Compact discs are one of the newest tillage tools to reach North America in recent years. To introduce this new equipment, dealers must invest the time to show potential customers how it works.
While dealers can’t agree on what to call it — a short disc, high-speed disc, compact disc — they can absolutely agree on the best way to sell this unique tillage tool. Demonstrate it.
“You don’t necessarily have to go out and demonstrate horsepower in a tractor,” says Mark Madson, ag division manager for Butler Machinery in Fargo, N.D. “But if you want to prove to someone that a completely new type of tillage tool is going to do what you say it will, you will have to show them.”
While relatively new to North America, the compact disc has been used extensively in Europe for over a decade with good results.
The implement is designed to size crop residue and mix it with the top two or three inches of soil to hasten the decomposition process. It also effectively levels the soil and prepares it for seeding in one pass at a relatively high rate of speed.
The compact disc is designed to size crop residue and cover it with a layer of soil to facilitate faster decomposition. Photo courtesy of Horsch-Anderson.
For a growing number of farmers in North America, it has been an extremely efficient and effective tillage tool that is suitable for a wide range of soil types and field conditions.
The reference to “compact discs” comes from the shorter contour depth of the implement compared to most conventional discs. The tighter frame of the compact disc allows it to cover a wide range of field conditions and terrain, yet maintain the consistent depth needed for seedbed preparation.
One particularly unique aspect of its operation is that in order for these implements to provide the best results, they must be run at a relatively high rate of speed. Dealers report that optimal speed ranges from 8-12 miles per hour.
Tom Wiebe, salesperson with Genag, a shortline dealer in Winkler, Manitoba, which represents the Horsch-Anderson Joker product, explains the concept behind the compact disc.
“This machine is set up with two rows of discs and a set of packers on the back,” he says. “As opposed to conventional discs where the front and back discs can be up to six feet apart, the short disc has rows of discs about two feet apart. So as you’re traveling through the field, the first row of discs grabs the dirt and throws it into the second row of discs while it is still airborne. The dirt is essentially thrown left and right before it is returned to the field. This provides for far more shattering of sod, stubble or cornstalks. Then the packers follow by pushing the air out of the soil, facilitating faster organic decay.”
Since this is a very new concept for farmers throughout the U.S. and Canada, demonstrating how it works and letting farmers use the implement in their own fields is the key to selling this type of equipment.
“It is a new idea,” says Wiebe. “People didn’t grow up using this type of equipment, so seeing is believing.”
Another interesting point about compact discs is their versatility in varying soil types and field conditions. Because you can adjust the machine to match the conditions you’re working in.
As such, these machines are finding homes throughout North America. The following dealers share some tips and techniques that have worked for them when selling compact discs.
Butler Machinery is a Challenger dealer based in Fargo, N.D. It has 13 dealerships throughout both North and South Dakota, and serves a wide range of farmers.
“If it grows in the ground, we probably have customers growing it,” says Madson.
Butler started selling the Horsch-Anderson Joker compact disc about four years ago, and it was well liked right away. But Madson says they really started seeing increased sales of this product when the manufacturer made wider versions available.
“People didn’t grow up using this type
so seeing is believing ...”
— Tom Wiebe
“The 15 or 20 foot models are nice and work well behind a row-crop tractor with front duals on it,” he says. “But a lot of our owner-operators are running 400-plus horsepower tractors and they would just as soon go bigger if they can. We couldn’t get them big enough, fast enough.”
But when the 30-40 foot versions became available, sales really took off.
“Once we started getting the bigger models, we started getting a lot more attention on the product.”
Madson says that demonstrations and implement rentals were an important part of introducing compact discs in Butler’s sales territory. For customers in his area, the compact disc is really an alternative to vertical tillage, he says, so it took some time to educate and more importantly show the differences in these tillage tools.
Madson sees the high-speed disc as a hybrid between a vertical tillage and a traditional disc.
“Some other product types out there, like vertical tillage, seem to size up the product relatively well, but they don’t move a lot of dirt. The biggest thing we’ve heard from customers is what they really like with the compact disc is that it still sizes the crop residue but it also throws a little more black dirt on top of the residue.”
Madson says they have made a concerted effort, through demonstrations, to show that the compact disc is not a vertical tillage tool.
“Since the high-speed disc concept is something different, educating the customer that it is not vertical tillage is a very important part of the sales process,” he says. “And you really have to show it to them. You can explain the design and how it operates, but unless you show them how it performs side-by-side with what they are currently using, it’s hard to get the sale.”
Madson says that as the concept catches on and as corn becomes a more popular crop in the upper Midwest area, sales of this product are increasing. Butler has experienced year-over-year increases in sales since they started selling it over four years ago.
