Western Australia. The Frankland River region, with its gently rolling hills, is located some four hours south of Perth by car. Kellie Shields and Donald Pentz’s farm can be found in the middle of this idyllic setting. The two are in charge of just over 6,000 hectares, where they grow rapeseed, various species of wheat, malting barley, and oats. Because of the sensitive soil on most of their land, the majority of their work has to be done without using a plough. Kellie comes from a family of farmers. Donald, her partner, joined the business in 2007, having previously worked in the wool industry.
Although the region is known more for sheep and cattle farming, grain growing is on the rise. The region has plenty of water. With large parts of the continent struggling with dryness and droughts, these hydric conditions are a rarity in Australia. However, as Kellie puts it:
“The drier years are often our best ones.”
The farm has used Class harvesting machinery for some 18 years now, ever since Caterpillar dealers started importing LEXION combine harvesters, beginning with the 480 series. For its most recent harvest, the farm was one of the first to receive two pilot series machines from the latest Lexion generation. After all, the growing and harvesting cycle there is six months ahead of the agricultural year in the northern hemisphere.
When asked about the differences in performance compared to previous models, Kellie and Donald mention the high discharge speed, minimal losses, low fuel consumption, tremendous grain tank capacity, and the new operating terminal. As they put it, the new machines offer a 15 to 30 percent increase in performance for wheat and barley over previous models. For rapeseed, that figure stands at 10 to 20 percent. The Cemos Automatic machine optimization system, which nearly reached its swath-depositing limits during the rapeseed harvest, was one of the reasons for the increase. For local Claas engineers, those limits were more of a challenge than a negative observation.
Kellie and Donald also have words of praise for local Claas employees, who have been more than happy to help look after the farm’s Lexion fleet, offering their outstanding expertise at all times and even at short notice. After all, first Claas service also makes a difference in Australia.
As a result of extreme heat and dryness, the 2019 harvest was below average, but generally okay – giving a brand-new Class combine harvester from the new, pre-production LEXION generation an opportunity to show what it was capable of.
Herbert Lisso, 72, earned his stripes as a farmer at the company and served as its general manager until he retired. When it comes to new technology, he still takes a seat behind the wheel of the new combine harvester and offers his two cents on whether or not to buy it. And the new pre-series LEXION 8700 won him over.
“The larger drum and the generally optimized crop flow – that was a good move. It’s impressively quiet while operating, and the straw quality is excellent.”
The new cutterbar has also been met with his stamp of approval: “The cutterbar is now more sensitive and responsive.”However, the 2019 harvest did not give the new machinery a real opportunity to test its limits. Lisso adds:
“The engine load never got any higher than 60 percent.”
Still, power alone is not an argument from Herbert Lisso’s point of view. He is an advocate of precision farming, especially in connection with large-scale agriculture. Lisso believes:
“Digitalization is making it easier and easier to manage size.”
He would like to see more options from Claas, such as comparative, multiyear yield-mapping analysis. And as everyone knows, Claas listens to its customers.
The Boyles are a third-generation farming family. Because they work their fields themselves, they have a fleet of machinery to help them get the job done. For twelve years now, the family-run business has relied on machinery from Claas. The farm currently uses five Lexion combine harvesters, one of which is a pre-series 8600 that joined the fleet on July 8, 2019. Ryan remembers the exact date. Above all, a harvester has to be gentle on the sensitive crops – a subject he is quick to bring up. Ryan says:
“Most combine harvesters are designed for soybeans and grain. They don’t work too well with more sensitive crops.”
“CLAAS is a wonderful company.”
The 34-year-old Cody makes no secret of how impressed he is by the threshing performance and convenience of his new combine harvester. He says:
“You can set a lot more things directly from the cab,”
He also points out how unbelievably quiet the new machine is while operating. He is happy that the harvester does not produce as much dust during threshing, something he noticed while cleaning it after a long day’s work. Because his farmhand was done so quickly, Cody was concerned that he might not have done the job properly. But he had: The machine was clean.
Cody Book also likes the new onboard computer in the Claas Lexion, mainly because it is easier to operate than its predecessors. With a grin, he draws a parallel to the way different generations of people feel about using a computer. What his father found challenging is no problem for him. When it comes to his children, he knows they will be just fine – and so will the Book farm.
How does pre-series testing work?
During development, the product manager works with other members of the team to decide how many next-generation models to produce as a preliminary series. This machinery is then sent out to customers around the world, most of whom have experience in testing pre-series equipment. In return, Claas is given the opportunity to observe the new owners at work. The insights gained by the machine’s sensors and the owners’ personal experience are incorporated into the production of the regular series. During subsequent maintenance, the customers’ pilot series machines are also brought up to the production-level standard and given a new warranty following their first use in the field. The result? A classic win-win situation.