Grains Research and Development

Date: 02.09.2010


Farm Background

Farm owners include 4 brothers in a partnership.  Plus 2 casuals at harvest.
10,000ha farm, with 8,000ha under controlled traffic, 4,000 to 5,000ha of crop sown each year, 12meter layout with 3meter tracks for all machinery, 2 disc seeders, 2 headers, chaser bin on 3meters with catching belt, 2 x 36meter blanket sprayers, 1x 36meter Weed Seeker and blanket sprayer.

Contract harvesting is possibly the cheapest way to harvest cereals, however it has been difficult to get headers set up for a 12meter cut, with 3 meter wheel spacing and have the contractor turn up on time. Harvesting pulses and canola requires correct timing and careful header set up and operation.  Losses can be far greater than the overall cost of harvesting.

Operating our own headers for the last 35years has totalled about 15,000 operating hours. Most of the cropping mistakes are only visible from the header cab, and no balance sheet can put a $ value on this aspect of header ownership.
In our district there are still farmers complaining about the 2008 contract header shortage and non appearance, or rate hike to stay and finish the harvest.

We normally harvest about 60% of our wheat and all the canola and pulses ourselves. The rest has been done by contract for the last 20 years, the last 12 years by the same contractor, who now wants to retire. Faced with this, we purchased one of his headers.

The header purchased is a John Deere 9860 STS with 12meter Midwest front, an Auto Farm 2cm auto steer is to be fitted, along with a power cast tail board to spread residue to 12meters or more. A new CASE 9120 header was our first choice; however one was not available for order in December 2008.  This highlights another issue for contractors and farmer header ownership, the availability of nearly all makes of new machines.

Residue management has become our main focus at harvest.  Crop establishment in this dry environment is highly dependant on weed control and even ground cover to store enough surface moisture to allow planting at the correct time. Residue on the tram tracks also reduces dust problems while spraying. Residue on the soil surface also stops soil splashing onto weeds during rain which can reduce the effects of glyphosate.

Two headers are used in one paddock, a chaser bin with catching belt, running on 3meters and auto steer is used to fill the two 100 ton field bins at the roads.  All header operations are up and back with auto steer. 

Harvesting 4,000ha plus per year at an average 2.5 tons per ha costs $150,000

• 333 rotor hours (at 10klm / hour x 12 meter header)
• Working 15 hours / day at 80% efficiency = 12 rotor hours x 2 headers = 24 harvest hours per day,
• 333/24 =14 days harvest,
• 333 hrs x $ 450 per hour = $ 150,000

Grain handling

• 10,000 tons over 14 days = 714 tons per day,
• 2 x 50 ton road trains x 4 loads each = 400 tons to Nyngan / day, leaving
• 314 tons to store on farm.   

The header we already have is a 1999 model CASE 2388 header with 12 meter draper front, 3 meter wheel track width and 2 cm Auto Farm A5 steering system. This header harvests 2000-3000 ha each year.  Its purchase price was $265,000 and it’s now worth $150,000.

This header has done approximately $700,000 worth of harvesting with $10,000 in repairs and no major down time during harvest.  The residue management with this header is not consistent and needs improvement, and it also lacks grain tank capacity for paddocks over 1000 meters long.

Weed seeker purchase

Key points
• Woody weed control in zero till controlled traffic is its main use,
• Tillage is too expensive and woody weeds are back in 6 months,
• The Weed Seeker enables effective control of difficult weeds,
• Less chemical use is a win for the environment.

Changing our farming from pasture and tillage methods in the early 1990’s to zero till and no grazing, saw our soil soften and store more moisture.  This resulted in an increased germination of woody weeds. These weeds would have been controlled by continuous tillage. To make zero till work we had to solve this issue. Controlled traffic in 2003 only made us sure this was the way forward for cost control, profit and lifestyle.

November 2005, we purchased a 12 meter Weed Seeker kit, with the sensors to be at 333mm spacing, the same as our disc seeder row spacing.  The trailed tank and frame was constructed by us. This sprayer cost about $70,000 all up. We wanted to see how this worked before committing to a 36 meter unit.  We then bought the extra 24 meters at a cost of $100,000 and added to the trailed unit, this unit operated behind a Case 7140 tractor. Calibration of this unit could sometimes be difficult and folding for transport was a pain.  This second version did not have any blanket boom spray bar fitted.

In 2008 we bought a Spra Coup 7650 with 24 meter boom, the boom was replaced with the 36 meter weed seeker boom an all the weed seeker controls and light displays fitted permanently. The boom lift and fold were strengthened and the rear wheel rims widened to take 420/50r38 Michelin tires these now run haft the pressure the 320s did. Permanent wiring of the weed seeker has made most electronic problems go away.

We use only one spray tank with the Weed Seeker.  A second nose tank may be fitted.

Changing the spray nozzles can be used to change the rate on the big weeds in fallow, eg.
• 40 degree 0.02 flat fan in weed seeker at 333mm spacing = 55ltrs per ha
• Turbo Tee Jet 0.01 at 500mm spacing at 2 bar = 25ltrs per ha,

Following is an example of a fallow paddock sprayed for spiny emex and Paterson`s curse.

Paddock (1)
• 9200 litres total spray volume
• 310ha x 25.6 litres per ha = 7936 litres
• 1264 litres though w/seeker
• Max flow rate w/seeker = 55lts ha
• 1264/ 55 = 22 ha w/seeker,
• 22 divided by310 = 7% sprayed by weed seeker at twice the rate per ha
• 700ml roundup per ha blanket or 2.1 litre to kill big weeds
• 1ltr of Surpass 475 ha blanket or a higher rate via WeedSeeker 
• Li700          
• $10 ha blanket spray x310 =$3,100 + $434 with w/seeker
• $30 ha blanket spray to kill big weeds = $9,300
• Saving of $5,766 on only 310 ha

Woody weeds are sprayed with a high rate of Garlon in diesel, with less than 1% of each paddock sprayed when using the Weed Seeker. With woody weeds covering about 4,000 ha, to blanket spray would cost $2,000,000! Not feasible!

Chisel ploughing would cost $15ha, or $60,000 for 4,000ha plus yield and soil loss.  The Weed seeker costs $5ha or $20,000 and 60ha per hour, spraying some 10ha per hour. 

Contact details

Haydon Wass
“The Plains”
Nyngan NSW 2825
Ph: 02 6833 4405