In for long haul across america's maize heartland
From the Arizona desert to oil fields and the home-from-home state of North Dakota, Wexford man Robert Deacon relives his experiences of a month-long stint hauling crops through the sun-drenched southern US states, where vast dairy operations jut out on landscape -- but pressure is now on to finish on a high
After we had moved our harvest gear from our job in Yuma, Arizona, back to the yard in Casa Grande, we had a few days to service gear and organise ourselves for moving further north. The nine combines were hauled in all directions, with jobs starting in southern Texas, Kansas and South Dakota.
As it turned out, I was going to get a chance to work on my still-typically Irish tan by hanging around in the good weather of Arizona for another while, as firm owner Tim Demaray had taken on a new contract for two trucks to go hauling corn silage (maize) for a local company, Arledge Hay. So, leaving the American grain harvest for a month, I had to now join a chopper crew, side filling and driving a bullnose Peterbilt truck.
Arledge Hay was set up 25 years ago and dealt originally with baling and selling hay all over America, later moving into chopping maize as well.
Being the American way, the opportunity for expansion now means that Arledge Hay is running two Krone Big X V12 and seven Claas 900 choppers -- self-propelled silage harvesters -- and also has two Claas 850 choppers that are contracted to local dairies for green-chop throughout the year.
Trucks are used to haul the maize from the field to the pit or maize bagger. Arledge Hay has six rigid trucks and seven semi-trucks on 36ft trailers, but with running such an amount of choppers, there are about 20 extra trucks hired in from New Mexico and Idaho, where the maize season starts later than Arizona. Arledge Hay does not actually run any push-up shovels themselves, a company from Idaho runs articulated Case and Steiger tractors and push-up blades to take control of the pit.
Early on our first morning of 'custom choppin', myself and the other elected driver, proud Corkman John Casey, had to collect our hired trailers for hauling maize. The 36ft trailers use a chain unloading floor run off the hydraulic tipping gear of our trucks.
Although slightly aged, the trailers seem pretty sturdy for the task of trying to stay in beside a chopper over the ridged-irrigated fields of Arizona.