Rodger describes the McHale Fusion as the “best thing since sliced bread.”

STRESS and agricultural contracting are inseparable at certain times of the year when machinery, weather and clients often leave some operators thinking how much easier a lawn mowing round would be. Morrinsville contractor Rodger Smith and his wife Margaret experienced more than their share of stress three seasons ago. Machinery breakdowns and uncooperative weather left them wanting to get out after almost 20 years in the business. The Smiths operate a hay and silage contracting business that covers a tight radius in the Morrinsville, Kereone district.

The 2000/01 season proved to be one of the most difficult for many Waikato contractors with a difficult spring and a wet, humid summer delaying silage and hay harvesting. The Smiths had four gangs operating including two round balers, a big square, a mower and pit silage loader-wagon.

“We still had one of our best years, but the stress levels were very high, we needed to look at other ways to run things,” says Rodger.

Opting for two baler-wrappers(which were not McHale) and just focussing on baled silage the following year looked like a good option to keep business simple, costs down and productivity up.
However on-going problems with the baler-wrapper machines meant down-time was high, along with Rodger’s stress levels. Operating the machines for another season on an extended warranty helped keep on-going problems at bay. However Rodger was looking for an alternative machine to replace what he had.

“I spoke to a couple of contractors about the new McHale Fusion baler that had only just been launched, and they spoke very highly of it,” says Rodger.

Those contractors included Matthew Truebridge, a Turangi based contractor who trialled the baler for the Ireland based company. Feedback from him and Rotorua contractor Paul Gee were enough to make Rodger’s mind up for him.

“They both said how well the Fusion had performed, and they are very genuine guys, I had no reason to doubt their word, so we decided to go for it.”

Now with five operating the Fusion the Smiths have never looked back. Both say the machine’s sheer reliability and productivity means they enjoy what they do again. Profitability has also improved with a machine that has had minimal downtime. The elimination of one baler-wrapper unit, a rake and the labour those machines required has also kept overheads down.

“This year we ran the business with just myself, one full timer and a subcontractor doing the mowing and we still managed 12,300 bales,” says Rodger. While the Fusion is capable of producing 60 bales an hour, Rodger places an emphasis on quality and is happy to work around 50 an hour. On his best day, covering 12 different farms in the district the Fusion managed 700 bales, and most days averaged 575.

“I tend to keep my groundspeed down to no faster than 9km an hour and also focus on getting a decent heaped row in front of me,” he says.

Rodger says grease is the cheapest form of maintenance and that is all he has had to carry out on the machine. He has been impressed with a build quality that is solid, with “decent steel” throughout and a robustness that sets the Fusion apart from some European machines he has operated.

With a footprint a full metre shorter than the previous baler-wrapper, getting in and out of farm gates has been quick and simple, important in an area where up to a dozen smaller jobs can be stacked up for a day’s work.

The Fusion was recently awarded the Gold Medal for farm machinery at the Royal Show in England and one of the criteria was after sales service. Rodger cannot speak highly enough of the team at Piako Motors who have demonstrated an excellent level of knowledge and helped him to quickly get up to speed on the machine’s computer console.

“Darrell Russell was even out in the paddock until 1.00am one morning, just making sure everything was going well, I had to tell him to go home!”

As the new season approaches Rodger and Margaret feel more relaxed than ever about the challenges their business brings, and both attribute it to a machine Rodger describes as the “best thing since sliced bread.” He has no plans to trade in for a new one, and his conversations with other contractors confirm his belief that the Fusion has a few more seasons left in it yet.