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John Deere's new CS690 is the right machine at the right time for Steven Beakley, Ellis County, Texas.
In 2013, Beakley used a prototype of the CS690 to harvest his cotton. Technicians were present to take measurements and make adjustments on the premarket machine, so he had plenty of stops and starts. Even so, the harvest happened fast.
"I covered 150 acres in one day by myself with one machine, and it was nearly 300 bales of cotton," says Beakley, based near Bardwell. "When I was through for the day, I turned off the machine, got in my pickup and went home. There wasn't any picking up loose cotton or anything else."
HARVEST HELPER. Fast-forward to September 2014, when yields were considerably higher than even last season's bountiful crop. This year, Beakley drove his new CS690 through cotton that averaged more than 950 pounds per acre across all his acres.
The machine rolled cotton into round modules and wrapped them on the move. Then, Beakley could carry a finished bale and deposit it at a convenient pickup spot on a field edge while continuing to harvest. Meanwhile, bales gathered on field edges were being loaded onto flatbed trailers and transported to the Avalon Co-Op gin.
Deere claims the new stripper/baler cuts labor costs as much as 78% over its traditional 7460 stripper,
and Beakley wouldn't argue the point.
"I had watched the [Deere 7760] picker-balers run, like pretty well everybody else in Texas, and have been on pins and needles about the stripper," says Beakley, who farms with his dad, Bob. "You think you know what it would be like, but until you operate one, it's hard to describe what they're capable of doing," Beakley adds.
For years, Beakley ran three strippers and two module builders, and never used a boll buggy.
He traded two of the older strippers on the CS690.
"One of these new machines with an eight-row [608SH] header will replace two six-row traditional strippers," he says. "There's still one of the old machines in the barn, and I may get rid of it, too. Trying to maintain about 2,500 acres of cotton annually, I think
I can get it all out with one machine. I may have to trim my acres a little so I can get by with one."
He also may eventually share a second machine with friends in other locations who harvest at different times. However, they aren't sure whether splitting the cost would be worth wearing out the strippers faster.
Dollars and Cents. In a straight dollar-for-dollar comparison, Beakley says the CS690 is more expensive than his traditional system for getting cotton to the gin. The CS690 carries a hefty list price of $637,521, and the eight-row 608SH header is listed at $82,715.
Then there's the continuing cost of bale wraps.
Even though he didn't pay full list price for the machines, their cost is an issue. However, the new system wins in opportunity cost.
"It's allowed me to get my other farm work done faster," he says. "Traditionally, we had to pull everybody off of everything and put them on the harvest crew. We ran two of the new machines (including one being tested by Deere) this year, and it took two men instead of five or six. So it gives you the ability to get your other fieldwork done—land prep or wheat planting, or oats for the cattle."
Beakley's other observations after a full season of owning his CS690: