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174 Posts
Discussion Starter #81
It is just another small country hall built from galvanised iron so typical of the hundreds of similar halls that were scattered every few kiometres across the back blocks of the Australian rural countryside.
It was built nearly a 100 years ago now by volunteer labour and subscriptions raised from the numerous large farm families in the surrounding locality.
Like nearly all of those old rural halls, it sits way out on it's own in the wide flat brown Australian countryside, many kilometres from the nearest settlement or town.

[ The old country hall in the following yarn is a little different.
Most of those old rural halls were just named for the locality in which they were located but this old hall is called the "Sailors Home Hall" even though it is situated some 200 kilometres from the nearest open ocean.
The legend is that two sailors jumped ship in Adelaide in South Australia in the mid 1800's and decided to walk the nearly unsettled and uninhabited 700 kilometres to Melbourne in Victoria.
They died lonely deaths from illness or thirst alongside of a swamp where their grave site is still known to a few of the old locals.
The hall built some decades later is only a half kilometre or so from where the they died hence the unusual name for a rural country hall, the "Sailor's Home Hall".]

In it's heyday it was the local community centre with well patronised and often crowded dances on many saturday nights and numerous local celebrations nearly every week of the year.
It was a vital and essential part of the local community that contributed so much to the community spirit of those days when travel over any distance outside of your immediate area was an adventure to be planned days in advance.
Unlike so many of it's contemporary halls which are now long gone or derelict and have been long abandoned as the rural population steadily declines, it is still used but only on increasingly rare occasions as even more farming families slowly drift away from the area.
The farm land around it is slowly being amalgamated into ever larger farms owned by fewer and fewer farming families or the newly arrived city financed mercenary "investors" who don't give a d**n for the community, the local people or the land as long as they can cream a large profit out of it before they leave again to despoil the next object of their mercenary interest.
The heritage left by these city based mercenary "investors" is a long list of new and resistant and nasty weeds and a whole host of new problems for the few surrounding local farmers to try and deal with.

It was an evening around 1960 and the old hall had a large crowd of invited local farmers seated on the hard pews listening to the senior Australian executives of what was then one of the world's largest agricultural machinery companies.
Those executives and reps were adamant that the farmers seated out in front of them would have no option but to accept the direction that their company was taking farm machinery into the future.
They would not accept any of the numerous doubts that the audience expressed and were condescending to the local farmer's stuck in the mud, less than modern attitudes to the changes that their company was introducing to the modern agricultural machinery world.

We walked out that meeting that evening in 1960 and just shook our heads in disbelief.
None of us could quite comprehend how a three point linkage mounted 10 foot wide cultivator could work just as many acres as the new locally produced conventional tow behind 24 and 27 foot wide cultivators.
Nor could we see how a towed 12 and 14 foot wide small grains seeder with a ton or more of seed and fertilizer and with two large tractor tires carrying it across the often boggy paddocks from the heavy winter rainfall would be replaced by a 80 Hp tractor mounted three point linkage seeder supposedly carrying similar amounts of seed and fertilizer.
We shook our collective heads again at this as the company executives did not seem to have much of an idea on what we were talking about when we expressed our doubts.

That north American ag machinery company had by then, a strangle hold on the district machinery needs for a decade past due to a number of it's small but very good agents right across the region.
They dominated the tractor, combine, seeder and cultivator markets in the region.
Now the company just seemed to assume that what they intended for their customers would simply have to be accepted as their customers really had no other options than to rely on the company's products.

Five years later there was hardly a single item of Massey Harris or Massey Ferguson equipment to be found on any farms in our entire region.
They were gone, finished!
We had options.
We used those options and in those five following years, IH, from a small base, became the dominant ag machinery supplier with JD rapidly establishing itself in the region as a new and growing force.
Allis Chalmers moved into the tractor market and then very successfully a few years later, into the combine market.
All of these companies filled the hole left by MF's self inflicted immolation and it's arrogance and the resulting collapse of it's market.

[ The MF owned Australian Sunshine Harvester Company continued to design and build small combines and 20 and 24 row small grain seeders which were sold under the MF brand into the late 1970's until they were closed down by the remnants of the decaying MF empire. ]

It is only now after some 40 years have passed that the MF logo is again seen in this region and only as another brand name under AGCO's banner.

What does this have to do with Push Button combines?

It seems that corporations reach a stage in their lives where one of the measures of their success and particularly the success of their senior executive's stewardship is measured by the number of changes they can bring about in the corporation whether those changes are for the good or otherwise of their shareholders and customers
Like the MF corporation of old, those changes can involve significant changes in the corporation's technological base and sometimes that is to the corporation's long term benefit.
But often those changes are more cosmetic than substantial and are used more as an illusional ego trip for the executives and designers than any real advance.

Often these changes are made without any real consultation with their customers as to just how the changes in the corporation's product line will fit into the customer's requirements and program.
They do not even considering asking the customers if they actually want that particular type of change to the product they use unless it is in show piece "consultation" sessions with pre-ordained outcomes.

We are now seeing this attitude on the part of some corporations in the way in which their combines are becoming increasingly complicated and simplicity and ease of servicing and maintenance and field repairability are apparently no longer a significant design requirement.
We are seeing it with the almost random installations of new electronic components and unverified, unproven and bug laden software that is thrust upon customers as the latest and greatest advances.
The smaller operator is no longer in the race to acquire a new combine suited to his smaller acreage as the corporations have seemingly written the small operator off as not worthy of any further investment that would produce a suitable smaller sized combine.

Changes without any customer input don't matter when it is a cheap auto or some such item but when you are going to spend perhaps close to half a million dollars on just one single item such as a a combine or tractor you most surely will want to and should have some say in the way that machine is configured before you accept delivery of the corporation's product.
It seems that most farmers have not yet got the gonads to say to these corporations, this is what I want before I spend any of my hard earned on your product and it is no sale unless I get what I require.
Often the amount knocked off the price is seemingly more important to the buyer / customer than the long term performance of the machine or product.
Equally important is the knowledge and ability to know and to say this is what I do NOT want if I am going to spend this amount of money.

[ As an example of what can be done in this line, the R75 with the 45 foot Honeybee draper in "Rolf's R62 photos" thread had a large number of changes made to the helicals, rotor, and various other components on the machine, changes which were made by the company and agent before delivery was accepted.
Most of those changes have come from NDDan's Gleaner hot rodder program and all have been proven to significantly improve performance in cereals here in Australia.
The result was a class 7 combine that can at least now match the capacity of a class 8 combine in our conditions.]

Are we just starting to see the old arrogant MF syndrome of the late 1950's emerging in a couple of the major Ag machinery manufacturers?
Are we starting to see a "This is our product and you have to take it as it is! Now quit complaining and get on and adjust your attitude and farming program accordingly to fit our product" in a couple of the major combine and tractor manufacturing corporations?
My own feeling is that this attitude is just starting to appear very occasionally amongst some sales persons from a couple of corporations which in turn reflects the senior executive's attitudes in those corporations.

Some reading on the studies done on the life and structures of major corporations spell out how a corporation or company will in all likelihood go through a number of different stages during it's existence.
A good site I have found, amongst many, actually spells out some ten stages in a corporation's or company's life cycle.
The site is that of the "Adizes Institute" [ ] and has a very good roll over illustration with a lot of further information on company / corporation life cycle stages through the various links.
Rather than unnecessarily repeating a lot of reading material I will let you do a quick read for yourself on the corporation life cycles outlined in that site.

