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Harvest Faster With A Draper Header

Capacity is the big reason to use a draper header. From an engineering standpoint, draper headers are easier to build 36, 40 or 45 feet wide to match the potential output of the biggest combines. “Once you get over 35 feet with an auger, you have to look at centre supports and it just gets more difficult to build,” says Wayne Krowleski, account manager with MacDon.

But it’s not just the big new combines that can benefit from a draper. Draper headers in general, no matter the size, feed the crop a lot better than augers, which twist and bunch the crop before it goes into the feeder house, Krowleski says. “You can go the same ground speed with a 36-foot draper as with a 30-foot auger header,” he says. And again, because the draper feeds the crop head first without twisting, that means you can get going earlier in the morning and combine later at night, he says.

Charlie Smith, owner of Combine World in Lucky Lake, Sask., emphasizes speed of harvest as a benefit to drapers. “You can go faster, way faster,” he says. I asked Smith what he thought were the negatives to using a draper. He couldn’t think of any off the top of his head.

Perhaps the one thing is price. You will pay more for a draper header. The biggest model from HoneyBee is 45 feet wide. Suggested price is $80,000 to $90,000, and Jared Nelson, marketing manager with HoneyBee, says that’s likely to go up due to rising price of steel and rubber.

But draper header makers and owners say that you get what you pay for. In addition to the benefits noted above, Nelson says Western Canadian farmers like draper headers because they work so well on a wide range of crops, including pulses, cereals and even canola. “We’ve had customers straight combining canola for years,” he says.


Aaron Hargreaves farms south of Brandon, Man., and has 42-foot HoneyBee headers on two Lexion 590 combines. “With the smooth feeding of the draper headers, we find we can go about half a mile per hour faster than with an auger header,” Hargreaves says. “And we can combine later into the night. With an auger head, crop starts to wrap around the auger as it gets tough. You don’t have that problem with a draper.”

Hargreaves has one recommendation for anyone shopping for a draper header. “Make sure the model you buy has the same length of draper on both sides.” Hargreaves has used draper headers that are six feet longer on one side, and “that doesn’t work worth a crap,” he says. You want the same amount of crop coming in from both sides or else you can’t make full use of the combine’s capacity, he says.

While Hargreaves has been using HoneyBee headers for 10 years, he says the farm might switch to MacDon headers because of the flex option. It’s not a true flex, but the MacDon 40-foot head is divided into three sections to follow contours better, he says.

HoneyBee and MacDon lead the way with their after-market draper headers. In fact, Case IH offers a red-painted MacDon header for its combines, and New Holland and John Deere offer headers made by HoneyBee. John Deere also makes its own line of smaller drapers, which have just been upgraded.


John Deere introduced its new 600D Series draper in August. The 600D drapers have a larger reel, wider and faster belts, and a larger feed drum compared to the previous models. “They are designed to cut lower and handle more material than the 900 Series models they replace,” says Anthony Souhrada, product information manager, John Deere Harvester Works.

The 600D platforms come in 25-, 30-and 35-foot widths. With the new HydraFloat suspension system, you can adjust header flotation without leaving the cab. And you can set two predetermined cut heights: closer to the ground for down crop and higher for normal standing crop. You can also adjust cutterbar tilt from the cab to help you get under low or flatten crop.

Other features include a 20 per cent faster belt speed, which John Deere says gives the 600D “the most aggressive crop material handling system in the industry.”

The 16-inch feed drum is four inches larger in diameter than previous draper models, which “provides significant improvement in overall material handling,” says Souhrada.

A reel resume and reverse function lets you store two different reel positions. One setting is for normal conditions and the other is for down and tangled crop.

An optional 11-inch, hydraulically driven top auger keeps bushy crops moving smoothly into the feeder house. John Deere says this feature is “particularly effective when harvesting field peas, lupines or any bushy crops that stall over side draper belts.” This top auger is easily removed for normal conditions.

Jay Whetter is editor of Grainews.

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