View From the Cab

Farmers Talk Machinery Trades and Upgrades

Pamela Smith
By  Pamela Smith , Crops Technology Editor
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Trading or upgrading equipment takes some planning in the current market. Luke Garrabrant, a Johnstown, Ohio, farmer talks about efforts to sell a sprayer in this week's View From the Cab. (Photo courtesy of Luke Garrabrant)

DECATUR, Ill. (DTN) –- Marc Arnusch's wish list for his Colorado farm nearly always boils down to one word: rain.

Still, like most farmers, there's a continuous list of infrastructure needs that need to be replenished around the farm. Keeping current on implements, parts and the other tools that make things go and grow has become more challenging in this hand-to-mouth supply chain environment. That's leading to some just-in-case buying, but Arnusch is trying to hold tight to his habit of not letting wants blur the line of items that are necessities.

"I have a rule of thumb that if a machine can't be used widely in our enterprises, we don't purchase it. We find some other way -- lease, custom or some other avenue -- to get that operation done," said the Keenesburg, Colorado farmer. "That strategy has worked out well for us."

Likewise, as a young farmer, Luke Garrabrant is aware of the allure of machinery. But he's also mindful to make purchases that fit his needs and pocketbook. The Johnstown, Ohio, farmer is currently in the process of upgrading several implements and selling others.

Both farmers touch on the topic of machinery in this week's installment of View from the Cab. These farmers volunteer their thoughts on crop progress and a variety of farm-related topics throughout the growing season for this ongoing series of articles. This is the 16th installment.

Read on to learn more about current crop conditions in their area, their thoughts about shopping and how wedding plans are crowding in on thoughts and time commitments. Meanwhile, there's goodwill to be sown at the local 4-H fair.


The "honey do" list is long this week for Luke Garrabrant. He and his wife, Paige, are preparing the farmhouse they've been renovating for his sister's bridal shower. Approximately 55 guests were scheduled to arrive on Saturday, August 13. The following day will be a birthday party for his toddler daughter.

"I've been power washing the house siding, mowing and adding gravel to the driveway. Whew," he exclaimed. Garrabrant planned to find relief from all that excitement by heading to The Hartford Fair this weekend. Dubbed "The Biggest Little Fair in the World", the independent agricultural fair brings together youth from several Ohio counties.

"I showed dairy beef feeders my entire 4-H career and I like to go support this next generation of 4-H kids," said Garrabrant. He'll be bidding on some of the market livestock offerings.

It will likely be good fair weather. DTN ag meteorologist John Baranick said a couple of cold fronts have moved into the area bringing mild temperatures and scattered showers.

"Temperatures in the 70s to maybe lower 80s will be around for the next week. The cooler temperatures could come with a few more light showers," Baranick said. "Soil moisture in this part of the country is excellent and the fill period for crops continues to have favorable weather going through the rest of the month."

Garrabrant confirms that his crops, while late, continue to flourish. "We have had what I'd call near perfect weather since the seed went in the ground," he said. "It's been humid, not too hot and we've had nice, gentle rains about every three days. It's been great growing weather."

Low night temperatures are helping bring the corn through pollination, too. Some of this late corn is just beginning to pollinate.

This week he's also been selling some equipment he no longer needs or is simply looking to upgrade. In last week's View From the Cab segment, Garrabrant talked about his reasoning behind discontinuing a hay enterprise. Read about that here:…

It didn't take long to put a sold sign on his 1998 John Deere 750 no-till drill that he had been using to seed alfalfa, wheat and beans. He plans to replace the drill with a 30-ft, 15-inch row bean planter and is leaning toward purchasing a used Kinze 3650 model.

"I've picked up some additional row crop acres for next year. Since my acres are somewhat logistically spread out, I want to get into something that is more narrow transport," he said, noting that the planter model he's considering can negotiate a 12-foot gate.

Wheat is also exiting his crop rotation in 2023--another reason the no-till drill was no longer needed. While he likes the crop for the rotational aspects, it hasn't been lucrative in the long run. "The only way I can pencil wheat is to bale straw and double crop and that's just not working for me right now," he said.

His bean planter wish is for the unit to be bulk fill rather than individual seed boxes. "I'm finding some decent deals on these models, especially in comparison to the newer delivery systems," he noted. Before he writes the check, he will look closely at side-to-side play and make sure all the components look sound. Openers, row cleaners, closing wheels, downforce are things he can add aftermarket, he said.

Social media has been treating him well as a trading post. He typically does a search of some online trading houses to get a feel for how to price an implement.

He also has posted for sale a John Deere 4730 sprayer with 100-foot booms and stainless plumbing. The machine hit 3000 hours this week and he has it listed for sale at $115,000. He's wanting to move to a Hagie platform for spraying. A trade-in with a dealer isn't out of the question if he doesn't sell the sprayer outright. It all comes down to dollars and finding the right fit.

On the work plan for the coming week is harvest equipment assessment. He wants to make sure all systems are go when the crop is finally mature. "One thing about growing wheat, it gives you a mid-season check on the combine. But we will be giving it another going over," he said.