For myself, I would consider one of the more recently formed ag machinery corporations still in the "Adolescent" stage
Another couple of corporations may be in the "Prime" stage.
One is perhaps in the "Stable "stage where the first small indicators are emerging that perhaps the senior executives and governing board have started to lose the original focus that gave the corporation it's finest successes.
Perhaps it just a few very small things such as minor design faults emerging or a drop off in quality control but if one looks hard enough the termites are deep down there in the foundations quietly working away at that massive and supposedly impregnable business structure above them.
When I look at that graph curve of a corporation's life cycles I can see the reasons for the oft repeated pattern where a lot of very well known and highly respected ag machinery companies and corporations of yester-years have over the many years of my farming life, just quietly faded from view and almost disappeared except for the odd name plate on some current big corporation's machines.

For examples of the decline of the great manufacturing corporations just look at the current situation with Toyota which has now had it's reputation for automotive engineering excellence shredded to the extent that it may never fully recover to it's former position.
And then have a look at where Toyota resides on the corporation's life cycle graph.
Or GM ; ie "Government Motors" which was once the largest manufacturing corporation in the world but which should now just be put out of it's misery with a bullet to the head and the bits sold off or closed up.
Traumatic, yes! But sometimes it is better to use the knife, bear the short term pain and get on with life instead of putting up with a steady debilitating agony that seemingly goes on forever.

Not all Corporations that appear to be on the down hill skids fail.
A declining Caterpillar was getting run over by the Japanese Komatsu company until CAT reinvented and reinvigorated itself in the late 1980's and early 1990's.
Komatsu today are nowhere to be seen around here anymore.
They have been creamed by the new CAT corporation.
And Lee Iacocca through sheer good management and a level of charisma as a leader brought Chrysler back from the dead.

And as always throughout the long history of man, waiting and working in the shelters, the garages and the offices across the world's many nations are the innumerable numbers of guys and gals who are dreaming of and perhaps starting to form those small businesses that will one day, after a traumatic winnowing out of the dreams and the flotsom and detritus, will through a very large slice of luck and good business management become the great industrial and farm machinery corporations of the future.

So watch for those termites deep in the foundations of a couple of the big farm machinery corporations of today and you will in all likelihood find those termites there if you watch closely for the little tell tale signs.

Which corporations they are I will leave to you to assess for yourselves but don't be surprised if it is not the one or two you thought would go under but other rather unexpected collapses.

Nothing changes!
Everything changes!
It always has been so and always will be so!

3,259 Posts
ROM,....once again , WOW. I definately want the first copy of your book when you write it.

There are a lot of lurkers that read this site and not only quote from it, but use the topics for local discussion. The topic matter of this thread in general has a been a hot topic of local discussion for a little while.

Loads of fun listening to the talk.

174 Posts
Discussion Starter #83
Thank you for your kind words, Doorknob.
Everybody enjoys having their ego stroked occasionally and I am no different!
[ And I always try to remember to try and keep that ego on a very tight rein ]

I have been a little taken aback as to the lack of comment on this thread except for a couple of regular commenters like yourself.
I don't know if many are reading all or most of the postings in this thread or just skimming for a short quick look and finding it too boring and of no interest, are just quickly moving on.
So I was thinking that maybe I am just an old farmer baying into the wind and maybe should let the thread quietly disappear into that great black abyss of the World Wide Web as seems to happen to so much that makes it's brief appearance on the web and then disappears forever.

Because of the lack of other's comments, I do not know if others have ever thought about or considered or examined the subjects I have touched on or if others are too daunted to make their own comments so it is a little surprising and pleasing to hear that the various posts and thoughts in this thread are being quoted, discussed and debated in some small way in some other quarters.

I have tried to bring a different viewpoint, different in that I have tried to actually analysis the trends and future directions as viewed by an old farmer who has been around in the grain growing business for quite a few decades, that combine and tractor manufacturers are taking the farming world rather than the endless and sometimes unpleasant wrangling about minor and completely insignificant items and the oftimes extremely parochial arguments that seem to pass for debate in some other threads.

I just hope I have made other posters and lurkers think about some of the points I have raised here as it is a part of their future I have been posting on.
And that some of them are thinking about and possibly discussing and arguing these ideas amongst their circle of friends and like minded compatriots.
I also hope that somewhere, sometime there have been a couple or more hopefully, a few executives of the major manufacturing corporations who have perused this thread and any other similar threads and have perhaps gone away with a different viewpoint a seen by the farmers and operators.
And perhaps they may have generated some new thinking on the trends and directions that their own corporation is presently taking in the farm machinery industry and whether that trend is to the long term benefit of the farmers and operators and ultimately to their own corporation's long term future.

So one or two more postings on this subject and maybe I will call it quits unless I feel the incentive to post some more.

And to toss something in from out of left field and somewhat off topic, everything I have posted is null and void if, as I am now starting to increasingly believe as more and more likely, the arrival of a major global recession at best or a major global depression at worst eventuates sometime in the next decade.
I saw what the Great Depression did to my parents and their generation and the businesses of that generation.
My reading of those past times see similar trends to the lead up to the Great Depression to the current times and sequence of possible future economically devastating events.

And if such a recession / depression eventuates and god forbid that it does, then what happens in the farm machinery industry and to farming in general is just as unforecastable as it is in every other industry and economic organisation.
Our future is then in the lap of the gods.

However, when you read this immediately above please remember "He who tries to forecast the future is a fool"

174 Posts
Discussion Starter #85
Somewhere still around in the family collection of photos is an old biscuit tin with an old brownie box camera photo of a very small ROM cradled in his father's arms.
The Old Man is standing in front of what was probably the last of the large heaps of uncleaned cocky chaff and threshed wheat.
That photo was taken in about very early 1939.
Now in those first couple of decades of the 20th century, most Australian wheat farmers had wives and families but they also usually had a stripper around as well.
The strippers got their big workout during the hottest time of the year for fairly obvious reasons as that was when the money was around for the taking and they really brought in most of the moola that helped keep the family going for the rest of the year.
Those strippers were a tough hard worked lot but by the late 1920's they were just about all stripped out.
[ OK did you believe that even for one moment? ]
They were possibly brought back into action occasionally to save the cocky chaff for horse and animal feed during drought years which would account for the 1939 date of that cocky chaff heap in the photo.

This post has been difficult to write as I have had to check many facts and dates and as is usual in historical writings, not all sources agree with one another.
There are also many threads and sources to try and make sense of and it is quite messy and may not be an easy read for those who are not very interested in the history of our modern combine's development.

This post is also different in that I will try to comment on and roughly follow the time line for the development of various Australian harvesting technology advances through the years and will not bother too much with the American harvest technology developments.

It is my intention to look at the historical scene for the mechanisation of grain harvesting up to near the present time in this post with another future post looking and guessing at the way out, blue sky future developments in grain harvesting technologies and which way those technologies may well go in the future.

Until the latter half of the 20th century Australia was right at the end of the line and near the ends of the earth as far as the Americans and European colonial powers were concerned so we had to develop our own technologies that would work in our harsh Australian environment and the immense distances that are involved when our population was no more than some 3 or 4 million inhabitants.

To give some perspective and relativity's of Australia with the US and the northern hemisphere nations.
Australia's population only reached about 10 million inhabitants by around 1950.
Even today with some 22 million inhabitants, something like one quarter of Australia's present population was born overseas. They are immigrants and not native born Australians.

Australia, including the island state of Tasmania, is almost exactly the same area and is of similar dimensions to the 48 contiguous states of continental USA.
We are also, next to Antarctica, the driest continent on earth which has had huge implications for Australian agriculture.
Australians through necessity have had to develop some quite unique technologies that suit both the harsh dry climate and the very ancient, highly eroded and poor soils of our land.

It is regularly commented by Australians who have often spent some considerable time in the USA, just how little the average American knows about the world outside of the USA borders.
[ The qualification here is that I believe that the readers of this and similar forums with an international perspective are very much better informed than the average citizens of most countries. ]
I think this can be put down to the type of USA education which although excellent and even superior to most other countries in many respects concentrates far too much on matters solely American, often at the expense of a real and balanced acknowledgment that other nations have also made just as important a contribution to civilisation and civilisation's technological advancement as America has undoubtedly done over the last century and a half.

