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CLAYTON RYE

By Staff | Apr 15, 2011

All of us have heard many times that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Generally speaking, that is true.

My son may be about to prove that this may not be true all the time.

We have an old dog in a 30-plus-year-old Steiger tractor that is has been fitted with the new trick of satellite reception.

If everything goes as planned, this old dog will be out running with the younger dogs in a matter of weeks as tillage work starts off another planting season.

Some things will not have changed. The Steiger will be pulling a field cultivator across the field as it has done for years.

Only this time it will also be applying fertilizer with the rate set by a monitor to adjust to the tractor’s speed for better accuracy.

My son has a fondness for large V8 diesels such as the Cummins 903 in this Steiger, or the Detroit Diesel 8V92T.

Both of these are old enough that by today’s standards they are relics. They were built to provide lots of horsepower while burning cheap diesel fuel.

The days of cheap diesel fuel are gone and more efficient diesels are being built.

However, we are not that large of an operation and with maybe 200 hours of running time each year, I believe the economics are still there when you look at the price of new tractors and even late-model used ones.

Besides, there is something about seeing a large tractor from the 1970s going across a field doing its job that brings a smile to my face. There always seems to be at least one more year of life left in that tractor, hopefully more.

There will be a day when it will no longer be possible to keep the tractor going as repairs will be too expensive when the engine or transmission fails.

Both the engine and transmission have been rebuilt so we will make the most of the tractor as long as we can.

As a finishing touch my son was told there is an auto-steer unit about to be traded in where we bought our yield monitor and that auto-steer could be fitted on to the tractor. Then the satellite guidance will be complete.

Some time this spring, my son and I will ask ourselves what would my dad and uncle, the two family farmers who have been gone over 10 years, say about this.

My dad bought the Steiger used in the 1980s. It had been checked out by the Steiger factory. He traded in a John Deere 5020 for this four-wheel drive Steiger powered by a Cummins 903 V8.

No one, whether it was a Steiger engineer or my dad, thought this tractor would still be in use over 30 years later. We will see how far we can go one season at a time.

What next? We could use some additional grain storage because our yields keep increasing.

That is a good problem to have.

We also have some silos and Harvestores that have sat unused since the last of the cattle were sold in the early 1990s. We were kicking around the idea of using them as grain storage.

They are not large by today’s standards for bin sizes but when taken as a group, there is the possibility of another 60,000 or more bushels of storage available that is already there and usable once the modifications are made.

More old dogs that could be taught new tricks.

Rye is a Farm News staff writer and farmer from Hanlontown. Reach him by e-mail at crye@wctatel.net.

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