Thursday, 29 February 2024 14:55

Living out of a suitcase

Written by  Mark Daniel
Tim Koep typically spends around 240 days each year away from home in Northern Germany. Tim Koep typically spends around 240 days each year away from home in Northern Germany.

The next time your partner moans about your work keeping you away from home, point them towards a German native, currently working in New Zealand, who is a well-known member of many airline and hotel loyalty schemes.

That’s because Tim Koep typically spends around 240 days each year away from home in Northern Germany, working for the Agri Expert company, who are contracted to Claas and its importers and dealers around the globe.

A machine optimisation specialist for Claas grain and Forage harvesters, alongside the company’s extensive range of tractors, Tim’s task is to help new or existing operators to set up and get the best out of their machines, some of which arrive with seven figure price tags.

Since 2019, Koep has chased the world’s harvests, but more recently arrived in New Zealand during the first week of January, with an expected departure at the end of March. During that period, he will see around 60 users, tackling the usual crops like wheat or barley, before starting into the likes of carrot seeds in the next few weeks.

Working with a widely varied group of users, in terms of experience and age, part of the task is to encourage them to be open minded, putting aside preconceived ideas about how their machine should be operated.

Tim says that initially some older operators are sceptical that a ‘young un’ will be able to teach them anything about harvesting, often taking the “I’ve been driving harvesters for over twenty years” attitude, but once they realise the likeable German knows his stuff, they tend to be a little more receptive.

“Sometimes operators are pre-programmed to drive at a certain speed they are comfortable with, failing to realise that today’s modern harvesters produce a better sample when the threshing drum is kept full, or more consistent chop length when a forage harvester has its feed rollers constantly open and the chopping drum full,” says Tim.

“Of course, this typically means that they will have to drive at a higher forward speed.”

In the case of combines, Tim advocates the “only make one adjustment at a time” principle, given that making multiple adjustments to the likes of drum speed, concave opening, top and bottom sieve settings and fan speed at the same time can lead to unbridled chaos.

“Adjust one setting at a time,” says Tim. “If it doesn’t make an improvement to the sample or machine, return to where you were and try something different.”

Indeed, many owner/ operators are fixated with losses, often saying “I want nil losses”, but experience says that managing losses against daily output requires a compromise.

Accepting losses of around 1% means an operator can push on and get the crop safely stored in the shed, maintaining quality and keeping ahead of inclement weather. Being pedantic about keeping losses to zero means forward speed is dramatically reduced, but in average crops means ‘grabbing’ an extra 50kg, that at today’s depressed prices has a very minimal value.

As the saying goes, “you’re never too old to learn!”

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