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Ag equipment manufacturer talks equipment trends, efficiency

Progressive Dairyman Editor Lynn Jaynes Published on 06 May 2014

illustration of a tractor by kristen phillips

We asked a major ag original equipment manufacturer, Case IH, questions relating to equipment trends, efficiency and new ag machinery laws popping up around the country. Several professionals from their company team had this to say:

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There are concerns among several individual states about agricultural equipment becoming too heavy for the current roadways, spawning new legislative action. Farm machinery certainly is growing in size and capacity. How are equipment manufacturers addressing this concern?

While our customers are asking for larger machines that create efficiencies in their operations, we also recognize the need for our equipment to be nimble enough to comply with road regulations. Designing machines that are highly productive, narrow in design and easy to operate are top of mind for all manufacturers.

One example is the Case IH LB4 large square baler. While almost 1 foot narrower than the LB3, this machine provides increased capacity and is much easier to transport than other balers.

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The larger-capacity machinery also creates concerns about soil compaction in the field. Is bigger always better?

For the commercial and mega-producers who have a lot of land to travel, certainly bigger is better. While the machines are designed for increased productivity and efficiency, the flotation and ballasting of these machines affects compaction. The result is proper weighting and ballasting, not only for the machine to have a lighter footprint but also utilizing higher-flotation tires for the lightest footprint possible in all applications.

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Larger-horsepower capacities in today’s machinery burn more fuel. What advances have been made to reduce fuel emissions? What advances have been made to increase fuel efficiency?

We have dramatically improved fuel efficiency in high-horsepower tractors with our patented SCR-only Tier 4 emissions solution. Our new emission systems allow the engine to run more efficiently, saving fuel and prolonging engine life. Since we are reducing emissions after the engine and only at the exhaust, we’re allowing the engine to do what it does best: generate power.

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What will be the focus of machine manufacturing advances in the next 10 years?

Original equipment manufacturers will focus on three major initiatives in the coming years:

1. Efficiency – Equipment design is always tied to the demands of the producer, and they are demanding efficiency. They want equipment that makes them more productive, reduces owning and operating costs and increases profitability.

We’ve recently made our engines much more fuel-efficient, but producers are also looking to reduce man-hours. In addition, they want equipment that is easy-to-operate and maintain.

2. Government influences – Legislation, tax changes and government regulations will impact how original equipment manufacturers design equipment and how they go to market. Ag producers are looking to all suppliers, including equipment manufacturers, to partner with them to comply with these influences on their business.

This will be a game-changer for the entire industry. This will result in original equipment manufacturers changing the way they manufacture and will make producer feedback and partnership even more important than it is today.

3. Environmental concerns – Effective producers are stewards of their own land, but as production demands increase per acre, so will producer efforts to care for the air, land and water they depend on. They will demand their equipment manufacturers produce efficient machinery that will ensure the land is taken care of as inherent to the design of the machine.

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What regulation changes do you foresee in the near future for agricultural machinery?

With the rollout of larger machines, many state and local governments are implementing laws concerning the weight of equipment driven on public roads. Data handling is another area of concern. Some companies are collecting and using producer-generated data without compensating producers.

It is conceivable that this might be regulated in the future. Safety is also always an area of concentration. As machines and operations grow in size, safety concerns increase.

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Once a new design is identified, how long does it take for that design to hit the retail market?

This depends on the machine and application. Field testing requires enough time to ensure the machine is at its best in all applications. Depending on the machine, it can take three years or more to properly design and test a new piece of equipment before it goes to market. Manufacturers may delay projects for a number of reasons, including budgets, changes in demand, testing, new farming practices and technology.

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What do you see as challenges to the agricultural machinery markets in the next two to five years?

While the market is leveling off from several years of consistent increase, conditions will still be favorable. However, the level of competition is sure to increase. Producers will benefit from this as manufacturers and dealers improve their offerings to compete for their business.

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New ag machinery has a variety of “gadgets and gizmos” (ag technology options) available. What would you consider the “best bang for the buck” as far as new technology is concerned?

Auto-guidance is one of the investments a producer can make that will pay for itself in one year. Precision technology systems are no longer just an option on a tractor; it is now a major deciding factor in the buying process. The more you can get done with fewer inputs, the more money you are going to make. PD

Illustration by Kristen Phillips.

lynn jaynes

Lynn Jaynes
Editor
Progressive Dairyman

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