What is in this article?:
- Nine thousand miles is a long haul to buy a cotton picker. Tack on another 9,000 miles to get home and you have the makings of an epic journey or a geographical accident. Throw in a couple of Australians kicking up Delta dirt in Mississippi, and the story takes on a surreal quality — a cotton odyssey.
- They don’t trust mineral companies, have no patience with the environmental ‘greens’, and believe the government is a broken machine.
- Over the last 20 years, their cotton bales-per-acre average has been in the 3.5-3.75 range.
Ian Hayllor, Dalby, Queensland, and son Jimmy, right, traveled a total of 18,000 miles to buy a cotton picker in Tunica, Miss., and transport it back to Australia.
Mississippi round baler
With the next planting season looming, Ian made his move for a new cotton picker. He could have waited until 2012 and purchased one in Australia, but the stress of the season had taken a toll.
“If it had been a perfect season, we probably wouldn’t be over here in the U.S. It would have been clockwork like always and we wouldn’t have worried,” admits Jimmy.
Instead, Ian seized the moment and purchased a picker directly from the U.S. An import agent located a used Deere round baler at Parker Tractor in Tunica, Miss., and Ian bought it while the Australian dollar was trading at an unreal rate against the U.S. dollar ($1.10 as compared with the normal rate of about 75 cents). Even with a $70,000 shipping charge, Ian was quite satisfied with his find.
Australian cotton is already moving toward round balers. “There are a lot of round balers going to Australia, and if we left it for another year, our second-hand equipment would get less and less valuable as we see more and more round balers. We’ve been able to sell our existing machines for quite a reasonable price, to help pay for the new one. We’re selling two 9976 pickers — four-row and six-row, and then buying the one round baler, which we hope will do the job,” says Ian.
Before buying the round baler, he’d been running three module builders and three boll buggies, with the requisite workers to run them. “We’re looking at cutting back on labor and making the farm more efficient. The boys are getting fed up with working 24 hours a day, for some reason. I’m trying to make life easier for everyone, and the baler picker is a one-man operation; so we go from having eight to 10 staff, back to two or three. That’s the attraction.”
Custom-harvesters were never an option for the Hayllors. “We’ve got 12 months of hard work in that crop, and we’re not going to risk it on a contractor that may not turn up,” says Ian.
“There are custom-harvesters, but we want to pick our own. Why let someone else have all the fun?” adds Jimmy.
Like an apostle of self-sufficiency, Ian clearly wants his machine in his shed, on his land, ready to pick his cotton. Back in the 1980s, he ran a major custom-harvesting operation, but wisely sold out just before harvesting outfits popped up everywhere. “We sold all our pickers to buy land. Land is a better asset than machinery — and we slowly built up our business.”