they can think of, to be able to ask other Seed Hawk owners as many questions as they can think of, get the advice they need and try and make spring as easy as we can on them.”
About 150 customers gathered at Seed Hawk's plant at Langbank, SK., for a training day in March.
It was also a great opportunity for me to chat again with the company's management and marketing staff. But possibly even more importantly, I was able to ask a few farmers who bought new seeding equipment this year just what it was that drove their purchasing decisions. The answers they gave made me think all of these guys had done their homework pretty thoroughly.
As I spoke with them, it became clear that even though most were first-time buyers of this particular brand and had not yet taken their machines into the field, they all had a very good idea what they could expect. This wasn't a bunch of armchair producers who looked at a few pictures, liked the paint color and inked a deal after negotiating a bargain price. These guys knew what they needed on their own farms and went looking for the machine best suited to the job. For many, that included attending field trials last year and closely evaluating various drills' performances.
I'm not trying to say this brand's drills are the best choice for everyone—maybe they are; but here's my point. If the farmers in this particular group are doing their homework, it suggests many other producers also know what they need and exactly what their options are, too. It's likely producers opting for other brands also did so because those drills offered the specific capabilities they were looking for.
Aside from citing the seed-placement design on the Seed Hawk drills as a key element in their buying decision, many of the farmers I spoke to also named parts and service as key factors. Almost everyone acknowledged they needed to cover ground quickly in the spring, and they wanted to be certain both the dealer and the manufacturer who supplied their drill were willing to go above and beyond to keep the wheels turning.
Remarkably, no one mentioned price as a factor in their decisions. Obviously, none of them were willing to sign a blank cheque. But they all understood that with the high cost of crop inputs, trying to save a few thousand on an inefficient seed drill would be—to use the old expression—penny wise and pound foolish.
After hearing the same things throughout the day, it made me think the new industry term “professional farmer” really hits the nail squarely on the head. But when, exactly, did farmers turn pro? Maybe they always have been, it's just that now they get acknowledged for it.