Translations by Pam Kurstjens (I am not fluent in Dutch but I’ll try my best!)
Australia and New Zealand
T&W travelled down under, on a journey of discovery to Australian and New Zealand farmers, contractors and dealers. Mechanisation is dependent on local conditions. From minimum till to very intensive.
Kangaroos and Kiwis
When you travel to Australia by Quantas, you will recognise the kangaroo in the emblem of this airline. Logical, while that is the symbol of Australia. Once there, you hardly see any kangaroos in the daytime. Then they are keeping quiet. Towards dusk they appear, and bounce with great speed along and over the roads. They find the open field and disappear over the horizon. Gone again, over the land, in freedom. This picture shows the dimensions of this immensely large country.
New Zealand is a bit smaller, by nature.
Symbol of this land is the Kiwi, the funny, rare, flightless bird.
Also the well known fruit of the same name comes from there. New Zealand makes you think more of Europe.
Both are good lands to be in. Farmers too feel in general good about it. With ups and downs they earn a nice living. T & W visited Australia and New Zealand this spring. So as to give this double summer number extra colour. But also to experience other dimensions. And to see how it is possible to make good yields with minimum till and the appropriate machinery…..
Wide open farm areas, from time to time broken by woodlands. And kangaroos that ever so suddenly appear, and just as fast disappear again. That is the picture of Australia, the land of open space. The mechanisation is suited to large areas with often minimum or no till. Modern machines, steered by GPS, and with large capacity.
Journey of discovery through a far land.
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Pioneers flying over the wide open spaces
Farms in Australia cover large areas. You can get there by road, but flying is much faster, and you get to see something. Gerrit and Pam Kurstjens have several farms in Australia. They visit them often, in their own Diamond Star, a single engine 4 person aircraft. Great fun!
Anyone who visits Australia, will spend a lot of time travelling. The roads are often unsealed, and the distances are something. Many people therefore use aircraft, including Pam and Gerrit Kurstjens. They have 4 properties in Queensland and New South Wales, with an area of 12,000Ha. They don’t farm them themselves, but lease them out. Nevertheless they are there a lot as they take an interest in the management. Therefore they often travel to the farms and the Diamond Star is just the thing. By Moree and Goondiwindi they have three farms on black, moisture retentive and humous-rich soil. The farm near Dubbo has lighter red soil, suited to farming and sheep. All are fully mechanised, in the Australian way, with minimum till and a lower cost. A picture of four farms.
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Gunyanna. "No Till" (photo's)
Many places in Queensland have aboriginal names, including Gunyanna, a farm near Goondiwindi. With 1600 Ha farmland, it is the smallest of the Kurstjens farms. Despite that, by Netherlands standards, a great deal of land. But there is no question of intensive use, as with all farms in this area. The land is more economical and the need for high intensity is less, as shown in the farming methods. Lessee Dick Herde grows mainly wheat, barley, sorghum, sunflowers and chickpeas. He uses ‘zero till’. This English expression means “no working of the ground”. After a crop has been harvested, the next crop goes in with no cultivator or disc playing any role. A whole different way of thinking. This is quite usual in Australia, as in more open areas of Europe and in North America. One advantage is lower input, lower machinery costs and higher yields. Lower machinery costs speak for themselves, with lower labour and fuel costs as well. The cost per tractor hour is higher, through less use. Yields will improve in the future, with better moisture management, because of better capillary action in the soil. The soil organisms have a better chance to develop as the soil is less disturbed. The system cannot be compared with traditional Dutch methods. But the cost price is much lower, thus with low commodity prices, or a failed harvest, the damage is lower, and is readily compensated in the good years.
Machinery use in these farming methods is therefore very different. For optimal possibility to use the soil moisture, crops such as Sorghum are sown in double or tripple rows, that is to say for every two or three rows, one row is missed out. Tests show that Sorghum plants draw the moisture to themselves, and less is lost by evaporation. The parts of the planting machines are set up for this. These are robust machines to work through the stubble of the previous crop when planting. Most machines are equipped with heavy discs and sprung seed pipes.
