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Farmer the beneficiary of alfalfa-cutting duel
Hay cutting equipment by New Holland, left, and John Deere worked side by side in a demonstration at the Gordon Medow farm. Photo by Wayne Nicholls

Farmer the beneficiary of alfalfa-cutting duel in Missouri Valley

Jul 7, 2013 - By Eric Blom Staff Writer

An unusual sight appeared along Missouri Valley Road on June 29: two differently colored wind rowers working in the same field.

The red-and-yellow New Holland machine and green John Deere cut the 70 acres of waist-high alfalfa working side-by-side.

Gordon Medow owned the hay but not the wind rowers. They were out on his field because he told the dealers of both machines he was looking to buy a new machine.

Trevor Bekken of Brown Company brought out his New Holland machine and Dick McConnaughhey of Stotz Equipment arrived with the John Deere.

Medow said he was going to compare how each performed before he decided which one to buy. The farmer invited others from the valley to come over and watch.

Some observers thought he had ulterior motives, however.

"He just wants his hay knocked down," one farmer joked.

No matter how it came about, the opportunity afforded both machines a chance to show off and gave neighbors a reason to come together for a little fun.

"Friendly competition is good competition," Bekken said, smiling.

His younger brother, Brook Bekken, a field technician with Brown, drove the red-and-yellow machine, while Lance Hamilton, a Stotz field technician, operated the green. Both let Medow and son Mark Medow operate the wind rowers as well.

The specifications of both are similar. Each cuts a 16-foot-wide swath and leaves a long pile of hay behind it. The John Deere's engine produced 215 horsepower and the New Holland's put out 220.

From the operator's standpoint, they had mostly indistinguishable amenities. They both gave a smooth ride, made smoother by cushioned seats. Strong air conditioning in both kept the compartments a comfortable temperature much lower than the 95 degrees outside.

Radios and floor-to-ceiling windows in each machine added to the pleasurable ride. Both wind rowers also were ready for GPS systems, which can take over some driving duties from the operator.

"I'd sit in here all day," Brook Bekken said of his machine.

The major difference was one rower had an auger to move the cut plants from the blades to the conditioning part of the machine, and one did not.

Bekken said his machine is the only one still made with such a device. The auger helps spread the cut alfalfa evenly for drying. "The auger helps to get a better, more consistent conditioning," he said. "(The) drying time is quicker, getting your water on sooner to maximize that next crop."

But Hamilton says it's better not to have an auger. His machine uses a draper system.

"Once the hay's cut, it's never touched by steel again until conditioning, keeping the leaves on the stem," he said.

Medow said he was impressed by both machines.

"They're very comparable machines horsepower-wise," Gordon Medow said. "They're cutting clean."

A "clean cut" means the wind rower cuts the plants evenly across its swath, leaving little stubble behind and yielding the most product possible.

"The big difference is the John Deere got to the field first, but the New Holland brought lunch," Medow joked.

His son Mark saw it similarly.

"They're both good machines," he said. "They're both going to put the hay down nice."

By the end of the afternoon, Gordon Medow still had not decided which machine he preferred, but he did have his hay cut.

Over several hours, including frequent stops to let different observers ride along, the two top-of-the-line wind rowers cut all 70 acres, leaving the alfalfa in long, tidy rows to dry.

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