So for American readers who have always been told and who may even believe that Americans alone have invented and developed all of the modern farm technologies and modern grain harvesting technologies here is a rough time line together with many personal and historical anecdotes from the Australian perspective.
I have included a few Australian internet references for those who might like to follow up and understand just a little more how other nations have contributed to a technological advances that has enabled the world's farmers to continue to be able to adequately feed the world's peoples even though our global population has doubled to just under 7 billions over the last 60 years or in a period of less than a single well lived farming lifetime.

And for a clarification of "combine" nomenclature as it is used by Australian grain farmer's for their equipment, the following may be of interest and will stop some confusion about terms, plus a few facts about Australia.

The American term "Combines" are the Australian "Headers" although "combine" is slowly entering our vocabulary when it comes to describing the "self propelled headers"
The American "Headers" are our "fronts" or sometimes "platforms" and with the older machines also called the "Comb" due to the long finger's comb like appearance and action.
The term "Harvesters" is now used in a general sense but some years ago was used more specifically to describe the now obsolete "stripper harvester" type machines which I will describe below.

"Combines" as they are known in some parts of the Australian grain belt are 20 to 24 row or wider direct drop, small grain seeders with full width seed and fertilizer boxes.
Examples of a couple of makes of combines ;
[ ]

"Combines" have been almost entirely displaced by "Air seeders" as the larger size and capacity are much better suited to the Australian large acreage grain farms which are rarely less than 1500 acres now for a one man operation and around here in western Victoria can run up to about 7000 to 10,000 acres for a two man operation in the lighter soils.

The big grain growing farms are in Western Australia and Queensland with 20,000 to 30,000 acre family owned operations not uncommon.
The biggest grain growing operation in Australia, in Queensland, plants and harvests close to a 100,000 Hectares [ 240,000 acres plus ] of grain a year.

[ The state of Western Australia, if it was a country, would rank as the tenth largest country on earth in area, just ahead of Sudan, the largest country in Africa.
The state of Queensland would rank as the 18th largest in area, behind Libya and well ahead of Iran in area. ]

"Pickups" are "utes" for Utility, an Australian invention.
[ ]

There were three different grain harvesting technologies developed in Australia starting in about 1843 and these technologies were nearly all completely home grown.
Each of these technologies as they were developed, overlapped the previous technology by a couple of decades as the older technology and methods were slowly phased out.

The first of these mechanised grain harvesting technologies was the invention of the "stripper" by either J.B. Bull or John Ridley [ still disputed ] in the state of South Australia in 1843.
South Australia, late in the 19th century, for a time, became the largest exporter of wheat in the world.

John Ridley; possibly the [ disputed ] inventor of the Stripper, the world's first mechanised grain harvester.
[ ] and
John Bull who is also contributed significantly to the invention of the Stripper;
[ ]

For a history of the grain strippers in Australia I suggest you just google "Australian grain strippers" or just a few of many examples on many sites.

[ ]
[ ]
[ ]

There is also an excellent PDF from South Australia entitled "The evolution of South Australia's Cropping Industries" with some excellent photos and drawings of the early days of grain growing in Australia and the machines used.
['s%20cropping%20industries.pdf ]

You can see from the sites above the basic principle of the "stripper".
A set of long closely spaced fingers which held the heads of grain above the fingers as the stripper combed it's way through the crop.
A metal bladed beater running at speed and close to the fingers which belted the heads off the straw and threshed the grain out of the heads.
The whole of the threshed grain and chaff was then thrown back by the beater into a large box on back of the machine.

The uncleaned cocky chaff and threshed wheat was raked out of the back of the collection box on the stripper using large wooden rakes and wooden forks and it was then heaped into large heaps for later cleaning and bagging for sale using a winnower.
The next step was to clean and bag the grain using a winnower, often hand powered through a crank in the early days until horse treadles and then the single cylinder oil engines became more common.

And as a small boy watching my father use an old hand powered crank handled winnower for the one and only time with my mother feeding the machine, I don't think that we of the later generations really know what hard physical labour really is!

My father told me that the grain in these cocky chaff heaps was unaffected by rain as the chaff when first wetted, formed a good seal on the surface of the well made heap and provided there were no hollows that allowed water to collect, the rain then just ran off the sealed surface of the chaff.

My grand father used to tell the tale of a quite prosperous german speaking local farmer as were all those old Lutheran settlers in the very early days of the 20th century, who had just brought a brand new winnower to clean his grain.
The harvest was finished and he rolled the new and expensive winnower out to the first cocky chaff heap just before the new year so that he and his crew could start cleaning and bagging the wheat a day or so later.
The morning arrived and he headed out to the paddock to start the cleaning operation but to his total shock some b*****d [ in very excited, high pitched and expressive guttural german of course ] had stolen his brand new winnower overnight.
Now in a closely knit community such as those religion based communities were, you couldn't hide something as substantial as a winnower for long let alone spirit it out of the district without somebody knowing all the details but he had no luck at all in finding that winnower.
So with one increasingly angry and vocal german roaming the district looking for his winnower, the district's young bucks quietly slipped back into the paddock one night a week or so later and carefully dug the winnower out from under the cocky chaff heap and restored it to it's original position.
They were still guffawing about it thirty years later!

Over the years Americans have made quite a play on the invention of the "Reaper" by Cyrus McCormick in 1831.
[ ]
The McCormack Reaper only cut the ripe standing crop and straw which still had to be collected and threshed by the large stationary threshers requiring large teams of men and large teams of horses to power the treadles or later, steam engines to power the stationary threshing machines.
In 1844, the Ridley invented stripper of 1843 was used to harvest a record wheat crop in South Australia.
By 1860 when the McCormack reaper was in universal use across America, some thousands of the far more efficient strippers were being used across Australia's vast wheat lands.

The second major development in the mechanisation of Australian grain harvesting was the combining of the "stripper" principle of the rotary beater and the sieves and separation principles of the winnower in a "stripper harvester".
The first successful Australian "Stripper harvester" was made by a James Morrow in 1884.
A number of Australians were involved in the development of the stripper harvester.
The most important was H. V. McKay who produced a successful machine in 1884 and subsequently manufactured large numbers as the “Sunshine” Stripper Harvester.

A very early Sunshine Stripper Harvester
[ ]
or google "Australian Stripper Harvesters"

I only ever worked one of these "stripper harvesters" for a few days and that was in viciously itchy oats for good measure!
The sieves were reversed in that to save space the sieve fan was at the back of the machine and the threshed material was dropped onto the sieves at the back and the chaff was blown forward off the sieves and mostly over the operator in his seat in front of the main drive wheel.
Those old guys had to be tough but that Sunshine Stripper Harvester was still way, way better and easier and much, much faster and cheaper than using the old stripper and winnower!
The downfall of the the Stripper Harvesters, called Harvesters by farmers at the time of their greatest influence so as to distinguish them from the older Stripper and the new technology "Headers", was their poor performance in lodged crops or very tough and difficult to thresh crops or heavily weed infested crops.

The wheat varieties of the first decades of grain production in Australia often were very tall and had weak straw, being derived from English varieties that were also selected for straw for animal feed.
They would badly lodge and in these circumstances the old Strippers and the Harvesters had great difficulty in cleanly picking up the minimum of straw and threshing the grain out of it.
Too much straw above the fingers just choked the threshing beater.

The biographies of some important Australian inventors and developers.
A good deal of history can be learnt from these biographies.
James Morrow;
Hugh Victor McKay ;

And how Massey Harris eventually got on top of H V McKay in the global combine market through the inventive genius of an Australian.
Thomas Carroll;

And an Australian designed and built self propelled Sunshine Stripper Harvester in Spain in 1916.
[ ]
This photo is interesting in that I cannot find any reference to such a self propelled "stripper harvester" being manufactured by Sunshine Harvester which this machine certainly is nor have I ever heard of or come across any previous mention of such a machine.
The date attributed here seems to indicate that this self propelled machine considerably predates any other known self propelled harvesting machines, at least of Australian design and manufacture.