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West Mitchell. "Large scale wheat growing" (photo's)
West Mitchell is not much different from Gunyanna and Bryanungra. There are seven parcels of 400Ha each. Similar crops and farming. The focus is on wheat. Lessee Charlie Boyle uses a spray machine of the Australian make Croplands. The Pinto towed spray is mounted into the back of a pickup. That could also be done by a tractor, but on West Mitchell there is an older Versatile articulated tractor and two Challengers (for planting 9000Ha wheat) and those are not really tractors for spraying with. The Croplands spray is driven by a separate motor on the tow boom. Logical, as a pickup has no PTO. But it does have GPS technology. The cabin of the pickup is a real machine room. Next to the steering wheel is the controlbox for the spray, and the Outback parallel tracking monitor and contol box. All removable, so they can also be used for planting. That is done with two 15 meter wide machines, cultivating and planting at the same time, with a tyne cultivator. Behind each tyne is the seed pipe which is filled from the distributor on top of the machine. The seedtank runs behind on a wheeled trailer, and fills the distributors. Often there is a tank with fertiliser as well.
The wheat harvest is a continuous process. Charlie Boyle has two harvesters of his own, and also uses a contractor. In total, as for the harvest on Gunyanna and Bryanungra, there are six to eight harvesters each 10 meters wide running over the field. The capacity is around 40Ha or 150 tonne per hour. On West Mitchell it is all stored in huge silos. The storage capacity is 3000tonnes
For road transport, Australians use “Road Trains”, freight vehicles with two or sometimes three trailers each carrying 40 tonnes. West Mitchell has a moveable (at least when empty) intermediate storage. It will take 90 tonnes. That helps a bit.
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Alagala. "Farming and Merinos" (photo's)
In contrast to the other three farms, Alagala is a mixed farm. It is near Dubbo in New South Wales. Alagala is the Kurstjens biggest farm with 5400 Ha. It is leased by Gordon Robertson who also has 1600 Ha of his own, farmed together with Alagala. Last year Gordon had 9000 Merino sheep, but this has been reduced to 5000 because of the serious drought. Last month, 3500 lambs were born, restoring the numbers. That is OK, as there has been a bit of rain. The sheep are grazing on 2000Ha, mainly grass and lucern. The farm plan includes 2000Ha wheat, 200Ha oats, 150Ha barley, and 200Ha beans. The remaining 750 Ha is woodlands, roads, drains.
All those sheep are fenced in. There are 64 Km fences around the farm and 47Km internal fences. Every 2 to 5 years, the whole farm is flooded following rains. Therefore the farm has 22Km of ditches 1 meter deep and 8 meters wide. But mostly it is dry. There are watering places for the sheep, dams filled with water. Solar panels make electricity to drive the electric pump in the bore. For work with the sheep, Gordon uses a John Deere 6420 with Autopower. There is a John Deere 9300 caterpillar tractor , 380 HP. Many Australian farmers are concerned to limit the pressure on the ground. The caterpillar tractor is therefore quite normal. Gordon uses it for cultivating and planting. The rest is done by contractors But that is not too much. Australians work the ground to the minimum. A bit of spraying, fertilising, harvesting.
Producing farm products in Australia is attractive. The cost of land is low, therefore it is possible to produce at a low cost on a large scale.
Good numbers can be achieved.The table shows costs for growing 1 Ha wheat, in Australian dollars. The yield can be from 1 to 6 tonnes per Ha, and the price on the free market is $230. Understandably, land prices are going up. But at 40 to 1500 Euro per Ha, still not too much. That is “dry land”, not irrigated. There are years where the yeild is very poor due to insufficient rain.
Landing at the Contractors.
