When Ray Robinson, operator of Moo Mountain Milk in Burley, Idaho, contacted his local Agco dealer, Agri-Service, to order three new Hesston windrowers for the 25,000-acre farm he and his partners operate to grow feed for their 20,000 dairy cows, he had no idea he was buying a milestone of Hesston history.
As it turns out, one of the three new windrowers he ordered was number 100,000 off the assembly line at Agco's plant in Hesston, Kansas.
On March 29, Robinson was on hand to celebrate with the Agco leadership team, design and production engineers and the workforce of the Hesston windrower line. Hesston Mayor David Kauffman proclaimed it "Agco Hesston Windrower Day" and the choir from Hesston High School (appropriately the Swathers) performed the national anthem to open the ceremonies.
The celebration honored 70 years of agricultural machinery manufacturing under the Hesston brand, which introduced the industry's first self-propelled windrower in 1956 and has continuously manufactured them -- with generation after generation of improvements -- for the past 60 years.
Robinson's farming and dairy operation utilizes six Hesston windrowers, which he and his partners utilize to harvest green forages as well as condition hay for baling. He said he loves Hesston swathers because of the design of the razor bar head, which enables a single operator to access and change out the gear box if it becomes necessary.
"We generally operate a swather for about two years and put about 1,000 to 1,300 hours a year on it then we trade it in for a new model," Robinson said. "I like to use the newer equipment because with the size of our operation, we just can't afford breakdowns."
Robinson said he has been involved with dairying and farming all his life, starting out working with his dad 50 years ago when he was only 16. Over time, the operation has grown as additional family members and partners have joined the business.
"We milked 300 cows in 1998, by 2000 we were milking 6,000 cows and by 2003, we milked 10,000. Then in 2008 we built a milk plant to process our own milk," he said.
That plant, High Desert Milk, makes non-fat milk powder and butter that they sell to 40 different countries. By 2010, the milking herd had grown to 20,000 cows. The dairy raises its own replacement heifers and retains its steers as well, finishing them out in lots the company owns in Colorado.
"My favorite quality of the Hesston swather is the double conditioner," he said. "It gives me a day to a day and half quicker dry time."
Moo Mountain Milk is still growing and moving into new ventures, he said. By the end of the year, the company will add cottage cheese and buttermilk to its processing operation and is in the process of building a new dairy facility for 2,500 cows that will be dedicated to organic milk production.
That new venture, Nature Rich Organic Milk, will operate independently and will utilize feed grown on a dedicated organic farm. Hesston swathers will be used in that operation as well as in the conventional farming operations.
"Everything has to be grown and handled separately for the organic operation," he said, "but we have a processor who has a high demand for that and it's a good value-added venture for us."
It's all part of growing into the next generations of the farm, he said.
He brought his son, Justin, and twin 11-year-old grandsons to the Hesston ceremony.
"The boys love being out on the farm and around all these great machines we use, so they are very excited to see this windrower roll off the production line, experience the factory where they are made and just be a part of this special occasion."