A good short easy read of the history of the invention and development of the Australian Stripper and the Stripper Harvester can be found here and is entitled;
The Revival of the Gallic Harvester
[ ]

The following reference is for Australians reading this to follow up on our history.
[' ]

During the various periods of considerable farm prosperity in the early decades of the 20th century a number of American pull type combines with draper type fronts were imported into Australia.
My grandfather owned one of these for a few years, possibly a McCormick, but they proved to be unsuitable for Australian conditions and were very unreliable and were soon discarded in favour of the more suitable Australian developed machines.
The remains of one of these imported machines with it's peg drum thresher still stands in the steel scrap heap out at the farm but unfortunately not for much longer as Rolf and his wife are very reluctantly getting out of farming after a run of very low rainfall years and a near unbroken decade and half long series of financially severe weather induced setbacks nor are they alone in this as an exodus of farmers is under way in this area for these very same reasons.
There is no income insurance or government backed and financed low income and low commodity price protection for farmers in Australia!

See Rolf's" R62 Photos" thread for more on this.

Headley Shipard Taylor;
The man who as much as anybody else was responsible for the invention and development of the modern header [ combine. ]

The next great advance in Australian grain harvesting technology, the same almost unchanged in it's basics technology that all of todays conventional combines are based on came about with the invention and development of a practical and affordable "header" [ combine ] by H S Taylor in 1911-12.
This Australian designed machine incorporated all the basic elements that define our modern "conventional" headers [ combines]
The Americans already had similar design machines combining all the same basic principles but their machines were very large and clumsy when compared to the much lighter and more practical and more efficient Taylor design,
H. V. McKay who had built a large industrial empire based on his invention and development of the stripper harvester in 1884 became the manufacturer of the Taylor headers.
And in fact versions of these headers were designated by models such as the Sunshine "Taylor" and the later "HST" models.

In 1924 H.V. McKay developed the first self propelled header or "Auto header" as it was known in Australia..
These machines used either a Fordson engine or a Wisconsin engine for their power.
They were exported all over the world.
The widths were up to 20 foot fronts and I think there was even a 24 foot version made, a phenomenal width for the pre WW2 days.

Sunshine Auto headers
[ ]
[ ]
[ ]

My first harvest job was driving the tractor while the hired man sat on the tractor drawn, ground driven header.
The next harvest while still I was still only 16 1/2 years old was to take the entire wheat harvest off driving one of the above Sunshine HST headers drawn by a Massey 55 D diesel tractor using an "extension steering" from the header seat.

My father had installed an "extension steering" from the header to the tractor with a steering wheel on the header using a long shaft and universal joints attached to the tractor steering wheel as depicted in the photos below.
The clutch was a simple lever and over centre device attached to the foot pedal of the tractor clutch and operated by a good tug on a rope from the header so the whole show could be operated by one man from the header seat.

The seating arrangements were lets say, convenient to the operations of the header.
The view around and of the machine operations was unimpeded by anything as sophisticated as even an umbrella to keep the 35 C plus summer sun off.
The comforts of the open air so beloved of our city brethren was replete with a thick pall of itchy dust, flying chaff, the grinding of rough open gears, the whine of chains that should have been replaced before last season and the howl of the threshing drum to which was added half the fly population of Australia although it even got a bit much for the flies on occasions.
One became intimately familiar with the combine's machinery as the chains whipped around a foot or so away from the old plough seat that acted as the control centre to which was added the howl of a whole bunch of open gears also close at hand like in about 2 feet away, the constant bark of the tractor ahead and the rumble and growling of that big steel drive wheel and it's drive cogs a couple of feet directly behind one's open posterior.
The piece de resistance was a bloody great lever, fortunately spring assisted, at my right hand that was used to raise and lower the 10 foot wide comb front as we crawled along at some 1, 3/4 MPH through the ripe wheat crop and the eye dazzling cereal stubble on that big steel drive wheel across the sometimes rough paddocks.
The day's drinking water arrangements were a thick dust covered canvas water bag hanging somewhere convenient in the shade on the machine.

And that is where this then sixteen year old kid was initiated into the complexities of headers and harvesting and left to get on with the harvesting while the Old Man drove the old truck back and forth delivering the harvested wheat to the concrete silos that dot the Australian grain belt.

But I had it easier than a lot of others.
The Old Man had invested in one of the first bulk handling side trailers in the district so I rarely had to manhandle the 200 lb open topped bags of wheat.
We just augered the wheat straight onto a heap on the ground to the neighbor's absolute horror for nobody had ever committed such sacrilege to a wheat crop before in the district.
They were all doing it a few years later.
A portable auger and a couple of back breaking shovels to shift the wheat to the auger to load the old truck was our bulk handling system.
That in bare feet which kept one alert to the possibility of losing some toes if you got too close to that auger.
The side trailer did have one other advantage.
While the single cylinder engine chugged away driving the unloading auger in the side trailer I used to rush around and grease half the grease nipples on the plain cast bearings that infested that old header.
At the next stop I would grease the other half.

Same type of header and extension steering set up; different tractor in the first photo.
[ ]
[ ]

Prices were good in those days and soon, in the mid 1950's, another tractor drawn Australian built DS David Shearer header arrived with, would you believe, the new fangled Fafnir sealed bearings right through it.
No more greasing and all the dirt and filth that entailed.
AND you actually sat in some comfort on the newly cabined tractor and worked the "comb" [ in the header parlance of those days ] height with the new fangled hydraulics that came with the header but there was more!
It had a PTO drive!

It was also around this period in 1955 that the Massey Harris purchased the McKay family interests in the Sunshine H.V.McKay works.
I have avoided mentioning makes in this whole thread but there comes a time!

What then happened is one of the most arrogant, bastardised and criminal acts that has ever been perpetrated on a friendly and welcoming host nation by a North American corporation.

Over many decades, H.V. McKay and the Sunshine Harvester works had assembled some of the earliest and most unique and completely irreplaceable examples of Australian farming inventions, innovations and technology advances.
These items were all housed in a museum building at the Sunshine works in Sunshine, a suburb of Melbourne, Victoria.
Within a few weeks of taking over the American and Canadian Massey Harris executives secretly decreed and oversaw the total destruction of and the disposal of all these unique and irreplaceable examples of very early Australian agricultural machine inventions and developments, a vital and irreplaceable part of the Australia's national heritage which all went into the Sunshine tip.
The only records of those machines now are the photos in the National Museum.

I only found out the full story some years later from an old ex Sunshine Harvester employee and truck driver who actually had to take the destroyed machines down to the Sunshine tip for disposal.
And the reasons given by those executives when they were strongly challenged by the workers was there was no way that they, the Massey Harris / Ferguson executives were going to allow anything in Australia that would challenge the North American claims that they were the first to develop all of the modern grain harvesting and farming technologies.

If Americans want a comparison just try and imagine the Australian BHP company, now one of the largest mining companies in the world, moving in with bull dozers to flatten and destroy Valley Forge because they wanted to mine under it.

The mention of the Massey Ferguson name still brings a sour note to my mouth and not much has changed with the Massey Ferguson culture here in Australia.
Their executives who have taken over the running of AGCO's business in Australia still seem to have that same arrogant attitude to Australians.

By the very early 1960's the sheer size and financial power of the big American corporations were wiping out the small but very technologically advanced Australian header manufacturers and by the very late 1970's all Australian manufacturers of harvesting machinery were out of business or taken over.

My father brought our first American built self propelled combine, a two seasons old JD 95 Roundback in 1961.
We were really big time then.
That machine was very simple, strong, well made and easy to maintain.
It was also the single worst combine for grain loss and sample quality that we have ever owned and it's lack of comparative capacity in our Australian conditions was not far behind.