The Diamond Star, the single engine aircraft, flies from Moree to the landing strip at the farm of Alan Young in Wee Waa in New South Wales. There we are met by the Contractor, Dale Smith. He is busy with hay making, and ground working. You can also rent tractors from him.
Dale Smith is a self made man. About 12 years ago he began his contracting business with an old tractor and a self-propelled windrower. He went making lucernes hay for the farmers with that. He also bought a round baler, and things began to go well. Now he has a fleet of 15 tractors and the necessary machines, but not for everything. Contractors in Australia specialise in a number of areas. As well as the contracting business, he farms 10,000 Ha growing wheat and barley. That should mean he has several harvesters, but no. His harvesting is done by another contractor, so that he can keep doing the work that he specialises in. That is mainly baling, 25,000 round bales per year with his New Holland balers. And with the Laverda (McCormack in Australia) big balers too, another 30,000 bales per year.
Contracting has a good future in Australia. That is logical, says Dale. Farmers with their own machines must have a large enough area, and enough personnel, to use the machines. We have nine employees and we try to keep our machinery continuously at work. Thus they are optimally used and can be regularly renewed. So the fleet remains up to date and we can work effectively. We go up to 50Km from home, so we keep really busy in this large farming area. Over time Smith has bought 3 articulated tractors and 12 ordinary ones. With the exception of two Ford articulated tractors, the rest are all Case IH. Mainly Magnums, but also some older lighter models, but no very small ones, like the Case IH Maxxum MX. The areas in his region are a bit too big for that. The older tractors are also a bit less suited, but he uses them for lighter work. Also he rents out tractors, and that brings money too.
Case IH suits him well. The service is good. In the beginning the electronics were a problem. But the dealer solved that. Last year Smith bought a Steiger STX Quadtrac, but that was also not without problems. The dealer also solved that with a temporary replacement that cost him nothing, despite the 1000 hours that he did with it. If he sees a good bargain, he won’t let it go. For very little, he bought a nearly new NH Haybine mower and conditioner which he fitted to a used Case IH cotton harvester. These are everywhere and stand for years at the dealers as nobody wants them. Except Dale, who made it into a self-propelled unit with the NH mower. When he first took it out into the field, it worked well right away, and hasn’t had to do much to it. Under normal conditions, he does 30 Ha a day with it.
As well as the mower and baler, he has two Grizzly offsets (20,000 Ha per year), various planters and sprayers and some injectors for liquid manure. He is busy with the cotton growers, but also sows grain, beans and peas. Mostly six or seven days a week. Full days, but so the machines keep going. He earns well with them. He is also thinking of taking over the Case dealership, where he gets his machines. If he makes the same success of that as the contracting business, he will do well. After our visit to his interesting business, he takes us back to the Diamond Star at the airstrip. Time to go, back to Moree.
Colossal and Rare Machine
Articulated tractors are always impressive, certainly the Australian Baldwin 600 on Tarro Farm in NSW. A 600 horsepower colossus which masters the land on ‘Triples’. Just the job.
Articulated tractors are widely used in Australia. Logical, as here they come into their best. The areas are big, and they only have to be strong. Intricate work is not required. Only a bit of cultivating and it’s done. All makes of articulated tractors can be found here, including Baldwin. There were only 23 of these made, and so they are rare. The Baldwin on Taroo is therefore an unusual sight. Owner Gavin Zell enjoys working with it. He cares very well for the tractor, and you can see that. Whilst the tractor works day after day with a 27meter (84 ft) wide cultivator, Gavin maintains the P600 to perfection.
Gavin Zell was looking for a powerfull tractor and found this Baldwin on a farm in Perth in Western Australia. It was transported to his farm in NSW. He now uses it mainly for cultivation, on the farm that he shares with his parents and brother. Understandable that power is needed, because Taroo has 10,000 Ha of farmland, and 26,000Ha sheep and beef cattle. Gavin nearly lives on the Baldwin. He does 2500 hours per year with it, while most tractors average 1500 hours. With the 84 ft wide cultivator, he can drive 8 km/hr, working 20 to 25 Ha per hour.
