We all know that harvest time is busy and stressful, and it is natural to hope for good weather, reliable machinery and quiet roads when working flat out to get the crop in the store.
For one Kent farmer, harvest 2020 has gone pretty smoothly, thanks in part to a new Case IH Axial-Flow 9250 Harvest Command combine that arrived on the farm last autumn.
David Whitehead is the Farm Manager for Quex Park Estate, on the Isle of Thanet in Kent. The estate has around 600ha of arable cropping, and the team also manage a further 600ha, which is contract farmed nearby. Around 650ha of wheat is grown, with about 100ha of oats, with the remaining area split between beans and oilseed rape. In addition, a further 180ha of combining is completed for a neighbouring farmer as a contract each year.
Having run a variety of competitor combines in the past, a chance visit by the local Case IH representative, Rory Macwatt, from local dealer, Haynes Agritec at Birchington, at the end of harvest 2019, combined with an under manager with experience of working on Case IH Axial-Flow combines in previous jobs, led to the purchase of the 9250.
"We'd not had a Case IH combine before, but we compared the price of the ex-demo machine being offered by Case IH with our incumbent manufacturer's equivalent model and another brand, and the Case IH was great value," explained David. "We also spoke to a number of farmers that currently run Case IH Axial-Flow combines, all of whom were very positive, so it ended up an easy decision."
The 2020 harvest at Quex started on July 6 in oilseed rape and carried straight through to wheat and the other crops, with harvest being completed by the second week in August. This was partly down to the dry weather – with wheat down at 13% moisture and very dry straw - but also due to the capacity and throughput of the Axial-Flow 9250, David reckons.
"The combine has a 10.68m (35 foot) header. We've had a 12m header before on previous combines, but that was a little unwieldy for some of our smaller fields. But the Case IH has amazing capacity and the Harvest Command automation makes it very easy to drive. We have a calibrated weighbridge on the farm, and so the combine is regularly calibrated, and in a 10t/ha wheat crop we were harvesting at 83t/hour, travelling at more than 7 km/h at times. The guys grain carting all commented on how fast they were having to go to keep up!"
The capacity of the 9250 also meant that the estate didn't need to bring a combine from a contractor as back up this year, which saved money. Overall, the combine has had around 7,000t of wheat through it this season, and it has performed very well.
"We are really pleased with the Axial-Flow 9250," said David. "Most importantly, it is producing a high-quality grain sample with low losses. It is also a simple machine and requires little daily maintenance compared to competitor machines we've had in the past. This means that you can get going earlier in the mornings - we were harvesting by 9am most days - which all helps get harvest completed more quickly."
Not only are daily maintenance requirements much lower, but annual servicing costs are substantially reduced. "The annual service on the 9250 will be around £2,000, which is a small fraction of the cost we used to pay on a competitor machine," David explained. "This is a significant factor, as we would have to harvest a lot more crop with the other machine to generate the margin to pay for those servicing costs."
Another feature that David has been impressed with is the way the Axial-Flow chops straw.
"The combine is fitted with a fantastic straw chopper. The Xtra-chopper absolutely obliterates the straw, and on longer stubbles you can't really even see the chopped straw in the base of the crop. This is something that is really useful to us, as we adopt more min-till drilling as part of our nature-friendly farming approach."
Of course, a great machine is only great if the back up and support is good too, and again Case IH has impressed.
"We've been very pleased with the backup we've had from Haynes and from Case IH," David said. "It was difficult to train staff on the new combine due to the COVID-19 restrictions, but Case IH created a series of YouTube videos we could watch, which were really useful. Haynes, the local dealer, are on our doorstep, and the support we've had from them has also been superb."
In fact, David is so impressed with the red machine that he is sure his next tractor will be a Case IH.
"We don't have a Case IH tractor in our fleet at present, and I used to work for the manufacturer of the tractors that we do have, so there is some loyalty there. But I'm almost certain that our next tractor will be a Case IH following our experience with the brand so far."