A FAMILY-OWNED business in WA’s Great Southern region is using a single CLAAS LEXION 770 combine harvester to comfortably harvest more than 7000 hectares of winter cereals, canola and oaten hay each year. R.W. Dowling & Co, conducted by Robert and Kay Dowling, Todd and Eliza Dowling and Royce and Kylie Dowling, operates a large-scale cropping, contract harvesting, lotfeeding and transport enterprise based around ‘Wongee Farm’ at Popanyinning.

“We probably aren’t doing anything different to anyone else around here other than it’s a bit bigger,” says Todd Dowling, who with John Inglis, manages the cropping side of the enterprise. “Harvesting is a major part of our business so it’s important that we have the right machinery that lets us do what we have to do. We were initially interested in the LEXION because of its capacity and the VARIO front and its ability to direct head canola, which we think is the way of the future. We also wanted to improve our straw quality because we bale most of our straw and put it through our feedlot.”

LEXION combine harvesters feature the unique ‘hybrid’ separation technology that has made CLAAS the world leader on the harvesting stage. An accelerated pre-separation system separates up to 30 per cent of the grain before it even reaches the concave and ensures even material flow without blockages or surges. The remaining material then passes through twin longitudinal rotors for optimal grain separation under all conditions. CLAAS is still the only manufacturer to offer both systems in the one machine.

The Dowlings purchased a LEXION 750 with VARIO 1200 variable cutterbar in 2011 and then upgraded to a LEXION 770 with VARIO 1350 the following season. “We harvested about 5000 ha, including 1000 hectares of direct headed canola, in 2011 so we gave the 750 a good workout,” Todd says. “It did exactly what we expected but it still wasn’t big enough for what we needed to do. We want to harvest as much grain as possible every hour with maximum fuel efficiency and without any grain loss and the 770 delivers this. With LEXION, you can continuously adjust the concave, the rotor and the drum speeds independently on the go to get the most out of the conditions. You can only push any machine so hard but the 770 seems to operate at the top of its capacity all day long.”

Todd doesn’t hand out endorsements easily but he is quietly happy with his decision. “We’ve had eight or nine North American harvesters over the years, so moving over to CLAAS was a big change for us,” he says. “I don’t get carried away by claims of throughput per hour, operating speed or various bits of technology that come with the machine but the capacity of the LEXION is very impressive. All I am worried about is getting the job done properly on that particular day. The fact that we switched to CLAAS and then a second one says what we think about them. CLAAS is constantly innovating whereas some other machines are more or less the same as they were 15 years ago with a bigger engine.”

Amazingly, the entire cropping program is implemented using one seeding rig, one self-propelled spraying unit and nurse tank and one harvester. “We are trying to keep our capital expenditure down by spreading it over more hectares and that’s why we have bigger machines that can do more,” Todd says. “We toyed with the idea of purchasing another 750 and running two machines but we decided on purchasing one larger machine. Running two machines would have had a knock-on effect in terms of bins and trucks. The 770 is quoted as having 20 percent more capacity than the 750 and that’s proven to be the case, while the wider front has increased throughput again. All of that extra capacity means we can maximise throughput in both light and heavy crops, while still keeping our capital expenditure at a reasonable level.”

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