I am looking for information on combines for a small-scale
grain operation. I am a young farmer taking over our family
orchard. I am also becoming interested in growing various
grains to mill ourselves and direct market. I know there are
combine models that are becoming available for people like
me and for use on research farms, but I haven't had much luck
tracking down where I could get one, costs, and other specifics.
I don't know about all the options (self-propelled, tractor
pulled, or a moveable treshing machine) for my situation.
I would be looking to grow maybe 20-30 acres. Any advice or
direction in where to continue my search, particularly in
where they are available, would be greatly appreciated.
You ask a very good question; one that many small- scale farmers
ask over and over. Thirty acres is far too much to harvest
by hand but not nearly enough to justify purchasing an expensive
combine. The problem is made more difficult by the fact that
equipment manufactures just don't build small combines anymore,
since the market is small (and just because the combine is
smaller, it still costs a lot to build).
This generally leaves you with two options:
One, you can contract the harvesting out to a neighbor who
has a combine and is willing to get your work done with his/her
machine. There are drawbacks to this scenario. Timing is often
critical during the harvest period, and whoever owns the equipment
may want to get all of their own work done first, leaving
you to wait. Also, if you are working with certified organic
crop, as I do, the equipment owner may not be willing to go
through a thorough cleaning procedure necessary for you to
get a segregated product.
The other option is for you to purchase an older machine
that is scale appropriate and in good condition. Keep in mind
when looking at used equipment that a combine has many moving
parts that operate at close tolerances. Worn parts can easily
cost you more than the value of the machine. Therefore, find
a combine that has been stored inside a building, has not
been abused, and is in generally fine condition.
The good news is that many of these machines exist, and since
they were expensive to begin with they were stored properly.
The other good news is that these pieces can usually be purchased
quite inexpensively. The reason for this is that most farmers
who really need a combine need one that is larger and newer
and can justify the large price tag. They don't want to fool
around with older machines. This leaves the door open to you.
The threshing action of a combine hasn't really changed much
over the years, so even an older machine should work just
fine. You may not get the easy adjustments or all the "bells
and whistles" of a new machine, but you won't be living
in it for months at time either so you can forego the CD player.
Any brand is fine, pull-type or self propelled—whatever
you can find and afford in really good condition. As far as
research equipment goes, you could check out the closest experimental
farm to see if they have an older machine on site that they
want to get rid of. New research-sized equipment is available
but is quite expensive. You could check out Kincaid Equipment
in Kansas. They use Massey 8XP combines as a platform on which
they build a research machine. They often have used equipment
as well. There is also a company called HEGE Equipment, also
in Kansas, that builds small-scale research combines.
Good Luck, and let us know how you make out.
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