45 Feet Down Under

In parts of Australia, buying a bigger combine depends on the width of the header.


The story is the same in New South Wales, Australia, as it is everywhere else in the world; combines are getting bigger and hungrier. But in the semi-arid area around the district of Urangeline, NSW, the decision to buy a bigger combine is not so clear cut. Here, where mixed farmer Rodney McDonnell crops about 8,000 acres (3237.5 hectares) of wheat, barley, canola and lupins with his three brothers (another 6,000 acres/2428.1 hectares of pasture land is used to feed the family’s 4,000 sheep), the growing conditions are a tad dryer and crops a little lighter. As such, farmers need to know that they will be able to properly feed the extra capacity of a larger combine – known as a header in Australia – before committing to the purchase.

Enter MacDon’s D65 Draper Header. Available up to 45' (13.7 m) in width, it’s one of the widest production rigid headers in the world today, and designed specifically to maximize the capacity of the largest combines out there. According to MacDon Product Specialist David Rudolph, that extra width will make an investment in a new Class 9 combine easier to make.

“With these larger machines, the farmer needs to feel confident that he will be able to keep his combine fed at or near capacity, especially in lighter crops, for the purchase to make sense,” said Rudolph. “Thanks to these new 45' (13.7 m) D65s, we can now give a farmer that assurance.”

Rudolph says that the D65, like its predecessor the MacDon D60, is the ideal solution for Australian farmers looking to harvest multiple crops under a variety of conditions.

“With a single header they can do it all. They can cut super close to the ground when harvesting beans or lentils, or higher up when in cereals or canola. Because of its width, it’s perfect for lighter crop conditions where the farmer needs to maximize volume into the combine, but it is also just as good in heavier conditions where smooth, consistent feeding is critical.”

Rudolph says that the D65 offers farmers many important advances over the D60 and similar rigid headers including improvements to the feed auger, draper drive and overall hydraulic system.

“MacDon already has a reputation for making a great header for Australian crops and conditions, and these upgrades will only further that reputation by delivering improved performance and reliability. Like everywhere else in the world, Australian farmers want to harvest as much of their crop as they can, as quickly as they can and as efficiently as they can. That’s why moving to a larger combine with a wider header makes sense for so many farmers. They can now do as much or more as they did with one combine as they used to do with two or three combines, but it takes a header like the D65 to make that possible.”

Cut back to our farmer Rodney McDonnell who took delivery of the first 45' (13.7 m) D65 sold anywhere in Australia. Rodney says that access to a reliable 45' (13.7 m) header was integral to his combine purchase decision.

“I would have bought a 50' (15.2 m) MacDon if they made one,” said McDonnell who has the header mounted on his new Massey Ferguson 9560 and says that he would have thought twice about buying the new combine if the 45' (13.7 m) D65 hadn’t been available.

“If I could only get a 40' (12.2 m) header I would be struggling to keep the combine full. We seem to have more dry years than wet years out here. That means our crops aren’t as heavy so you tend to need a wider cut to keep the combine well fed. The combine works better when you are feeding it more.”

McDonnell reports that the D65 was used to cut about 5,400 acres (2185.3 hectares) of cereal in its first Australian harvest, and it performed magnificently.

“There’s no comparison to other headers that I have had. The feeding is the best part of the whole thing. I’d definitely recommend it.”

McDonnell says that even though he was cutting 9' (2.7 m) wider than his previous 36' (10.9 m) header, the feeding was significantly better and that meant that he was able to cut his 5,400 acres (2185.3 hectares) without almost any interruption.

“The D65 has a very even feed. During the whole harvest we only had to stop once or twice, nowhere near as often as with our old header where the combine would choke often because it wasn’t feeding properly.”

McDonnell attributes the D65’s smooth feeding partially to the design of the MacDon’s adjustable dual span reel, which helps ensure a close and consistent relationship between the reel’s fingers and the cutterbar along the header’s entire width.

“I’m also impressed with the D65’s reel. The flipping action it has when it gets to the bottom of the stroke allows you to keep a very slow reel speed. That helps keep the front of the feeder house cleaner. With our old header we used to have to run the reel fast to get it to feed properly. Even then there would be crop everywhere.”

Although he has only had the header in use for one harvest season, he says that he has already been pleased with the D65’s low maintenance requirements and reliability in the field. He says that this is consistent with the experience he and his brothers have had with another MacDon product they have owned.

Australian farming terminology sometimes differs from that used elsewhere in the world. Two cases in point: in Australia a combine is known as a header, and a header is called a front. To maintain consistency with MacDon’s printed materials, this article uses North American terminology.

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