When David Hofer’s equipment stopped meeting his needs, he did something farmers have done for millennia: he jerry-rigged something that works better.
In this case, it’s a combine loss drop pan made of nylon tarp and fiberglass rods that can be thrown directly under combine wheels without bending or breaking.
Hofer farms around 10,000 acres at Baildon Hutterite Colony near Moose Jaw, Sask. He says most farmers in the area use drop pans that are made of wood or iron and bend up when combine wheels hit them accidentally.
“Our combine guys were coming to us and saying, ‘We’re bending up the catch pan when we drive over it.’ I had all this used tarp and fiberglass rods, and instead of throwing the tarp in a landfill I came up with this idea,” says Hofer.
His prototype was basically a nylon square edged with the rods, but in subsequent models he added flaps or “wings” to ensure no grain was lost from the edges.
An added bonus of the four square-foot pan is that it can be folded up and tucked into a matching pouch for storage.
Hofer says he encourages his combine operators to drive over it.
“Canola is cut pretty high, so that’s why I prefer driving over the pan, because it flattens out. With canola, it could tip, and if it tips to the wrong angle it won’t catch much of your lost grain. Wheat you’re cutting pretty low so it doesn’t really matter there,” he says.
There is something like Hofer’s pan on the market, he says, but what makes his unique is that it repurposes existing materials that would otherwise end up in a landfill. “And I haven’t seen one that you can take apart, put in the pouch and throw behind the seat, and forget about until the next time you need it,” he says.
Baildon Colony’s farm has five combines, and operators use a drop pan almost continuously during harvest to check losses and adjust combine settings.
After cleaning the sample, they use a syringe to measure losses.
“We’ve brought it to the point where if we have 10 ml grain loss in one of those syringes, we’re a tad over what we’d like to be,” says Hofer.
Last year, Hofer sold around 30 of his drop pans to local farmers at $80 each. He’s hoping word spreads in 2018, and that other farmers will be similarly inspired to repurpose old tarps. Hofer can be reached at 1-306 693-3046.
Seed loss calculator
The Prairie Agriculture Machinery Institute (PAMI) and the Canola Council of Canada have developed a combine seed loss chart to help you calculate losses based on weight, volume or seed count. You’ll also need to know the width you’re cutting, and the width of the discharge behind your combine. Once you have those numbers, you’ll be able to find your loss rate in bushels per acre, so you can find out just how much you’re losing in dollar values. Calculators can be found on their websites at pami.ca or canolacouncil.org.