The type of grain head you run on the front of your combine is your choice. Mark Henderson, Franklin, decided to go a different route than a traditional head when he was ready to purchase one for the '07 season. His John Deere combine carries a McDon head out front. Its' chief feature is that conveyor belts bring the crop into the center throat instead of augers. Then a third belt running perpendicular to the first two take crop into the threshing throat itself.
Buying the head was anything but on 'on a whim' decision. "Friends down south who run them kept encouraging me to try one, But I wanted to be sure," he says. He literally called a dozen farmers, most of whom he didn't know, for their input and assessment of the head. When he couldn't find anyone who would say anything negative against it, he decided to purchase it.
Several factors led into the decision, Henderson notes. He ran two combines previously, and wanted to switch to one because of labor needs. So he was looking for a 36-foot head. What he liked about the new head was that it could flex on either side- not just the cutterbar- but the entire head. It's constructed so that it can pivot on either side of the center of the head. That lets him shave close to the ground and not leave any pods on stalks below the cutterbar, even on slightly rolling field passes.
He had hoped to be able to start earlier in the morning with the head and run later at night because of the way it's constructed. That remains a question mark, he notes. He's not sure it's helping as much in that area as he had hoped. "I run a rock guard out front and that might make a difference, but we've got enough stones in this part of the country that I can't afford to be without it," he says.
Riding with him last week, the most impressive thing was the way the crop flowed in from each side. Whole stalks fell onto the belts after being cut, and then stalks from both sides fed into the wide center belt at the throat. Little if any 'chugging' was evident from the combine, the biggest model Deere made in the former series. It's a rotor machine.
Few if any soybeans hitting the cab also pleased Henderson. He figures he's getting less shattering at the head with belts vs. the traditional cross auger. The belts resemble those used on forage wagons or on some novel hay equipment that flips windrows for faster drying.
After a couple of frustrating days getting the bugs out of the head, Henderson actually believes it should be simpler to maintain and work on than a conventional head, since there are fewer electronics involved.
This head does cost approximately $10,000 more than a conventional head. McDon released new style heads since Henderson purchased his model.
"If I was deciding again today, I think I would go the same way," he says. "We don't quite have all the bugs worked out for running one combine like I thought we might by now, but I really think it's going to work."