There was one more purchase of an Australian designed and built Shearer XP 88 combine which after a lot of ROM and his brother's mods became a very good capacity machine but that model was the last produced by the Shearer company.
[ Rolf was just a very small tacker in those times! ]

Then Allis Chalmers with the first Push Button combine, the L2 came into our world and my story ends here.

Edit; sorry; some of those links did not come out as required.
You may have to copy and paste from between the brackets.

3,259 Posts
..........................uh,....................hmmmm...............WOW ROM, that's gunna take a bit to digest.

Sorry to hear Rolf has had to make that decision. That has to be the sadest thing he has had to do.
I have no doubt that whatever Rolf decides to conquer in the future, he will accell at it.

I'm 47 years old. Many years ago, a very wise man made me quite aware of the somewhat one sided and as such, not so true education programing that was used at the time. I'll refrain from furthering that as it gets far away from the topic. However, your point of the USA teaching of only within its borders is quite true.

Interestingly enough, I have found through googling over the years, many of the historical pictures and articles of the Australian "harvesters" etc., that you have posted links to. The Sunshine stripper theories and concepts has been one of my farvorites.

I have some friends in South Africa. They use similar equipment and techniques to the farmers in Australia. In fact many of the brands of eq are of Australian manufacture.

That's about as far as I have gotten through your post so far, so I'll stop here for a bit.

I do want to say however, after reading your last comment, that I hope you dont fade away from this board. Even if a manufacturer or two read this thread, they will not, or maybe can not, reply. Perhaps they will contact you in personal message, I dunno.

Super Moderator
3,228 Posts
Wow, what an incredible study of crop harvesting in Australia, magnificent job Rolf.
Unfortunately, if given a test on that post the two things that stick in my mind are:


77 Posts
ROM, I was sorry to hear about Rolf's decision to try something else but I can not imagine how you could stay in business with that many years of drought. I am 63 years old but if I ever had even 3 years with no rain I would be history! I certainly enjoyed your history lesson on combine development and it was very enlightening. Have you ever considered writing a book on the subject ? You are right on about our educational system in the US, 75 years ago we had a good public school system but not any more. Private schools are popular here for those that can afford it and their students test scores are almost always much higher than the public school kids. I hope you and Rolf will continue to help us get the most production from our gleaner combines. Good luck to the both of you in the future and thanks for all your past and future help. Bigboy

174 Posts
Discussion Starter #90
The term"header ' to describe the Australian "combines" comes from the way in which the whole of the head is cut off by the reciprocating knife and then goes through the threshing and separation process.
I have never heard the description ascribed to Headley Taylor's name but it is quite possible that there was an influence in calling the Taylor designed machines, the "Taylor Headers" when those machines were first produced.

That reciprocating knife and the cutting off of the entire unthreshed grain head is of course only found in "headers" or "combines".
Also remember that we did not just mimic American combine technology as might be assumed by many when the development of the Header / combine is being discussed but basically invented our own technology in a parallel fashion to the Americans, therefore Australians also as a consequence, derived their own terminology and descriptions of the various machines and processes even if those processes were similar to the American combine technology.

The Stripper principle as used in the now obsolete Australian Strippers and Stripper Harvesters ie; "Harvesters" of which there were a number of makes, relies on the grain heads remaining attached to the straw and being held in position by 18 inch long comb type slightly concave fingers with very narrow 4 and 5 mm gaps between the fingers which prevent the grain heads from slipping through while the flat steel edge on strips on the beater above the fingers which rotates at some hundreds of revs per minute, threshes the grain out of the head and throws it back into the cleaning section of the machine.
The 1 1/4 " [ approx. ] wide, slightly concave shaped fingers also hold any threshed grain in their shallow concave shape before and as it is swept back into the machine.

The Stripper principle is also found in the English invented Shelbourne stripper Header
[ ] which uses a different system to the old Australian system but also greatly reduces the amount of MOG moving through the cleaning process and in the right conditions can lead to phenomenal increases in grain throughput due to the mostly grain only going through the machine.

You will note that even in photos of the Australian built "Headers" that the stripper type long, closely spaced fingers were retained as they allowed the machine to cut much closer under the grain head thus reducing by a large margin the amount of straw flowing through the processor and cleaning system thereby reducing losses over the walkers and increasing capacity by a large margin.
Also in the light and low yielding but vast areas of the Australian grain belt where yields of a tonne to two tonnes / Ha are common [ 15 to 30 bus / acre ] the long fingers prevented head and grain loss at the knife, something that can only be reduced by taking a lot of straw length and / or fitting double cut guards or the No Choke guards to reduce shatter from the wide gapped guards used on the American machines.
The great advantage of the now accepted short fingered guards and knife system is their versatility in that they can cut and harvest nearly any crop in any sort of conditions, something that the Australian "comb" type front with it's long fingers and narrow spacings , although quite superior to the guard type front in standing cereals and other similar crops, cannot do.

And in fact the only way that I could get the JD 95 Roundback mentioned in the above post to perform adequately was to make and fit a long fingered 20 ft Australian front to that combine to reduce straw throughput and thereby reduce the losses over the walkers and sieves to an acceptable level.

Sorry if that final comment in the long post above made it appear that I was leaving the scene.
The post above was actually meant as a historical look at and prelude to some a future post or posts where I intend to try and do some, way out, blue sky thinking and writing on the future directions that combine development could and just perhaps will take in the years ahead so I will be around for a while yet.
And then there are other items which just may made to fit under the Push Button Combine / Tractor tag to the thread!


35 Posts
I really love reading informational threads. This is very enlighting, much better than threads bashing each other. Keep up the good work. I am a fan.

49 Posts
OK! Some one must have slipped a couple AU$2 dollar coin's in to ROM? Just like a duke box in the corner of the old coffee shop nothing you do can stop it!
(Family running joke guys!)
Its good to see that some of this history is now on the web for prostarity!
Its also good to remember that "The good old Days" weren't all ways that good, and some new technology, like a Cab with air condition was/is a good thing!

Could never understand why ROM and Uncle were never real keen on getting on the old Allis Charmers 200 tractor (which is still going strong on a 71 ft Westfeild auger) with no cab driving at 20 kms/hr across a dusty paddock all day, in preparation of the clover burrs to be picked up via the vacuum seeds harvester, when we were doing clover harvesting from November to April (Aussie summer time) But it did give me a chance to see America harvest season couple times in my life! (as well as some of the USA's nocturnal life as well!!!
Always grateful for that opportunity!
Im sure you wont hear the last of either of us for awhile yet! Once a farmer always a farmer! We all like to think we still have some links to the technology of the future! Just a bit harder to do once your not living and breathing it everyday!

Now! Where's that Dollar coin? I'd like to see where (Rolf Old Man) see the future in harvest technology!

RYB (Roms Young Bloke)

87 Posts
It is hard to understand why some company executives want to either change or destroy company history. I have had an experience with AGCO executives several years ago. When they moved the Gleaner factory from Independence to Hesston they brought their Fordson mounted Gleaner that used to be up on poles at Independence. They repainted it and put it in the foyer of the reception area. They painted it totally wrong, red angle iron and used the metallic gray on the sheet iron. I told the executive that Gleaner painted all the angle iron hunter green, the only red Gleaner used was on the channel iron of the pull type combines and only the wheels and under the cylinder of the Fordson mounted machines.

He said "we know that but wanted to use only the silver and red to show the combining of the Gleaner and Massey heritage". I could not understand why they would knowingly deceive people to think this is the way the original machine was. Destroying, or at least changing history to make this merger seem more "natural".

I have an original 1927 pull type Gleaner Baldwin combine with all original paint and decals on it. Very pretty machine with Green, red and yellow with nice Galvanize. My 1923 in the 85th anniversary book Gleaner put out in 2008 is painted correctly.

