The rain arrived on Oct. 1, 2016, right in the middle of harvest, as if penciled in by some cruel weather god. Then came more rain, then so much snow that farmers in eastern Saskatchewan, a group well accustomed to rough weather, were caught off guard.
“Guys were calling me in a panic,” says Rod Anderson, owner of the Massey Ferguson® dealership Wynyard Equipment, in Wynyard. “They were saying their combines can’t move but that their neighbors with Massey combines were having no trouble.”
One of those neighbors was Windy Poplars Farm, where harvest went on without major incident, despite the conditions. “I have a picture where I am in the combine straight-cutting wheat and there is water in the tracks where the combine is going through,” says Dustin Burns. “I was picking up swaths through the sloughs.”
The Massey combines are lighter, enabling them to stay on top of the ground a bit more, “but really it is the total package” that makes it operate better in the toughest conditions, Anderson says. “The way it feeds into the rotors and the rotor design, the way it separates grain from chaff and straw, it is all well designed to work in that kind of weather.”
Dustin and the other owners of Windy Poplars are “fairly colorblind” when it comes to picking equipment, but when it comes to combines, they only see red. They own five Massey Ferguson combines—three 9560s and two 9565s—and last season’s harvest demonstrated the source of that loyalty.
“Up here, racing the weather as we always are, you can’t afford downtime with mechanical issues, and you’re also really testing these machines, pulling out tough grain, not waiting till it’s dry, for example,” Dustin says. “We’ve had managers come out from other manufacturers, and they can’t believe we are operating in those conditions.”
Dustin and one of his partners, Doug Reeve, have engineering degrees and are inveterate tinkerers. They probe and poke at machines, looking for flaws and ways to boost performance. The MF9565 is a favorite, in part because it requires so little attention.
“One of the big positives is the cooling system. You are always fighting debris on cooling elements on a combine or engine intake,” Dustin says.
“Some combines, you have to clean out the air filter or blow the radiator off every day. On one of the combines [a 9560], we’ve got 3,000 hours on it and I’ve never blown the radiator off … and I change the air filter only when I change the oil. [Massey Ferguson] really got that figured out.
“We will have five combines crossing paths, a lot of debris blowing around, and I don’t have to worry about it,” he continues. “The driveline is also very well made, and it has very few issues with failures—belts don’t snap, things like that. It is just very well made.”
One of the 9560s owned by Windy Poplars is in its sixth season, with more than 1.5 million bushels run through. “These models allow you to not have to turn them over as quickly,” Dustin says.
He and his partners are open to other brands, and manufacturers bring combines to Windy Poplars to demo just about every year. Given the size of the farm and the extreme conditions, it is the ultimate proving ground. Says Dustin: “We give combines [from other manufacturers] a try, and some of them have nice features. But time in and time out, the Masseys perform when we need them.”