A Flexible Approach to Farming
Posted by: Joel Dennis on Jun 19, 2018 9:03:00 AM
Being flexible is a required part of farming. There are so many variables that come into play with planting,harvesting, and adapting to the weather all throughout the growing season.
Flexibility is not just a human trait that is necessary for harvest, but also an important part of quality harvest equipment. Thankfully the Heard family farm has both.
How it Began
Eric Heard has been farming for as long as he can remember. He farms with his brother Darwin, nephew, Ellis, and father Maurice. Rumor has it, that Maurice traded his motorcycle for a sow way back when, and that’s how he got into the hog business. Their hog business continued to grow over the years, and they dabbled in raising sheep and dairy cows as well.
They’ve since transitioned out of sheep and dairy, and have put most of their focus on raising hogs. All of this was done long before Eric and Darwin were old enough to farm. The hog business is all that they’ve ever known on this farm. When Eric got out of high school in 1992, they were working around 400 sows.
Over the years, they’ve continued to grow the hog business and in 2017, they are on target to sell an impressive 55,000 hogs.
Everyone Needs a Hobby
As if raising that many hogs isn’t enough to keep the Heard family busy, they decided it would be best to take on farming row crops, as it would provide them most of the food they needed for their hogs. Eric said, “Row cropping is, I guess you might call it, a hobby for us.”
When I think of hobby farming, I generally think of a small 100-200 acre farm. The minds of Heard Farms think a little differently in terms of scale, and they now farm over 5,500 acres of land, which amounts to just over 9,000 acres of row crop each year with double cropping. That’s a pretty good sized hobby farm!
The weather in Kentucky is great for double cropping, so the Heards try and pull off three crops in each field over the course of two years. Eric said, “We’ll actually do corn, and once we come out of corn we go into wheat, and once the wheat comes off we try and come right back into the wheat stubble and plant soybeans.”
They are far enough south that they stay pretty competitive as far as their yield goes, and stay right around 35-45 bushels per acre for their soybeans. It may not be quite as good as the single crop guys are getting down there, but it’s definitely a great bonus for them to be able to get this second crop out of their fields.
One Head is better than Two
In normal life situations, it’s said that two heads are better than one. When it comes to farming, it’s quite the opposite. Machinery is expensive, and the Heards found a way to replace their two old red corn heads with one large Geringhoff 24 row 20” Rota Disc corn head. Eric said, “We really have enjoyed running the 24-20. That’s allowed us to take one machine, a class 9 combine, and basically replace the work we were doing with two class 7s with 12 rows on them.”
By running just one large head with the same amount of rows, they are able to be much more efficient. They have one less man out in the field having to run the combine. It’s also a substantial amount of fuel savings, especially over the course of several thousand acres.
On top of doing the job of two heads with one, the Rota Disc also saves them an extra tillage pass in the field by shredding the stalks.
Eric added, “We absolutely LOVE the header because it acts as if it has two functions. It really does a super job processing stalks. We love to no-till this wheat. We’ve got a lot of rocks and the more we work the ground the more rock we find. The Rota Disc makes a perfect bed for us to no-till our wheat.”
Full Line of Harvest Equipment
Geringhoff has always been known as the industry leader in corn heads. More recently, they are making a name for themselves in other parts of the industry. Geringhoff now manufactures heads to harvest corn, sunflowers, milo, wheat, soybeans, canola, and other small grains. If you can grow it, they can harvest it.
Heard Farms have been using the Geringhoff 24 row 20” Rota Disc corn head for many years, and they value the durability, reliability, and overall performance of the machine. Because of this, they decided to purchase two of Geringhoff’s newest draper, the TruFlex Razor.
The Flexibility of the TruFlex Razor
We’ve talked about the importance of flexibility in farming, but when it comes to drapers, there’s no better trait than flexibility. On the difficult terrain they farm in Kentucky, a flexible cutter bar is the key to getting as much of the crop as possible.
The TruFlex Razor not only features a flexible cutter bar, but it also has a flexible reel, and a flexible frame. That’s a lot of flexibility!
Eric said, “This is basically like running three different headers on one combine because you’ve got three different sections that are kind of running independent of the other.”
These three features are what gives the Razor their name, they shave the ground in the toughest of contours.
Maximizing Combine Capacity
Combines have continued to improve over the years, and so has their capacity to take in extreme amounts of crop at once. The bottleneck is typically the harvest head. Geringhoff recognizes this, and has spent large amounts of time and money researching and developing a head that can keep up with today’s high capacity combines.
While the Heards used to run red drapers, they had too many issues with them not feeding like they were hoping. “We’ve got class 9 combines, and to be honest with you, for the past 2 years we haven’t been able to keep their appetites fed. We have just not had a header in front of it bad enough to do that.”
This is the first year they’ve run the TruFlex Razor, but so far, they’ve been quite happy with the way it feeds their combine’s appetite.
“With the Geringhoff drapers, we were able to achieve speeds that were not possible with our old heads. I know this sounds crazy, but we’ve actually threshed wheat at 6 mph out here. I can look down and see the engine load is running at 100%. The throughput is just unreal.”
They’ve also had great luck with high speed harvest in canola. “We could reach speeds of about 4 mph in the canola, and that was cutting canola that was making upwards of 70 bushel. We weren’t averaging that, but in really good canola we were able to maintain those speeds.“
Not only does this save the Heards time, but it’s also a big fuel savings for the combine. They are running it more efficiently, and in the way it was designed, and for the first time, they are able to keep the combine’s appetite fed.
Keep Feeding the Machine
With the extra speed and efficiency, the Heards are on pace for a record fast harvest season. They are harvesting faster, using less fuel, less manpower, and are able to obtain all of their harvest heads from the same manufacturer. They haven’t had many issues with their heads, but when they have had to deal with Geringhoff, they’ve had great experiences. “I believe as long as we’ve got good parts and service distribution, Geringhoff will continue to be a leader in harvesting. That’s one reason we went with the draper, is because we’ve had such good luck out of the corn head. Your reputation really sticks out for you, when you’re good you’re good.”