I know when Allis-Chalmers bought Gleaner from the Baldwin family many loads of archive material was hauled to the Independence dump. Also alot of material was thrown away during the move to Hesston. I have some copies of research material from the development of the Corn Combine from 1930 that the originals were destroyed some time shortly after I got them to copy it for me. It's sad history could survive this long to be destroyed now. Some because an executive doesn't care, others because they want to change or hide history.

174 Posts
Discussion Starter #94
Two mostly true stories from yesteryear from down under and which I bet you have never heard before due to the very red faces arising therefrom.;
With some considerable literary embellishments.
And if you can't guess who the empire was, Well??

Once upon a time, many decades ago, in the land of the free and of ever lasting riches, the high priests of a great enterprise looked out upon their empire.
In the Land down under they espied a great enterprise that they in their infinite wisdom had purchased and distributed the many riches that enterprise had contained upon their most exalted minions.
But there was still many minions who had many slaves scattered about the land and who had the empire's coat of arms above their establishments.
These minions were agitated and wanted to know just what the heck the high priests were going to do now as they had about stuffed the joint and unless they came up with something pretty good, pretty darn quick all of those minions were going to have to find their beggars bowls to earn a quid or find another cult of high priests to enable them to enjoy some gainful employment!

So the high priests consulted their soothsayers who in their wisdom pointed out that the empire had many slaves in the land of rain and fog and sometimes snow and where all was grey and which was the home of the tribe called Poms on the other side of the world who could make a reaping device that would satisfy the discerning grain growing kulaks in the land down under and would enable the grain growing kulaks to reap with confidence and enthusiasm and that this would bring much riches to the high priests.
So many reaping devices from the land of fog and rain and sometimes snow which is the land of the tribe called Poms and where all is grey were loaded onto great canoes and sent to the land down under.

And number of great exhibitions were held where the reaping devices and cunning inventions of many empires were displayed and the new reaping device from the land of fog and rain and the tribe of the Poms was displayed for the first time to the discerning grain growing kulaks.
And the high priests looked upon the enterprise with hope and favor.
And the grain growing kulaks and their female companions and their mistresses and many young descendants came in great numbers and looked upon the empire's proudly displayed new reaping device with open mouths and then they would burst out laughing.
The high priests were not amused and demanded to know why the grain growing kulaks and the minions of the other empires were rolling around on the ground laughing at their reaping devices.

When suitable liquid refreshments had been supplied in liberal quantities and the tongues were loosened, the high priests of the empire were aghast at what they heard.

The supreme efforts of their slaves in the land of fog and rain and sometimes snow, the land of the tribe called Poms and where all is grey had come to nought.
"Who in the bloody heck was stupid enough to put a stinking hot bloody engine and it's bloody exhaust right down under the guts of the bloody header where you can't get at it and where it runs down in the stubble when it's 100 degrees in the shade".
"You'll burn the crap out of the country if you try and sell that thing" says the grain growing kulaks and they rode off into the sunset shaking their heads in disbelief and still laughing.

So the high priests in great dismay and after much further consultation decided that their remaining slaves in the great enterprise in the land down under could fashion their own reaping devices for the land down under's discerning grain growing kulaks.

Much thought and labour and great wealth was expended over many years to get the new reaping device just right.
With the expenditure of much more great wealth, ripe grain crops were purchased and hired slaves cut and bound and carted the bound crop to the great enterprise's secret lair where much thinking and drawing and arguing and arm waving was done and much cutting and hacking and welding was done to create the new reaping device.
A great long belt was created upon which the bound crop was unbound and then evenly distributed.
And after much calculation and head scratching it was decided that 11 seconds was long enough to see what happened to the unbound crop as it entered the about to be created new reaping device that would enable the grain growing kulaks to reap with confidence and enthusiasm.

And the new reaping device was created with great patience and much care and it sat at the end of the long belt upon which the unbound crop lay and when a slave pressed the button and electrons flowed and the belt moved at speed feeding the unbound crop into the new reaping device for 11 seconds.
The new reaping device, with great cunning, had clear panels to watch the unbound crop enter upon the reaping device and watch the contortions that the unbound crop went through while it had the daylights hammered out of it by the many whizz bang go go spinning and shaking bits inside of the reaping device.
A so that the most intelligent slaves and those who carried bits of paper saying they were intelligent could remember what had happened, seeing eyes in black boxes were placed in front of the clear panels and put everything they observed onto long strips of film so that the intelligent ones and those with bits of paper saying they were intelligent could play with the strips of film and slow it down and watch over and over again what happened to the unbound crop inside of the new reaping device.

And much further hacking and cutting and welding and arm waving went on for many months and years until the reaping device was perfect.
And then when all was perfect with the reaping device, the wide bits with many points that gathered the crop were attached to a real copy of the new reaping device and all was ready for the high priests and the intelligent ones and those with bits of paper saying they were intelligent to watch the first gathering of the crop by the new reaping device.

A suitable crop was selected and acquired by the minions of the high priests and all gathered to watch with great enthusiasm as the reaping device was perfect beyond doubt as was well proven with the great 11 second belt and much unbound crop in the secret lair.

And the signal was given to drive the new reaping device into the crop and it was perfect FOR 11 SECONDS.

405 Posts
ROM, I'm waiting with interest for a chapter on the Great Chamberlain takeover by evil green.
Great writing and storytelling, just like my Dad. Please keep it up.

174 Posts
Discussion Starter #96
A lot of what I have posted here is personal reminiscences, ideas and thoughts I have picked up in my three score and ten plus years so a few more reminiscences probably won't make much difference.

We all go along to various farm machinery field days and exhibitions and there are very few farmers around who can resist the urge to have a look over the latest and greatest bits of gear whether it's the make we are supposedly loyal to or the opposition's offerings.
I suspect there there is often a deep down and slightly unsettling suspicion that we may not have made the best choice of a particular make of machine and we need that comforting feeling of being right by finding supposedly substantial faults as we run our eye over the opposition's offerings.

We also get more cynical as we see supposed improvements and innovations dressed up as new but which as an old hand at farm machinery, we know has been around for a long time.

But every now and then there is a significant change and perhaps once in a decade in farm machinery a real shift and change in a particular sector of agriculture as some completely new technological advance appears almost out of nowhere.
The most recent and quite spectacular jump in technology was the very rapid appearance and development of the satellite based, Auto Guidance technology and the even more staggering speed at which the agricultural industries have adopted and adapted to the technology and how these same supposedly conservative industries are rapidly changing even their long established systems and methods to fit around the auto guidance systems.
The strange thing here is that there does not seem to be an overwhelming financial case to justify the heavy financial cost of installing a full on auto guidance system.
We have to look at the social and personal psychological benefits for any justification for the purchase of the auto guidance systems, not that you will get many farmers to admit this as they will invariably point out how you can inter row sow and etc and etc and then perhaps will add how much more work they can do because they don't get as tired at the end of the day.
Two decades ago to suggest that by say the year 2000 tractors would be quite capable of steering themselves across a field would have been regarded as fantasy and more in line with some science fiction story dreamt up by some reporter to keep your attention.
Little did we dream of the speed that this satellite based Auto Steering technology would be adopted by farming of every persuasion.

Some day there will be a doctorate or two earned by looking at the factors that have driven the adoption of some technologies that few would have ever expected to be adopted so quickly whereas other supposedly advanced technologies that appeared to have every thing in their favour were tried and then quietly disappeared again.

