“As such, we’ve been able to dramatically increase the number of acres we can cut.”
Like most other farmers, Dan and Keith Lamb are always looking for a better tool for the job. Anything that can make the job go faster and easier, and give them a competitive advantage, is a welcome addition to their large custom harvesting operation near Bakersfield, California.
It is their search for something better that initially led them to start using MacDon draper windrowers back in the mid 90s, a time when most others in the area were using augers for their harvesting. In fact, Dan Lamb estimates that about 95% of the farmers in the area are still using augers to cut their alfalfa, something he believes gives him a competitive advantage in his business.
“We liked that we could cut everything but our corn with the same header,” said Dan Lamb about their decision to go to drapers. “The drapers not only allowed us to cut 25 feet in a single swath, opposed to the 16 feet we were cutting with the augers, they did a much better job laying the wheat down gently. We cut our wheat in the soft dough stage to maximize dry matter production. The drapers allowed us to lay the grain in a windrow without knocking the heads off.”
Needless to say, the Lamb’s experienced a productivity boost when they moved to drapers, a boost they continue to enjoy today.
With upwards of 30 employees, depending on time of year and what needs to be cut, Lamb Chop Custom Harvesting cuts primarily wheat, corn and alfalfa for the local dairies. To cut the corn they use one Big X chopper from Krone, but for everything else they use MacDon swathers. Currently they own three MacDon 9350 Windrowers with 972 Draper Headers up front, and five newer MacDon M200 Windrowers mounted with 16' R80 Rotary Disc Headers. They also have three of MacDon’s new 25' D60 Draper Headers without conditioners for cutting wheat (if they need to condition the wheat they use the R80s). These latest additions, especially the rotaries, have made an even greater impact than their first move to drapers did.
“The double windrow attachment has been great on the rotary machines. We can now lay 32 feet of conditioned crop in a single windrow. Instead of needing three swathers on a crew, now we can put two machines on a crew and stay ahead of two – sometimes three – choppers,” said Lamb. “As such, we’ve been able to dramatically increase the number of acres we can cut.”
Lamb says that the need for one less swather on a crew has not resulted in layoffs; in fact just the opposite. They’ve actually been able to grow their business by picking up more work in the area – opportune because Lamb reports that the local dairy industry has also grown recently.
But being able to cut more, faster, is not the only reason the Lambs are so pleased with their MacDon rotary machines. Compared to their first experience with competitive rotaries, their MacDon machines performed as promised right out of the gate.
“One thing that I’m really impressed with is that MacDon does a lot of product testing up front. They make sure they have a good product before they throw it into the marketplace. We’ve had bad experiences with some other windrower brands who have not thoroughly tested their products – they let the market work out the kinks. You end up doing the testing and development for those companies. That’s been a huge issue with us.”
Lamb says that one of the most frustrating things about their previous rotary machine was that the conditioner bearings constantly needed to be changed. “But we haven’t had any bearing problems with these MacDons.”
As for their new M Series Windrowers, the Lambs and their crews couldn’t be happier.
“They’re very comfortable. The new cabs are much more roomy, much more comfortable and with better seating. Even the air-conditioning is better than before.”
“They’re also much, much easier to service. We really like the way the steps move away to allow access to the hydraulics, or back so you can get up there to service the motor. The air filter is also very easy to access.”
They also like the Dual Direction® capability of the M200.
“Another big plus of the machine is that you can turn the seat around and go down the road at 23 miles an hour rather than 15 miles an hour with the old machines. Our furthest fields can be 15 to 20 miles, so going faster on the road saves significant time.”
Looking to the future, the Lambs are planning to add one more MacDon rotary to their operation, and try using GPS auto-steering. “The GPS should allow us to put three 16 foots together without need for overlap. That should make us even more efficient.”
Their search for a better tool never ends.