NEWS RELEASE   September 07, 2023

New harvester delivers on reduced working hours, faster haul-out

Crestmead, Queensland (7 September, 2023) — WITH half the 2023 crushing season now complete, Proserpine cane farmer Sam Orr has found the two-row John Deere CH960 Harvester has transformed the demands placed on the team at LOS Harvesting.

The business is a partnership run by three neighbouring farmers – the Orr, Large and Auld families — that cuts the group's 1,300ha of cane and contract harvests another 20 per cent of that tonnage.

For the past five years, LOS' roster of seven staff, including seasonal haul-out operators and permanents, have worked seven days a week from the end of June to mid-December to harvest and deliver cane to Wilmar Sugar's Proserpine Mill.

"That can wear you down over the six months of crushing, but now with the CH960 we do eight days harvesting and we shut everything down for two. We all have the same days off and we haven't had to employ any more staff," Sam, who is a fourth-generation cane farmer, said.

"Having days off during the season is a really positive thing and also allows us to keep up with other farm work such as fertilising and planting."

The revolutionary CH9 Series cane harvesters operate at slightly slower speeds than single-row units but cut two rows of cane simultaneously, meaning cane bins are loaded in near half the time and the overall cycle of the haul-out fleet is dramatically reduced.

Sam saw the first Australian CH960 in operation last October at the Condon family's Tully farm in north Queensland and was impressed to see how fast the trailers were filling.

"We were attracted to the CH960 because our harvest estimate was around 130,000 tonnes, which was right on the limit of throughput for our single row CH570 harvester," he said.

Backed by Green

After completing his apprenticeship as an electrician at Proserpine Mill 14 years ago, Sam took on the job of running the LOS Harvesting team and estimates they've cut more than one million tonnes of cane.

The families operate a fleet of six John Deere 6 Series and 7 Series Tractors, two of which are used to fertilise and plant crop. They started with a John Deere 3520 harvester in 2012 and advanced to a CH570 five years later, before this year investing in a CH960 from RDO Equipment in Mackay.

The machine has achieved one-and-a-half times the haul of the previous harvester, with its overall efficiency saving a significant amount of time and money.

"Instead of 1000t/day we're harvesting 1300t/day or 140-150t/hr and our haul-outs are a lot faster. The average time to fill a trailer used to be six minutes but now it's down to three or four minutes," Sam said.

"While the fuel efficiency of the CH960 is very similar to our previous CH570 with maybe a small gain, it's really significant in the haul-outs — we estimate we're using 0.2L per tonne less fuel than last year, which adds up over the season."

All of the group's farms are on controlled traffic at 1.8m rows. The CH960 was designed with controlled traffic integration and features a wider base that aligns the tracks directly in the centre of the rows, with the aim of reducing soil compaction as the machine only travels on every second interrow.

Sam said the CH960 was surprisingly manoeuvrable for its size, and because it travels at slower speeds, crop damage is reduced.

"Its footprint is so wide that it makes it very stable compared to the single row harvester, and it's a lot easier to learn to drive for someone who hasn't spent much time in one," he said.

"If you calculate that you turn the machine around 100 times a day which takes about a minute-plus, straight away you've halved that to 50 turns, so you've gained an hour in time.

"And because we're cutting at nearly half the speed we used to, down from 8km/hr to around 4 or 5km/hr, there's less harvest damage which makes it a lot better for plant health."

While the harvesting team was forced to down tools for two-and-a-half weeks due to rain in July, Sam said the wet weather was beneficial for the crop and Proserpine Mill is anticipating a healthy 1.8 million tonne throughput this season.

He estimates he'll harvest 8,000 tonnes off his own farm, while the CH960 continues to attract plenty of attention in the district.

"I'd like to see a few more of them, it's a step in the right direction," he said.

"And I might have to start charging for rides — I reckon I've done several hundred!"

About John Deere:

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