Interesting looking back in my working life and seeing an almost identical personal response when my new MIL bought me a set of ear muffs as my new wife use to complain how grumpy I was when I got home off the tractor at night.
After some pressure from my wife who insisted I wear those ear muffs I finally succumbed and put them on for a round of the paddock on the open to the weather, no cabin tractor.
I went to take those earmuffs off and was totally shocked at the sheer volume and painfulness of the noise.
I always wore those earmuffs every time I worked the tractor after that and then rapidly found that even in the workshop in the most noisy jobs it was far more comfortable using those muffs as well.
A very small advance which we would never consider as significant to our comfort and health but one that could not be made until suitable advances had been made in materials and design that made those earmuffs a viable and comfortable noise suppression method.
Yet those earmuffs made a big difference to our relationship and I believe saved my hearing.

Well I think it did but my wife and kids differ!
And there is a strong suspicion in the family that I can turn on the domestic deafness quite rapidly when required.

And a small anecdote on this from an old guy who predates me by at least a decade.

I was leaning over a tire of the latest, greatest, shiniest, most expensive and etc combine at the local machinery field days a few weeks back when an 84 year old acquaintance drifted up to lean on the tire with me.
Together we surveyed the mass of extremely complicated and shiny metal, plastic, belts, pulleys and etc that passed for a combine.
We shook our heads and pursed our lips at the complication and the cost but then perhaps a bit of reality about the God Old Days comparisons appeared.
You know, he said, when I started driving a Vickers Aussie tractor way back in the late 1930's there was this bloody great 6 inch diameter straight out exhaust pipe popping, banging and bellowing away only a couple of feet in front of me.
And you know, he said, that exhaust would have made me stone deaf if I could have heard it over the noise from the gearbox!
And with that and keeping a perfectly straight face, he wandered off!

When I look at those new ideas and advances I often ask myself, I wonder where or how the designers picked that idea up and being somewhat cynical I also wonder who in the heck had his bright idea swiped by some corporation which will never ever admit that they pinched it from some individual who with very limited resources has no hope of ever getting his quite valid claim ever considered by the corporation or even the courts.
I know from my reading of history and a couple of long ago personal anecdotes of a couple of major advances made by large corporations that were based on original ideas and even machines built by innovative individuals who got no recognition and were denied any recognition by the corporation.

A couple of personal anecdotes on just how some of these advances in agricultural machinery have been picked up by the designers.
I have no doubt at all that there are many, many farmers who can tell similar stories to the following about ideas that they have had which have been picked up by some manufacturer so we are not unique in these stories.

A half dozen years back Rolf and I were looking at the R62 when Rolf said , you know if they put that bin unloading auger straight through the side of the bin across to the right hand bottom of the bin and used the bottom auger to move the grain to the right to the unloading auger, you could have a straight unloader auger which would run through the bin and when it was folded out would be straight with no gearboxes, universals or anything else and it would have a lot better capacity when unloading.
And the fold would be equally as simple.

Well I wrote that idea up on the other combine forum a few weeks later.
Interestingly we can't find that post at all now although we have looked carefully for it.
And isn't it strange that MF have come out with that identical system of bin unloader auger in their latest offering, a system that I have never heard of previously to Rolf's suggestion.

My brother, Brian, a very innovative guy who owns the R75 with the 45 foot Honeybee draper in Rolf's R62 photos and who I was in partnership for many years, and I imported the second or third rubber tracked Cat Challenger 65 into Australia in January 1989.
Cat refused to supply us as they did not have the trained techs in Australia to service it so we brought it in privately.
Needless to say we had excellent service from the local Cat agency as soon as it arrived.
A consequence of this a year or two later after Cat had a lot of publicity about this tractor was that following the local machinery field days we had dinner with a small group of Cats then Ag division reps.
One of these guys, who will be called Bill for this yarn, was the American head of Cat's new Ag machinery research section when Cat was seriously looking at getting back into the farm equipment industry in it's own right.
Sitting along side of Bill, I asked him, not expecting a straight answer, what was the next step the Cats were going to make with the tracked machines after the introduction of the 65 series.
Well he said, we can't really do anything in new models until we figure out how to make the tracks adjustable for row crop work and we haven't figured out how to do that yet.
Well thats not very difficult I replied, a comment that in retrospect deservedly collected a fairly cold glance from Bill.

I asked Bill if he had a pen and paper which he duly produced and on that piece of paper I drew a rough sketch with an engine in front, the main gearbox at the rear and the big central cross beam of the Challenger 65's that supports the track system as an axle and differential.
The tracks were modular and slid in and out on the central beam / axle with a gearbox or chain drive back to the rear track drive wheel.
Bill looked at the rough sketch for a few moments and looked straight at me; You realise we don't pay for ideas like this, he said and then he repeated it.
No I did not expect payment as there really was not much I could do with the idea.
There were also some other short questions and discussions and my opinion sought on the various aspects of my idea and it was shown to my brother who took one look and said, well if you put air bags here and here you will have a fully sprung track system.
There were open mouths around the table.

You first saw this different in detail but fundamental in principle modular and adjustable in width track system in the small Genesis based Cats that followed the Challenger 65 series.
The Genesis series were a very expensive exercise for Cats and it was found that rather than modifying an existing machine it was much cheaper to build a new design from scratch.

There is a lot more to this story including how JD pinched the principle directly off Cat's design through a local custom 4 WD tractor builder [ who had built a very good 4WD for us to our specs ] who went to JD with his copy of Cat's track system.
All of which led to an international court case, a very interesting and educational episode, until Cats and JD came to an agreement when Cat decided to again get out of it's direct involvement in Agricultural machinery production.

And yes, in a way we did get paid.
We finished up with one of the most updated A series Challenger 65's around .

There are also a couple of other not that dissimilar personal episodes I could also post about but just one more and it has nothing to do with machinery.

Medic plants, a nitrogen fixing pasture legume which originates from the Mediterranean and North Africa have been one of the greatest influences on the fertility of Australian soils ever.
By the end of WW2, Australia's already poor soils were very depleted by the run down in nutrients over the previous half to century long history of cropping and yields were dropping steadily and wind caused soil erosion was a serious problem.
Following WW2 there was a tremendous program put in place by the farmers using medics to rebuild our cropping soils.
The result was rapidly rising fertility for crops and with very high prices for wool at the time, very substantial returns from sheep running on the medic pastures.

In the 1970's and 80's we had a heavy investment in the medic seed industry with the building of a large medic seed harvester and a seed cleaning plant and were exporting to South Africa and many North African and Middle East nations.
So when my brother took over the business in the 1990's, he became instrumental in getting a significant medic and clover breeding and research program off the ground in the USA initially using Australian varieties and medic and clover plant breeding technology.
He was on a first name basis with some of the most senior people and plant breeders in the pasture division of the USDA.
Unfortunately this natural soil nitrogen fixing and fertility increasing plant technology has gone nowhere as the American farmer is firmly wedded to the use of artificial nitrogen.
And in Australia in the last decade and a half we have also gone down the artificial nitrogen fertilizer track.
But the natural plant soil nitrogen fixing technology is all there ready for use with aerial seeding type clovers and medics having been selected and researched by American pasture plant breeders initially using Australian developed plant technology.

One day we will in all likely hood, for reasons that are not yet clear, need that plant soil fertility increasing technology again.

All of the above are just a very few and very small examples on how the messy, chaotic and unforecastable changes and advancements in our agricultural technologies slowly and in fits and starts advances into the future.

To be continued


49 Posts
Just a side note to the Cat CID that ROM and his Brother had! Those same Cat reps were quoted as saying that it cost more R & D funds to find the right spot to put the access handles on the side of the machine, so you and me can get in to the tractor cab!

So next time your complaining about the Air con or heater in the latest machinery, it may be your respective manufacturer has spend the all R & D funds on the steps or handles around the top of the cab so you can hang on while you clean the window three time a year, instead of the AC which was just pinched from a Chev Caprice! And it don't work in 40 degree heat due to the fact that they have a four times the size heat exchanger in there for the heater!!! (Harvesting corn in the snow did convince me that they are needed that big!

