Times change and equipment wears out. This is not so obvious to me as it is to our son Ben. Until recently, our harvesting equipment included a faithful Massey Ferguson Super 92 combine and a 1968 Chevy two-ton grain truck. This combine served us well since we bought it in 1983, but for some reason our son Ben thought there might be better equipment on the market that we could afford.
Fast forward five years to 2008. Now we have two Massey Ferguson 750s and a semi for hauling grain. Our equipment change took a lot of thought on my part. Like about 30 seconds. Ben and I were at an local auction in the spring of 2004. I was busy visiting with a neighbour and Ben said, “You should buy that straight cut header they’re selling now. I just bought the combine.” Ben had just bought his first combine, a Massey 750. And I bought a header.
For the next couple of years we used our old Super 92 and the 750. Then in 2006 we bought another Massey 750 to replace the Super 92. (Don’t worry. I’ve used old faithful to trim up the field edges in the fall for the last two years. It still starts and runs well and if I put on a straw chopper, I could probably use it again. Since we’ve gone to continuous cropping and direct seeding, a straw chopper is a necessity.)
Our farm and farming style have changed over the past five years. We’ve gone from 750 acres with some summerfallow to 1,400 acres with all of it continuously cropped. As we are growing more pulse crops, we bought a flex header in 2007 and then Ben found another one in the summer of 2008 so we have two flex headers.
So in 2008 with the purchase of a semi trailer unit with a tridem trailer, maybe we’re done buying for a while. We didn’t spend a lot of money, but for us it’s the most money we’ve ever spent on machinery. But for under $45,000, we ended up with two Massey 750 combines, two flex headers, two straight cut headers, three pickup headers, a 15-year-old semi tractor and a 10-year-old grain trailer. Included in the total is also one running parts combine and one non-running parts combine. Most of the stuff is old and tired, but it takes the crop off and hauls it to the bin.
What good is this knowledge to you? I’m not sure but read on for a few thoughts on buying machinery.
Good buys in used machinery
If you’re not scared of a bit of fixing, there are many good buys in machinery right now. If you’re looking for smaller equipment, there’s also lots of good stuff out there. With the rise in grain prices, lots of good used stuff is coming on the market. Also farms are getting bigger and when there’s an auction there’s not as many people wanting to buy equipment.
Used equipment is also better now. When I bought the old MF Super 92 back in 1983, it was 20 years old. Purchase cost $1,350. (If you’re doing the math the cost of ownership over 22 years is $61.37 per year.) Now the Super 92 was better than the old Massey Harris 90 combine that had died, but it still wasn’t too fancy. Sure it had power steering, but it still had no cab, a 36-inch cylinder and a flat-6 gas engine designed in the 1930s.
In 2006, we bought our Massey 750 for $3,500.We could have bought lots of cheaper ones but this one had new front tires, new concave and rub bars and several other new parts. It still needed work though. The A/C needed major work and the usual bunch of little things needed fixing.
So by the time the dust settled, we probably had $5,000 or so into the machine. So if we spent $1,350 in 1983 for a combine I would guess that dollar wise it’s about the same to spend $5,000 in 2006. So for relatively the same money, we’ve got a 30-year-old combine. However, that 750 has a 50-inch cylinder, straw chopper, cab, A/C and a diesel engine. This is what I mean. Older equipment is much better than it was 20 years ago.
There’s lots of this good equipment out there. Look at the smaller farmer who’s retiring. There’s some really nice machinery that’s been well looked after coming on the market. And who’s gonna buy the older stuff, especially if it’s a bit smaller? Not the big farmers who are cropping 5,000-plus acres.
Consider a “parts” machine
If you’re buying two or more of any machine, try and buy two identical machines. It makes operating and repairing so much easier. Also try and buy popular models. Parts are easier to find.
Buy parts machines. We’ve bought two combines for parts. One still runs and could be put in the field if one of the main machines has a massive breakdown.
Allow time for repairs and maintenance before you need the machine. With our old 92, if it was properly gone over before harvest, we could do the whole harvest some years with only 10 hours of downtime for repairs.
Try and buy well looked after machines. Not all machinery is well looked after. Look past the shiny paint and clean cabs. Get your nose into the innards of the equipment you’re buying to see if it’s really as good as it looks.
My next articles
With this wonderful new machinery we’re having lots of wonderful new repair experiences. Coming up are articles on preventing rust on your grain trailer, repairing rust on your grain trailer, and machining concaves with a side grinder.
Ron Settler farms and runs a salvage and used parts yard at Lucky Lake, Sask.