“When all is said and done, the reduction in labor and other equipment for conventional pickers and modules means a lower cost in harvesting for us with the new pickers. We feel like we are better off with the new OBMB picker at 2,000 acres, but when you get up around 3,000 acres, you begin to see the real savings with these new pickers,” Lee explains.

“I agree with Mr. Lee. If you can get 3,000 acres of cotton through one machine, then the new Deere is the way to go. Actually, with the price of cotton harvest so high, I am considering going narrow-row to lower harvest cost. I like the narrow-row from a weed control and management standpoint,” Clayton says.

The North Carolina grower says he can pick about seven acres an hour with the OMBM and has run it as much as 20 hours a day. On a typical harvest day, he picks 60-70 acres.

“The cost of a used conventional picker is the only reasonable non-OMBM system to compare, because there simply is little economic sense in buying a new conventional picker at a price near $500,000,” he says.

The average cost of a used 185 hp conventional picker is $200,000, with a six year lifetime and a salvage value of $80,000. Clayton estimates the cost of picking 1,500 acres with this machine at $61 per acre. If you up the cost of a used picker to $280,000, you still only raise the average cost of picking per acre to $72.

The major difference between the Case and the John Deere OBMB pickers is the plastic requirement for the Deere system and the lack of on-the-go unloading for the Case system.

On 2,000 acres of cotton, the plastic cost is going to be around $40,000. Some of the cost for plastic can be reclaimed by selling the used product to recyclers — but not much of the cost. On the same 2,000 acres, some of the extra cost of stopping to unload offsets the need to move bales dumped in some places in the field during on-the-go module building and unloading.

“There is no doubt the OBMB pickers are here to stay. That doesn’t mean every cotton grower needs an OBMB —t here is good used equipment available at reasonable prices. Whether to buy an OBMB system should depend on number of acres to be harvested and available labor,” Clayton concludes.

rroberson@farmpress.com