Building a farm as an independent, young farmer requires some measured steps, but that doesn't keep Garrabrant from dreaming ahead. In the next three years he wants to build a farm shop. "I'm putting a lot of thought into every aspect of it," he said. "One thing I know I want is a good way to organize parts and a system for tracking inventory of what I have."


Weather continues to be a worry for Arnusch Farms. "We need all of August to get us to the finish line," said Arnusch.

"Our corn is wickedly delayed. Guys in the Midwest are pulling yield estimates and we're just beginning to tassel," he added.

He estimated corn maturity is at least two weeks and possibly three weeks late in his area. "It's not because we got it in the ground late or that we were delayed in planting. It is the year," Arnusch said. "Crops just don't seem to grow well when it is hot coupled with dry."

The farm typically plants 99 to 103-day corn if it is to be harvested as grain. For silage, they lean toward 113-day corn. "We want it to flower about 2350 growing degree units on the silage corn side," he said.

They've had the heat. What the area has lacked is timely moisture. "We may not have physically stressed this crop to look at it, but we see delayed root growth. We don't see very tall plants. The nodes are stacked fairly close together. We just are not seeing the kind of crop we're accustomed to," he said.

In a perfect world, daytime temperatures would stay in the upper 80s. "But more importantly, we need nighttime temperatures about 55 and we tend to see temperatures dip below that in late August. If that happens, we're going to see this crop go backwards," he said.

DTN ag meteorologist John Baranick said radar estimates show a couple of showers moved through Arnusch's area this past week, but they were spotty. Temperatures were well in the 90s and approached 100-degree temperatures, but relief is coming.

"A cold front will be pressing through on Monday and temperatures from then on should be in the 80s. The front will be somewhat of a slow-mover and give chances for rain through probably Wednesday, though there is some discrepancy with the forecast.

"I wouldn't be surprised if a chance also materializes this coming weekend (Aug 20-21) as well. It's always difficult in the summertime to get rain in this part of the High Plains, but this is the best chance they've got since the end of July," Baranick said.

When it comes to farm machinery, Arnusch believes in keeping the fleet modern. "We are constantly evaluating whether something has outlived its purpose or just needs to be upgraded.

"But we try to avoid buying much specialized equipment or tools that only serve one purpose for a short period of time," he explained.

For example, the farm owns a combine because it is used on most of the farm acres. However, they do not have any alfalfa harvesting equipment. They grow several cuttings for a nearby dairy and the dairy does the chopping. The rest of the cuttings are custom baled.

"We just don't have the acreage to support owning the (hay) equipment," Arnusch explained.

"I sometimes get accused by friends and neighbors that I'm a little bit equipment drunk, but we do have a lot of equipment on the farm.

"The most important equipment on the farm right now is the soil moisture probes, the irrigation equipment and the self-propelled sprayer. Those are things you just can't replace," he said.

"In the case of the sprayer, I don't want to rely upon a custom applicator who might not get to me when I need the job done. In eastern Colorado, the wind blows a lot. But sometimes the wind will sit down in the evening. We can head to the field long after the custom applicators have gone home and get those timely sprays put on. Or we might stream fertilizer on a wheat crop on a Sunday afternoon when the temperatures rise, and the conditions are good," he explained.

"We try to invest in those areas of equipment needs that reward us the most," he added. On-farm storage is another investment that he feels has paid in spades. Being able to harvest higher moisture grain and dry it on their own schedule and not just when the elevator is open has been important to the farm, he added.

The pandemic economy has Arnusch looking hard at what needs to be inventoried on-farm, rather than depending on a store or retailer to have stock on hand. "Parts have become harder to come by than even during the teeth of the COVID crisis," he said.

"We're having a hard time finding sweeps for our field cultivator and tires for some of our equipment. These are supply chain issues that simply did not exist 10 months ago," Arnusch noted.

That's forcing the farm team to do analysis of their spring equipment now. The planter is one tool he is particular about.

"I'm of the opinion that every great crop starts with your planter. We want technology that rewards us on the farm, so we run a modern planter. But you can take a 35-year-old planter and make it a very good machine if it is well adjusted," Arnusch said. "You have to marry great technology with proper adjustment.

"I think we are making a lot of great strides in planter efficiencies and I'm excited to see some of the great things coming down the road. But there's still no substitute for a properly adjusted planter," he added.

Arnusch currently runs pneumatic down pressure on his planter, but thinks he would benefit from hydraulic down pressure, especially on no-till soils and harder clay soils. The farm has found Schlagel spiked closing wheels help with seed-to-soil contact better than traditional closing wheels. They've also tested and given a big thumbs up to Groff Ag Talon row cleaners that move more residue and less soil and require less down pressure.

When the farm makes an equipment purchase, they often trade to move that basis and equipment forward. If selling equipment rather than purchasing new, online auctions have worked nicely in the past, Arnusch noted.

All of that is secondary to the next new thing coming to the farm, though. There's a wedding scheduled for early September for Arnusch's son, Brett. "We feel like we've won the lottery by bringing Alexis into the family," he said.

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Pamela Smith

Pamela Smith
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