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How big Should Your Corn Head Be?How big Should Your Corn Head Be?

If a combine can handle a larger head, should you buy it?

Tom Bechman 1

December 20, 2011

2 Min Read

You've always run a six-row cornhead. Trucks waited on you this year because the corn was poor. In some years, you have waited on the trucks. But as you've grown, you've added trucks. You still have only one grain cart, however, and you don't intend to trade for a larger one. It holds 1,000 bushels, about what a semi holds. Trading for a bigger cart isn't in your budget, and you don' want more want more weight than that on the ground at any one time anyway.

Now you're trading to a larger combine with more capacity. It will handle an eight-row or a 12-row cornhead. Since you plant using auto-steer, matching rows to planter size isn't an issue any longer. Which choice makes sense?

The first decision to make could be to decide if you're buying new or used. If you buy new, a 12-row heads will obviously be more expensive. If you're buying used, that theory may not hold up. If you find a 12-row head in an area where most people still run 8 –row heads or smaller, you might get a good deal on a used 12-row head.

Next, what about maintenance costs? Obviously, you've got more row units to keep in shape with a 12-row head, but each row will run over less acreage in a season compared to each row of an 8-row head covering the same acreage.

What about maneuverability? You're going to need a carrier to go down the road for either head. Do you have very small fields where a 12-row is a problem? Or do you have long fields where you might not be able to make a complete round because the 12 rows fills up the grain tank faster. If that's the case and you still like the idea of a 12-row, are bin extensions to the hopper available for your model? Are they an economical option? Some short-line companies offer extensions for certain models of combines as well. On the very newest combines in some line-ups, bin extensions that open automatically from the cab will be an option. Extensions typically add about 100 bushels or slightly more to hopper capacity.

The other factor is keeping carts and trucks moving. If you lean to the 12-row head but the combine sits considerable lengths of time until yours system can handle the grain, how much have you gained? On the other hand, can you streamline your system at minimal expense and handle more corn, such as you might expect to get per hour form a 12-row head.

The bottom line is obvious- think through all possible scenarios before you decide.

About the Author(s)

Tom Bechman 1

Editor, Indiana Prairie Farm

Tom Bechman is an important cog in the Farm Progress machinery. In addition to serving as editor of Indiana Prairie Farmer, Tom is nationally known for his coverage of Midwest agronomy, conservation, no-till farming, farm management, farm safety, high-tech farming and personal property tax relief. His byline appears monthly in many of the 18 state and regional farm magazines published by Farm Progress.

"I consider it my responsibility and opportunity as a farm magazine editor to supply useful information that will help today's farm families survive and thrive," the veteran editor says.

Tom graduated from Whiteland (Ind.) High School, earned his B.S. in animal science and agricultural education from Purdue University in 1975 and an M.S. in dairy nutrition two years later. He first joined the magazine as a field editor in 1981 after four years as a vocational agriculture teacher.

Tom enjoys interacting with farm families, university specialists and industry leaders, gathering and sifting through loads of information available in agriculture today. "Whenever I find a new idea or a new thought that could either improve someone's life or their income, I consider it a personal challenge to discover how to present it in the most useful form, " he says.

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