The Baldwin is well developed for its job. It has a 6 cylinder Cummins KTA 1150 19 litre motor. Under normal conditions it uses 75 litres of diesel per hour. So that it can keep going, the tank holds 2500 litres. It is well set up for the driver as well. The cabin is surrounded with tinted glass and is air-conditioned. The instrument panel is positioned for good visibility and on the right console is the operating handle for the 6V + 1A Allison powershift gearbox with two groups (drop box) and a torque converter.
It doesn’t go fast: on 900/60-32 tyres at 2100 revs it goes maximum 20 kph. But it is not advisable to drive fast. On double tyres, it weighs 32 tons. And with 4 extra tyres comes a few more tons weight.
Towards 800 HP.
Increased capacity comes mainly from increased width. Gavin Zell would like to do that by changing the current engine for an 800 HP engine, probably also a Cummins. Then he should be able to work with a wider cultivator. Gavin expects to be able to reach 110 ft (36m) width. Considering the robust construction of the Baldwin, that should be possible. And if it succeeds, this tractor will be able to do even more work, and make even more impression.
Franklyn Baldwin: Ships were our example.
Baldwin built tractors in Castle Hill, 30Km to the north west of Sydney. Franklyn Baldwin still lives in the same area. He is the son of founder E.M.Baldwin, and developer of the articulated tractor. At 87 years old, he sees himself as a dinosaur. He explains the history of the articulated tractor, which was really a separate line of development for E.M.Baldwin and Sons, a business specialising in mining and sugar cane locomotives. In 1978 we began to make articulated tractors because we discovered that existing makes had too little power and too weak rear axles. At that time it was Versatile and Steiger, with Clark axles. The problems appeared after 500 hours, when the axles failed. Many farmers complained about it. The Clark axles had too small cog wheels and were developed for variable loading. We saw more in an axle with the properties of a ship’s drive : continuously on full power. Therefore we developed our own axle with large cog wheels in a cooled oilbath. At the farm show in Gunnedah in NSW we showed our first model, the 525 with a Cummins motor and a mechanical 12-speed Twin Disc gearbox. Arthur Norman, a forward looking farmer from Queensland, bought the first one. The transmission was not without problems, and we had to modify it. In 1983 we started series production. Trademark of our tractors was maintenance friendly design, with the lift-up cabin, until then only found on Big Bud tractors. We also made our own wheels, as any others would fail. We made three models with 400, 525 and 600 HP. One went to Africa. The rest stayed in Australia. Despite winning the Australian Design Award in 1982, it never became a major production. In all the business made 32 tractors, of which the 600HP example on Gavin Zells farm was the last. Baldwin’s new German owners decided tractor production wasn’t important and removed them from the program. Despite that, Franklyn Baldwin looks back to the time when his company made tractors for discerning farmers. And while they are still in use, a former Baldwin employee supplies parts. But the Baldwin make is history.
Farmer and singing collector
Song Writer and Country Music Entertainer is what it says on the cd “Tributes and Teardrops” by Graham Berry from Clifton. As a local idol, he entertains music lovers at the weekends. But Graham Berry is also a farmer. And not to be forgotten, an enthsuiastic collector of Caterpillar tractors and all sorts of other things.
If you didn’t know what a special person Graham Berry is, you might just drive right past Rose Lawn. That is the name of his farm near Clifton in Queensland. But anyone who meets him, or visits Rose Lawn, will be impressed. If not by the man and his talent for singing, then certainly by his collection of caterpillar tractors. Rose Lawn is full of sheds, and there are old tractors and machines everywhere. Graham’s main enthusiasm is for caterpillar tractors. He also uses them on his farm, although at 160 Ha it is not big by Australian standards. Therefore as an artist he also earns from his singing.
