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Not your grandpa’s Poppin’ Johnny

Paal Haug stands alongside a John Deere combine outside of Haug Implement in Willmar. Haug and other implement dealers in the area say now is crunch time when they really have to serve their farmers’ needs to keep them “up and running.” Tribune photo by Ron Adams

By Carlienne A. Frisch

Freelance writer

As farm equipment engineering progressed, past generations of farmers grew accustomed to certain niceties — a cab on the tractor, for example. But if a farmer from 50 years ago climbed into a 21st-century combine, it just might take a Space Age instruction manual to help him operate the equipment.

One current feature is machine sync. Paal Haug of Haug Implement Company explained it this way: As the combine operator moves through the field, another person drives a tractor that pulls the grain cart (a hopper on wheels), permitting the grain to be augered on the go.

With the combine operating on auto-steer, the grain cart is brought up to the combine, the operator hits a button, and the grain cart locks into position on AutoTrac alongside the combine. The combine operator then controls the tractor’s speed.

Kraig DeJong at Arnold’s of Willmar, said, “There are pages of options on a new combine, from a hydraulic folding grain tank extension to the combine’s seats. We try to stock a few combines year-round, but it’s harder to do that because farmers order by selection of options. One farmer might want a luxury cab with a leather seat, another wants a deluxe cab with a cloth seat — and there are many other options.”

Technology also plays a vital part in equipment maintenance and repair. Jared Nelson, a Schlauderaff Implement sales representative in Litchfield, said, “The major part of our business is diagnostic. We hook a computer onto the tractor. And a farmer can read a fault code on the tractor to us over the phone so we can bring the parts needed.”

With seemingly endless options on equipment, it takes time for a farmer to get exactly what he wants.

“Some equipment, such as a new combine, is ordered nine months to a year ahead,” Haug said. “By mid-August the majority of equipment has been purchased, but you also have a lot of year-end buying in December. Some farmers buy a large amount of equipment at one time to get extra discounts. Some buy every year, but the majority about every five years or so.”

DeJong said, “We sell a fair amount of equipment in late summer, but some farmers wait to see what the crops will do. Many manufacturers have programs that make it advantageous to order right after, or even before, harvest begins. There are the same programs on the used side, so we can turn used inventory. Over the years, some customers plan ahead with the special pricing programs. They get the best selection of used equipment and get new equipment on time.”