3,259 Posts

Quote:The most recent and quite spectacular jump in technology was the very rapid appearance and development of the satellite based, Auto Guidance technology and the even more staggering speed at which the agricultural industries have adopted and adapted to the technology and how these same supposedly conservative industries are rapidly changing even their long established systems and methods to fit around the auto guidance systems.
The strange thing here is that there does not seem to be an overwhelming financial case to justify the heavy financial cost of installing a full on auto guidance system.
We have to look at the social and personal psychological benefits for any justification for the purchase of the auto guidance systems, not that you will get many farmers to admit this as they will invariably point out how you can inter row sow and etc and etc and then perhaps will add how much more work they can do because they don't get as tired at the end of the day.

Could'nt have said it better myself.

Personally I figure there is only 2 real reasons to buy a new piece of equipment or new piece of technology to install in the older equipment. 1 is that you simply want it. IE: you have worked hard and made some money and you simply feel that the new equipment is something you want. You dont have to justify it to anyone, you made the money, you can spend it as you please.
2 is that it will make you money. IE: the purchase will increase the efficiency of your operation enough to pay for the equipment and then return high(er) profit.

Each time I am approached by a sales person, I put the simple challenge to them to prove the ROI. I dont "want" any of it and I consider it far more stressfull and tiring to operate equipment with autosteering and auto this and auto that. But that is my own personal opinion, not a slam on the technology.

So far, no takers on the ROI challenge. The profitability of the farm comes first. Should it ever be proven that auto this and that will pay, I will put my personal feeling aside as again, the farm's profitability comes first.

On the unloader deal, I still cant figure out why we are still using a combine with the tank on top. The whole point of that anchient idea was to unload by gravity before mechanized unloaders were thought up.

I wonder where Farmbuddy is. I would think that this sort of thread would be of interest to him.

174 Posts
Discussion Starter #100
Ok, I've scratched around enough at the edges here without seriously getting into some blue sky stuff on possible future developments in combines and perhaps in tractors as well.
So before I get into into this subject with it's unlimited blue sky potential there are a couple of qualifications;
Most ie; nearly all of the following ideas won't happen!
What we don't expect or have not predicted will happen!

Any opinions expressed here are worth exactly what you have paid for them.

It's fairly easy just to plunge into suggesting a whole host of new ideas about the way in which combines and tractors will evolve but behind any thinking along these lines is another much more subtle impact and that is the effects of culture, circumstances, social systems, financial power and national attitudes to technology and acceptance of advances in technology.
All of these have very significant effects and subtle pressures on the way in which designers, engineers, executives, the politicals, bureaucracy with it's regulations and the conservatism of the farming sector look upon and accept or reject new advances in technology and the types of technology that is acceptable to that particular part of that society.
To Americans it all looks pretty straight forward to just use the newest technology and if it fits into the system then it is used.
South Americans, Europeans, Chinese, Indians, Ukranians, Kazakhs and others from the newest and increasingly important grain producing areas of the world may look quite differently at new technology compared to the way that American farmers do.

Australian farmers hold views that are quite close to the American view on the adoption of new agricultural technology but even here we see the world quite a bit differently to most Americans.
Australia with it's 23 million population is only a few hundred kilometres across the Timor Sea from the fourth largest nation on Earth, Indonesia with a population of 231 millions.

Within a radius of less than 7500 kilometres from Darwin, Australia's northern most state capital to New Delhi in India and 6000 kms to Beijing in China, there are 13 nations with a combined population of 4 billion people.
For comparison New York to Honolulu is 8000kms / 4320 mls.
It does give one a somewhat different view of life when you are a small nation occupying a large land mass with this immense population sitting on your doorstep so as to speak.

For nearly a century America has been the largest grain producer and exporter on the planet.
Canada was next largest exporter as distinct from producer followed in export volume by Australia and Argentina with about the same export tonnages.
As such the USA with it's immense grain and corn production and it's immense industrial capabilities created the circumstances where a number of it's agricultural machinery corporations rose to become the dominant farm machinery corporations on the planet.
It did not necessarily have to turn out this way.

Under the old Czarist Russia before the Russian Communist revolution of 1917 and for the decade following the revolution Russia was rapidly industrialising and it's grain production from the great areas of fertile Russian and Ukrainian black soils or podzol soils were starting to produce larger tonnages of grain as the kulaks, the peasants who owned their own land and who were rich enough to hire labour started to adopt better farming technologies.
Although this increase in grain production was interrupted by the Russian famine of 1921.

The steady advance in Russian farming technology was brought to stop when Stalin started the great purges of the 1930's where some millions of Kulaks who Stalin feared because of their independence, were eliminated by the bullet or in the gulags of Siberia and the forced collectivisation of farmland was implemented by Stalin using the full weight of the Communist Party apparatus which was under his complete totalitarian control.
The result was a period known as the Great Famine of 1931 and 32 in the Ukraine and across Russia in which further millions perished.

It is only now that the immense areas of the highly fertile podzol soils of Ukraine and southern and eastern Russia are again, after nearly 80 years, starting to show their immense grain producing potential.
Even the central Asian states such as Kazakhstan are now producing millions of tonnes of grain although like all of these deep continental regions they are subject to immense swings in the year to year seasonal weather and so are likely to have a highly variable output of grain into the future.

A Ukrainian government english language agricultural site which I check regularly.

All of these newly emerging grain producing areas are moving as rapidly as possible to maximise the mechanisation of their agriculture, particularly grain growing as grain is the essential staple of so much of mankind's diet and grain production has been mechanised for over a century in the west so the technology is all there.
However, most of these countries do not, for their own national reasons which are political and the desire to build up their own industrial capacity, want to just directly buy their harvesting, planting and tractor and cultivating equipment from the west.
So they are establishing new or updating old plants to produce their own mechanised systems for their immense production potential.
Kazakhstan for instance uses mostly Russian origin combines but JD also has a foothold in there with one JD combine equal to about 4 of the Russian machines in the Kazakh's opinions.
But this also gives a benchmark for the now privatised Russian manufacturers to try and match and with a quite good cadre of highly skilled engineers they only need time before they start to match the sophisticated American origin machinery.
The same story is being repeated in all of the new grain producing regions such as a fast mechanising China.
India also is now a grain exporter but possibly not for long as they deplete the great underground water aquifers to irrigate their crops at unsustainable levels of water useage.
Russia and Ukraine are rapidly increasing production with the very poor and serious lack of infrastructure the only really serious impediment to a much faster rise in production,
The central Asian Republics, the Stans as they are nicknamed, are also rapidly increasing grain production.

So the American producers of combines and mechanised agricultural machinery may well lose their world dominance over the next couple of decades.
Also nearly all of these new producers and the accompanying combine and tractor production from these regions will be much of a much simpler and cheaper designs and in a lot of cases will handle very harsh and poorer maintenance than the increasingly "sophisticated" American produced machines.
I certainly would not want to be out in the back blocks of Uzbekistan and blow a circuit board.
It takes more than a few days to get a new one in Australia let alone in some place like central Asia.

It is almost inevitable that American combine producers in their international markets and eventually within the American market will have some increasingly strong competition particularly in price and in sections of the market that want a smaller and simpler machine than the western manufacturers appear to want to supply at the moment.
A lot of these new and competitive machines will probably be simpler or stripped down or copies of older models of American combines in any case.

And forget the quality problems of past attempts to introduce theses foreign production combines into the USA market.
You only have to look at the way that the early Japanese cars were rapidly upgraded in quality or the way the Taiwanese companies and now Chinese companies are upgrading the quality of their products to meet and match western produced articles.
The same will happen with combines, tractors, planters and many similar items.
And then when that level of quality is achieved, the new innovations in advance of anything produced by the west will start to appear and then life will get real interesting for a whole host of manufacturers and farmers.
Th next couple of decades will be very interesting indeed in the farm machinery game!

To be continued.


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