Biggest Combine Model Might Not Always Be Best Choice

Trade value, energy consumption factor in.

Published on: Oct 8, 2008

Odds are you're going to finish harvest this year with the combine either running in the field right now or sitting in your barnlot waiting to go. But what about in future years? If you trade, should you go for the biggest model available so you have the highest harvest capacity possible? Do you need the most powerful model to achieve that capacity?

Mike Allyn, Mount Vernon, is driving John Deere's second biggest combine in his fields this year. Last year he drove the biggest model available in the lineup at the time. Yet both years his combines were equipped with 12-row cornheads. Why drop back to a slightly smaller machine?

Two reasons in their case, Allyn says. A big driving factor was value of the combine when they wanted to trade for a new one. They discovered that recently, at least, the used combine market has been hotter for mid-sized models since that's what more people want, rather than the biggest machine available on the market. This becomes particularly important if you're strategy is to run lots of acre but trade fairly regularly, rather than hang onto one machine for a long period of time.

The second factor is fuel efficiency. Allyn estimates that he's saving perhaps a half-gallon of fuel per acre during harvest with the slightly smaller machine this year, compared to running the bigger machine a year ago. That's certainly not going to pencil out to be the reason to make a trade, but it may be a benefit of not going to the largest possible model. At $4 per gallon prices for diesel fuel, efficiency of burning fuel is at least on the radar screen, even though it's still not as big a player in budgets as overall initial cost of a machine or even depreciation.

One question arises- can a somewhat smaller machine still handle the size cornhead you want to run, and let you maintain harvest capacity. After all, this year not getting done in a timely manner could man mounting harvest losses on the back end, since stalk rot is prevalent already, storm damage is widespread, and high moisture contents delayed harvest in the first place.

Based on experience of farmers reporting to Indiana Prairie Farmer, two factors enter in. First, the second-biggest machine in a company's new line-up may not be that many horsepower behind what was once the biggest combine n that line-up, even just a year ago in some cases. Second, it may not be possible to have the best of all worlds each and every second, each and every day., In other words, at very high moisture contents and greener corn, such as at the start of the season, having a slightly smaller machine in terms of horsepower may mean driving a but slower than you could with the bigger machine. But that disadvantage seems to disappear as the crop starts to dry down and moisture contents move into a reasonable range, sources say.