Preference for Cat.
He believes that caterpillar tractors are important for maintenance of the soil. Many Australian farmers think so too and you see caterpillars regularly on the fields.
Especially in limiting compaction, this makes up for any disadvantages says Graham. Caterpillars are slower, and make more dust and noise that wheeled tractors. They are much more expensive. But deterioration is minimal. Graham says a caterpillar on this light ground can do 20,000 hours without significant maintenance. A simple wheeled tractor can’t do that. The disadvantage of being difficult to take on the road, isn’t important in Australia.
Why has Graham built up such a big collection of Caterpillar tractors? Because the make has a long history and still enjoys great recognition. And now that the production rights have gone to AGCO, not many people know that.
The Caterpillar Tractor Company started in 1925 with a merger between Holt and Best. Graham Berry has recorded the entire history since then by seeking out examples of every model that was ever imported into Australia for his collection. It starts with the 2 ton model from 1925, followed by 10, 15, 20, 30, 60 etc. They stand neatly in line in a big shed. During his song sessions, his guests can visit the collection of about 80 Cats. He got them from all over Australia, complete or incomplete. When necessary, he searches for parts., like a radiator for the Sixty, which he got from the States. That is never a problem for Cat, says Graham. You are never at a loss, you can still always find parts.
Everything is welcome.
So Graham Berry expands his collection further, with the emphasis on Cat. But he collects far more, everything he finds. There are old machines, motorbikes, cars and lots more. He keeps visitors busy who have little interest in tractors. There are dolls, bottles, grammophone records, everything you can think of. He also has a weakness for old wheel tractors, so they are here too. Every shed is absolutely full. And as every place under cover is full, many tractors stand unprotected in the open air. Including the caterpillars, he has some 200 tractors in his collection, as well as harvesters, mowers and the rest. It makes Rose Lawn a special place. You don’t often meet a singing farmer who collects caterpillar tractors.
Dealer. I trust Buhler
On the road from the airport to the centre of Moree, is Moree Header, Bernie Keitlinghaus’s NH dealership. But parked prominently behind the fence are two Buhler Versatile tractors. “I’ve had years of good experience with Versatile” says Keitlinghaus, And we had to keep it that way.
“How did you learn German?” John Buhler asked Bernie Keitlinghaus, on a recent visit to the Buhler factory in Winnipeg, Canada. They both still speak fluent Germen, because both have German roots. Keitlinghaus stayed in Australia after working for Claas in the seventies. He liked it and had no reason to go back to Germany. Keitlinghaus keeps a map of Germany so he can show where he came from. On this map the former DDR (East Germay) is clearly still separate, and that shows the ties with his land of birth. Buhler is an immigrant also, but in Canada. But as the men speak a word of German together, the connection is made. They get on well. Thus Keitlinghaus continues to sell Versatile alongside New Holland.
It is not every day that you see the combination of Versatile and NH. “But I like to do my own thing” says Keitlinghaus. “I have been a Versatile dealer for years, even before it was a part of NH. But the (Ford) New Holland took over Versatile at the end of the eighties, and I became automatically a New Holland dealer. In this area I deliver a good 40 articulated tractors per year and that is not bad. Obviously in recent years NH tractors, alongside of course the 70A-models from Winnipeg. But because of the merger with Case IH, NH had to give up the factory in Winnipeg, and they couldn’t deliver tractors from this factory. Instead, we had the NH TJ-articulated tractors, and later the TG-frame tractors. That is all very well, but I have good experience with Versatile over the years, and via Powerfarming, the New Zealand distributor, I can still deliver Versatile. Just like McCormack and Deadong. I am independent, thus I make my own decisions. The Versatiles that John Buhler is making suit us fine and are just as good as the ones from the time of New Holland. After meeting Buhler, my trust in his business has grown stronger. That has always been the case and so it will remain.