Today’s combines have obviously grown considerably in size over the last couple of decades, and they can now take a very big bite out of a field in a single pass. But a new header from Saskatchewan-based Honey Bee Manufacturing will likely cause even those most familiar with farm equipment to do a double take. The company has just built its first 60-foot, straight cut header.
“It looks big,” agreed Greg Honey, co-owner of the brand, when speaking with Grainews. “It was put together to try and address a need in Australia for controlled-traffic farming.”
Keeping all field equipment running in the same wheel tracks to minimize soil compaction is the objective of controlled traffic operations. Some producers down under were looking for a combine header that would be a good match with the working widths of their very wide seeding equipment.
“Our distributor over there, Muddy River Trading, they were the ones asking if we could do something so they could compete with Midwest (an Australian header manufacturer that has also begun building extra-wide headers),” said Honey. “We were aware of this last fall, so my brother and his crew worked on it over the winter to address it and got it done. It’s 60 feet, three inches long at the cutter bar.”
So far the header remains a one-off build, but Honey adds the company is willing to continue offering it if there is a demand. All of which is expected to come from Australia.
“From what I see it will be more of an Australian thing,” Honey said. “We offer a 50-foot here, and there hasn’t really been much of a take rate on it, because you have to extend your unloading auger.
The mammoth new header uses a rigid cutter bar, but it shares lot of common parts with Honey Bee’s current AirFLEX production model, which is actually a flex header. The 60-foot uses air suspension on the sub frame and also relies on gauge wheels to keep it stable.
“We built a special centre section on the frame that’s beefed up to handle the extra weight,” Honey said. “We tried to make sure the frame is extra strong to handle the extra weight, and we made the centre frame able to fit in a 40-foot container. So they could take the two extensions off to get it in there.”
Honey said all the current combines on the market should be able to lift and power the big header without modification.
“The drive system is not a problem at all. The lifting capacity can be, but all OEM headers are getting heavier all the time too. So, they’ve all addressed that at all the manufacturers. We had it on a Case and a New Holland for testing. We didn’t have any trouble picking it up with either one.”
The 60-foot head will be in Australian fields by late October or early November, in time for the harvest in that hemisphere.
“We’ll see how it goes this winter,” Honey said. “If they’re looking for more, we’ll build more.”