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Danish lessons

New equipment from Northern Europe's largest farm show demonstrates differences in Danish farming.

his year marked the 25th anniversary of Agromek, Northern Europe's largest exhibition of farm machinery. More than 83,000 people from 64 countries attended the show to learn about new technology.

The show, held in Herning, Denmark, featured more than 1,100 brands of machinery and production aids from 600 exhibitors. Of those products, 189 were considered "new" (that's "nyhed" in Danish).

The products underscored some basic differences in the way Danes farm compared with the methods used by American farmers. First, farmers there are held to strict environmental and animal welfare laws, and many of the new products on display were designed to help them comply.

Second, costs in Denmark are much higher than in many other countries. As a result, its products encompass technologies that make production more efficient.

Here's a look at the latest equipment from across the Atlantic designed to meet those dual demands.

Livestock. In Denmark, there are four times as many pigs as people. About 21 million hogs are produced annually in this island country whose total area is about twice the size of Massachusetts. In comparison, Iowa produces 25 million hogs. Because of Denmark's high hog concentration, many of the new Danish products were geared to this market.

A new farrowing crate by Agro Products ApS is designed with animal welfare and efficiency in mind. It is built slightly wider than a conventional farrowing crate so the sow has room to walk around for better health. But a panel is placed in the middle of the pen to limit movement to one direction and prevent the sow from crushing the pigs. The design also limits where the sow eats and excretes for ease of management. Cost is 20% higher than the cost of a conventional crate. Contact Agro Products ApS, Dept. FIN, Brund Strandvej 7, DK-8700 Horsens, 45 75 68 25 22.

Unlike in the U.S., liquid feeding is common in Denmark. A new automatic feeder called the Tube-O-Mat 3-in-1 combines liquid and dry feeding through a unique trough that has three different compartments: one for dry feed, one for soaked feed and a third for clean water. "It gives pigs a choice in what they want to eat," says the manufacturer's sales consultant Peder Villadsen. The result is significantly higher growth rates during the first 14 days after weaning compared with rates achieved with a standard dry trough with drinkers at the side, according to tests conducted on 27,000 piglets. It was one of three "new item" exhibits to receive this year's Agromek Award for having the greatest practical importance for farmers. Suggested list price: approximately $240. Contact Faaborg, A/S L. Frandsen, Dept. FIN, L. Frandsensvej 4, DK-5600 Faaborg, 45 62 61 83 33.

Seeding. In Denmark, 63% of the land is devoted to crop production, predominately winter wheat and spring barley. Many of the drills used for planting these crops are equipped with cultivation equipment so you can seed and till in a single pass. This ability has recently become especially important because low grain prices have motivated farmers to reduce the number of field passes to cut costs.

A recent example is the Vaderstad Rapid-30 cultivator drill, owned by Kverneland. Its disc seeding system lets you drill in either plowed or unplowed ground, explains product manager Arne Skott-Christensen. "Discs cut into the soil and the depth wheel sets depth of the discs," he says. "So even when going from uneven to flat ground or from clay to sand, you still get the same depth."

The drill measures 10 ft. wide with three-point linkage and is part of the Rapid series, which also includes 13- and 26-ft. pull-type models. All are available with a new grass seed hopper to allow for the simultaneous seeding of grass and cereals. This feature is designed to help farmers comply wi th a recent law requiring 65% of farmland to be covered by green crops in winter to minimize nitrogen loss. Suggested list price: about $26,075.

Tractors. Tractors in Europe are typically equipped with front lifts with a PTO shaft in addition to the rear hitch and PTO typical in the states to allow the operation of two implements at once. Perhaps the ultimate example of this is the new Hydrema 900 Multipurpose Vehicle (MPV) with pivot steering. "You can have different tools in front and back of the machine and you can turn the seat and steer with the joystick and drive in the back position," explains Bruno Winther, Hydrema sales and marketing director.

Front and rear tool frames are designed as a hydraulic quick hitch on which farm implements and tools, including a telescopic loader, backhoe, crane, bucket or bale fork, can be interchanged in under 2 min., the company claims. The chassis pivots in the middle to keep the front and rear axles in contact with the ground during operation. A 121-hp, Perkins 4-cyl. turbo diesel engine powers the machine. A hydrostatic transmission lets you drive smoothly from 0 to 40 km/hr. List price without tools: around $100,920. Contact Hydrema A/S, Dept. FIN, GL. Kirkevej 16, DK-9530 Stovring, 45 98 37 13 33.

Spreaders. In Denmark and other countries, farmers are limited to how much fertilizer they can apply, whether natural or synthetic. Those who exceed their quota are subject to fines or penalties. Because of these restrictions, equipment is designed for precision application to ensure optimum use of fertilizer.

