Saturday, June 13, 2015

So I bought a combine...

Last year I grew a batch of silage corn, which I harvested and chopped and ensiled and after fermentation, offered to my cows and pigs.  the pigs were fine with it, and carefully sort through and find all the corn kernels, but the cows really didn't take to it.  I could solve this problem by going to TMR (Total Mixed Ration), which takes all of the types of feed and mixes it up so that the cows can't select what they prefer, but in all honesty, I'd much prefer to offer a balanced diet to the cows that they prefer, too.  So I'm doing a little silage corn this year, maybe 5 acres of it, but the majority of the corn that I'm planting I'm hoping to harvest as grain corn.

 But to efficiently harvest any sort of grain there's really no choice other than a combine.  So a combine it is.   This combine showed up on the auction of a local farm a couple of weeks ago; and it's actually a pretty darned big machine.  My nephew is in the picture for scale, below.  he's 6'1.   The basic combine is 12' wide and about 30' long, and 14' tall.
Prior to the auction I talked to the owner of the farm being auctioned, and did my research; these machines sell for between $6k and $22k, depending on area of the country, and who's selling it.  Some come with headers for grain or corn or soybeans, some don't.

The farmer had been using it to combine wheat and barley and had been raking and baling the straw from the wheat as animal bedding.  The machine started and ran, moved back and forth, and all of the parts spun and shook.  the front tires are worn, the rear tires are brand-new.  It's got dings and wear spots here and there, but appeared to have no oil leaks, and all of the lift cylinders were tight.

On the side of the combine the name of the previous owner, prior to the auction farm, and i called them and asked about this combine; it had been used to pick up high-value seed; spinach and kale and chard and grass seed; owner #1 said that the machine worked, and that he just didn't have enough work for it to justify keeping it, so sold it to owner #2 for his use.

I looked on the net and found this model of combine being sold with both corn and wheat headers, so I figured that it could probably do both with the appropriate headers, and when the auction came I made the first bid at $1,000, and there was only one other bidder.  $3,000 and it was sold.

So I did what I always do when buying old equipment; I grabbed the owners manual and bought $300 worth of the fluids that this combine used; hydraulic oil and diesel and engine oil and grease, and spent 2 hours going over it making sure all fluids were topped off and everything was greased and that the running gear operated.  It did start and run, the engine sounded good; it had oil, but was a little low...

So then I looked up the law on driving huge implements down the road and found a helpful brochure from the washington state patrol , which said that if the implement was less than 12'6" wide I didn't need to have a chase car or lead car, but I did have to have signs that said "oversized load" on the front and rear of the implement, and that I needed red flags at the widest points.

So I purchased a couple of oversized load signs, and two red flags, and I was all set to have my own parade!
Some of them waved!
It has a max speed of about 15mph, and it steers by the rear wheels so it has a very sharp turn.  It's huge; it weighs about 21,000lbs.  It it a LOT bigger than a car.  It was a 6 hour drive, which I thought was going to be a little boring, but it was actually edge-of-the-seat driving for most of the time.

No mishaps, got it home and into the barn.  Now to start going through it to see what works and what doesn't, and to set it up for combining grain corn.


Anonymous said...

Good buy! I did a two hour drive last fall for my Dad when he got a different, old Massey combine. Its a bit like steering a barge. You can't miss a mailbox at the last instant, need to plan down the road.

George said...

Congratulations on your purchase !! Those are a fine little combine, we have a 4420 currently, and have used the 6600 series as well, yours is a model newer than that. With the service and owners manual I'm sure you'll be fine going over it making sure everything works. Make sure on the back end where you eject the straw etc that all those little straw walker teeth are in good shape, there's a lever than actuates each panel, you'll want to make sure all that moves freely, as thats where all your kernels drop through. Other big stuff to look over is the belts and bearings, JD combines are all belt driven as you know and any wear on them can cause a bad day in the field. You can access some of them under the drivers seat, others from the side only.

The levers that turn on your grain reel and corn head should snap into place when you throw them forward/back. If not, you'll need to adjust that belt under the seat. There is a small magnet looking thing that clips over the main drive pulley on the left side of the combine, it has some wires that run out from it, this is the electric connection from your cab. That little device sometimes breaks and you'll get intermittent stoppage of the combine. Its got 2 points in it that wear down over time and the whole thing needs replaced, easy job, but annoying as you gotta run the wires down from the cab.

Jeff said...

Definitely a good price on a combine for around here. I wish you luck! You can always try barley or wheat if corn doesn't work out.

Unknown said...


Can I ask you some questions about growing crops on Ebey Island?
A family member is thinking about buying some property on the island. But I noticed the island is considered a wetland.
I can't seem to open your email link...

in Lynnwood

Bruce King said...

I'm at -- in short, the island works pretty well for agriculture but there's issues related to agricultural land if it's been fallow for more than 5 years. In a nutshell, if "wetland plants or conditions have emerged" during that fallow period, the department of ecology has considered the land to be "converted" from farmland to wetland, and has enforced no more farming on that land -- there's no path back to farmland from wetland.

That doesn't mean you can't just start farming it again, but there's a risk that you'll get some flack about it.