“We chose the LEXION 760 for its versatility. It’s got the capacity to handle heavy conditions or fast operating speeds. They can handle anything you can throw at them.”
The Queensland harvest has kicked off in Emerald, with young Tasmanian-based agricultural contractor, Sam Downie, just one of the dozens of teams following the harvest as it winds south.
This season is Sam’s first as principal of his own business, Greenwich Ag.
At 25 years old, he has invested heavily in adding three high-capacity CLAAS LEXION combine harvesters and other machinery to the families existing fleet. Working with a base crew of four, including his parents, Richard and Mary Downie, Hamilton, Tasmania; partner, Ashley Hossack, Brighton, Tasmania; and Matt Town, Meringandan, Queensland, his team has just started the 2500 km odyssey.
Another three drivers are on standby to enable around-the-clock harvesting when required.
Leaving school in 2010, Sam completed his mechanical apprenticeship with a large agricultural contracting business before joining his family’s contracting business based at Wesley Vale in north-west Tasmania.
“Dad started contracting in the 1980s in the Upper Derwent Valley region of Tasmania,” Sam says. “In the late 1980s, he purchased a CLAAS DOMINATOR and then a COMMANDOR to harvest pyrethrum. The contracting business really took off when he won a contract with Botanical Resources Australia, a major pyrethrum grower on Tasmania’s north-west coast. When I came home in 2015, we had two CLAAS LEXION 580Rs and two single rotor machines that all needed to be replaced, so we decided to purchase a new LEXION 760 with TERRA TRAC. Once we bought the LEXION, it made sense to expand and diversify our business to the mainland. We were only using our harvesters for one month of the year in Tasmania whereas the mainland harvesting season runs for another four months.”
Sam took over the business in July this year and has since purchased a new CLAAS LEXION 760 with TERRA TRAC, as well as a pre-owned LEXION 740 with 1000 rotor hours. “We chose the LEXION 760 for its versatility,” Sam says. “It has the highest capacity of the narrow body design, which means we can move them around more easily, plus they are more fuel efficient. It’s got the capacity to handle the heavier conditions back home in Tasmania or the faster operating speeds up in NSW and Queensland. We can be harvesting anything from 8 t/ha crops in Tasmania to 1 t/ha crops up here. Our throughput can range anywhere from 30 to 100 tonnes per hour and they can handle anything you can throw at them.”
The two tracked machines have 635 mm tracks set on three metre row spacings, which combined with 12 metre fronts, make them ideal for controlled traffic systems. “A lot of our clients insist on three metre row spacings to suit their farming systems,” Sam says. “Likewise, we’re equipped them with Greenstar autosteer so we can tap into the client’s existing guidance systems. We have VARIO 1230 and 1200 fronts, as well as a 45’ draper front so we can cater for all crops and conditions.”
VARIO allows the distance between the knife bar and the intake auger to be adjusted by up to 70 cm ‘on the go’. Sam opted for a 461 hp Tier 3 Perkins engine equipped with the new CLAAS DYNAMIC cooling system on his new harvester. A 1.6 m diameter fan draws in fresh air from the top of the machine, removes any dust and then pushes the clean air downwards through the oversized radiator and engine compartment. The air is then discharged sidewards through the side vents, creating a ‘curtain’ that prevents dust from rising.
Sam has also signed up for the TELEMATICS remote monitoring system on the three newer combine harvesters. TELEMATICS monitors and transmits the machine’s status, location, settings and operating data to a secure external server via an on-board mobile phone modem. This data can be access by authorised personnel anywhere in the world using a computer or mobile device. “On any day, our machines might be operating 400 or 500 km apart so TELEMATICS allows me to keep an eye on everything,” Sam says. “I can see what each machine is doing, find out what the operator should be doing to get the most of each machine and hopefully resolve any potential issues over the phone.”
Sam shuttles the five harvesters, as well as a new 30 tonne Coolamon chaser bin and 300 hp tractor, between jobs using a Scania R620 and low loader. He plans to replace the two older LEXION 580R machines in due course. “The plan is upgrade everything and then turn them over every three years,” he says. We get great service from CLAAS Harvest Centre, Tasmania. Their technicians, Paul Sharp and Andrew Johns, are great mechanics. We are reasonably self-sufficient but we know we can always rely on service and parts from the other CLAAS Harvest Centres in Dalby, Moree, Narrabri and Wagga if we need it. We budget to spend about 10 percent of our earnings on maintenance each year, but it pays in reliability.”