Kverneland's Rotaflow RS-EDW double disc spreader for granular fertilizer lets you electronically vary rates based on your field location. "It lets you use every drop of nitrogen to the maximum because not all areas of the field yield the same," says Kverneland's Skott-Christensen. "For example, you could put a higher rate on light soils or heavier rates on dark." Rates can be preprogrammed based on past yield or soil type. When you reach the maximum amount allowed for a field, a warning will appear on your monitor. The spreader is pre-fitted to accept a GPS system. Price is about $11,260, not including GPS system.

Another rule in Denmark is that fertilizers cannot be spread across field boundaries or over roads or waterways. That rule led Denmark-based Bogballe to develop a new system called Trend for its granular fertilizer spreaders that allows you to reverse the rotation of the spreading discs on the headlands. "It makes a sharp cut at the edge of a field," says Bogballe sales manager Per Thomassen. Once past the headland, you can switch back to normal spreading. The spreader was awarded this year's Agromek Award for best new fieldwork product. It can be hooked up to GPS to vary rates according to field location. Contact Bogballe, A.P. Laursen A/S, Dept. FIN, DK-7171 Uldum, 45 7589 3266.

Weed control. The government also places restrictions on the amount of chemicals farmers can use. To help growers stay within their legal limits and still control the weeds, Kverneland introduces a mechanical way to control weeds. The Einbock Weeder, made in Austria, consists of flimsy fingers that uproot weeds yet pass through the crop without disturbance. The tool can be used two to three times throughout a growing season, and on your last pass you can also seed grass through incorporated seed tubes. Price: around $9,510. Contact Kverneland (DK) A/S, Dept. FIN, Taarupstrandvej 25, 5300 Kerteminde, 45 65 32 49 32.

Finally, Hardi International offered a sneak peak of its new Commander S trailer sprayer scheduled to hit the North American market this year. It is a model upgrade of the high-clearance, single-axle Commander introduced last year. The added "S" stands for higher speed, made possible by spring suspension on the axle's center section. "We're bringing some of the single-axle design known in Europe to the U.S. and, in turn, bringing the high speeds of the U.S. to Europe," says Hardi sales andmarketing director Sten Kjelstrup. He says the typical operating speeds are 5 to 6 mph in Europe versus 10 to 12 mph in the U.S. The new suspension will provide more comfort and durability at those higher speeds. Contact Hardi Inc., Dept. FIN, 1500 W. 76th St., Davenport, IA 52806, 319/386-1730. (To view more products, visit

Hog association leader and producer offers inside look at farming in Denmark.

Jorgen Mark is the Danish chairman of the European Pig Producers, a club of 250 owners of large-scale pig operations in Northern Europe that represent the interests of European farmers. Mark also runs a 300-sow farrow-to-finish operation in Faarup, Denmark. He took time out from shopping for new milling equipment to talk with us about Danish farming.

"Americans pursue a low-cost strategy in pig production, whereas Europeans pursue high efficiency and must pay a premium, which means high costs," Mark says. "Our challenge is to keep higher efficiency but at a low cost."

Mark's farrow-to-finish operation produces about 7,500 pigs for slaughter each year. They are raised in climate-controlled buildings, and are finished to a weight of a little more than 200 lbs. Hogs are sold to the Danish Crown, one of the biggest slaughterhouses in Denmark. "We get 6 Kroner/kilo. Americans get half of that," Mark states.

Like most farmers in Denmark, Mark belongs to a farmer-owned co-op. The co-op is responsible for marketing the hogs for the best possible price.

Mark also farms 550 acres of cropland - above the 93-acre average in Denmark. His main crops are wheat and winter barley, used for feed. He also grows rapeseed, grass seed and peas, which he sells as cash crops.

Mark owns his own farm buildings, land and machinery and makes his own purchasing decisions. He has three full-time employees, which is more than most farmers in Denmark. "We pay good pig men a high salary." Minimum wage in Denmark is $14.50/hr.

Mark owns three tractors: a 76 series John Deere, an 11-year-old Fendt and an older tractor for small jobs. Straw is used to heat all buildings, including his house, which is common in Denmark.

The growing season runs from April to September/October. Mark plows and drills in September/October with a combination drill/harrow that can both prepare the soil and drill the seed. He recently bought a new Danish-built 2260 John Deere combine to harvest his crop.

"Americans will think we have more machinery than is needed because of the weather," Mark says. "We can have rain in a week during harvest, and then it is dry a few days, and then rain again. So we need more capacity."

As in the U.S., Denmark farmers are facing low hog and crop prices. Mark has cut down on pesticide and fertilizer to compete at lower grain prices. He also has diversified in businesses outside of agriculture. "I could not make it on hogs alone," Mark says. "But the market will recover, and we will be in business again. The profit will be less than it used to be because competition will be stronger."

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