Industry debates larger capacity forage implements

The John Deere 9900i, a behemoth of 956 horsepower, is the largest model of self-propelled forage harvesters it offers. But more power for a forage harvester? That remains a question, writes Chris Torres in the American Agriculturist. If a recent reunion at the New York Farm Show was any indication, that’s an open question.

“I think the one thing is that the question of higher horsepower is still open for a lot of people, which means they want a little more capacity,” says Tim Meister, John Deere marketing manager for forages and self-propelled heads. “But it’s not for everyone, so that’s one of the things we have to weigh is how many people are actually looking for more productivity than we have today.”

Meister and Chase Milem, the company’s marketing manager for hay and forage, met with approximately 100 growers and dealer representatives at the show. Other similar John Deere face-to-face events have taken place in Texas, Iowa and Wisconsin, and another is planned in Michigan. Meister says these events get customer feedback on current products, as well as future plans.

It’s been three years since the company debuted its 9000 Series self-propelled forage harvesters at the Farm Progress Show in Boone, Iowa. These forage harvesters – ranging from 9600 to 616 horsepower to 9900 to 957 horsepower – can handle more than 400 tonnes of forage per hour and are equipped with Tier 4 compliant engines.

Last year Deere added the 9500 with an 18.0 liter engine. Previous models had a 24-liter V12 engine.

Meister says the trend towards final Tier 4 standards on self-propelled forage harvesters has matured. Now the focus is on developing better technologies to support more functions on each machine.

Milem was vague about whether the company was launching any new forage products later this year, saying only that “a few new ones are coming.” About two years ago, the company went through a complete reorganization, which he says better targeted the hay tools and forage segment of the business.

Meister says the amount of equipment, especially on today’s large dairies, means there are opportunities for the company in this segment.

“A lot of people are doing more than custom harvesting. They do custom plantings. They can have a custom mix, and it’s a lot more diverse, so the part of the customer segments that we work with being a traditional dairy that owns a forage harvester and/or traditional contractors in New York, they buy a lot more equipment than a simple self-propelled forage harvester. And I think that’s a unique situation that we don’t always see, I would say, on a traditional grain farm in the middle of Iowa.

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