“It has found its place with our customers, especially going through corn ground,” he says. “In our sales territory, corn is becoming more popular farther north and west, so it has been nice to offer this product as a residue management tool to those farmers.”
Genag is a shortline dealer that focuses on selling imported agricultural equipment that adds efficiency to a farmer’s operation.
“We started out as an exporter of North American-made equipment to the CIS countries (Kazakhstan, Russia, Ukraine, Czech Republic), but found that a lot of European ag concepts had applicability in North America, so we began selling imported equipment as well,” says Wiebe, a salesperson for the dealership.
“Customers like that it sizes residue and also throws black dirt on top of it...”
— Mark Madson
Genag also represents the Horsch-Anderson compact disc, which they call a short disc in Canada. This is the third season they have sold the product.
“Our first year we sold three units, last year we sold 20 and we hope to sell more than that this year,” Wiebe says.
Like Butler Machinery, the key to Genag’s success is showing farmers how it works.
“We bought a smaller, lighter unit that we could haul around on a trailer,” he says. “And we went around and showed it to a few key operators in the area. We took it into some very extreme conditions and it worked where nothing else would work, so it didn’t take long for the concept to spread from one farmer to another.”
Part of the landscape of farmers in Manitoba are Hutterite colonies. “These communal farming societies are quite prominent and quite aggressive in this area, so we started to show it to those guys and one of them was the first to buy a unit,” Wiebe says.
And the benefits of the implement spread very quickly via word of mouth in Genag’s territory.
“Where we sell one of these, we are sure to sell three or four,” he says.
In addition to being very effective in different types of terrain, Wiebe says another really big selling point for the compact disc is efficiency.
Typically, a compact disc will cover about 60% of the crop residue with soil and leave about 40% of the residue on top, preventing it from blowing away and aid- ing in moisture retention. In addition to side discs that level the soil and ready it for planting, leveling tines and/or rollers further prepare the seedbed. Photo courtesy of Horsch-Anderson.
“In a single pass, this implement will do what conventional tillage will do in two or three passes. And because of the speed at which you can travel, you can get much more done in the same amount of time.”
This is particularly important in this region where farm consolidation has increased typical per operation acreage from 1,000 or 2,000 acres to 5,000 or 6,000 acres.
Finding farm labor is also increasingly difficult, says Wiebe. Farmers are looking for solutions that can help them get more done in less time and with less labor.
Another opportunity to increase sales of this product is to seek out farmers planting new crops for the first time, especially corn and soybeans. Wiebe says that enhancements in seed genetics coupled with climate shifts have made it possible to begin growing these crops in his region.
“We now have guys growing corn where it used to be impossible to grow corn,” he says. “But corn genetics has changed so it can be grown with fewer heat units. So we’re able to grow corn in areas that we were not able to before. And soybeans too.”
These new row-crop farmers are a perfect opportunity to sell the new compact disc concept.
Wiebe sees a lot of farmers adding this equipment to their operations, not replacing older equipment or even trading anything in. The key, again, is to show, not tell.
“Once we get this out and show them what it can do, many of the guys say to me ‘I have been looking for something like this, something that could incorporate more organic material into the soil,’ ” he says. “In most of these sales, we end up selling it outright for cash, with no trade-in.”
To be effective, dealers say this “high-speed” tillage tool needs to be operated between 8-12 mph. “It really doesn’t do a very good job” at speeds lower than this. Likewise, at speeds higher than 11 or 12 mph it doesn’t seem to make much difference either. Photo courtesy of Amazone.
O’Hara Machinery is a John Deere dealer located in Auburn, N.Y. The dealership has sold the Poettinger Terradisc compact disc product for the last four years.
Keith Becker, a salesperson for O’Hara Machinery, says farmers in the area use it primarily as a one-pass tool to incorporate corn stalks, soybean or wheat stubble.
“We have a lot of people who grow row crops who will go through the field in the spring once, maybe twice with this implement and then they plant. It is excellent for seedbed preparation,” he says. “We also have a lot of people who will spread dry fertilizer and then run the unit over it to incorporate and then come back in to plant.”
Like other dealers, O’Hara Machinery first introduced the Terradisc to farmers in their sales territory by demonstrating it.
• Dealers must be willing to invest in a demo unit. When you show how this implement works in the farmer’s own field, it essentially sells itself.
• Invest the resources to be able to send a rep to the field to help farmers with the initial setup for the demo. Because this is a new concept, it will take some time set it up properly. Be sure to use whatever resources are available from the manufacturer to help with this as well.
• Renting the unit after an initial free-trial period does help recoup some of the costs associated with wear parts on this tillage tool.
• Encourage customers to run five-acre test strips, side-by-side with their usual tillage methods. Then they can compare results at harvest time.
“We let the farmer run it for free on 10 acres of his own land,” says Becker. “But a very key part of the demo is to spend an hour or two with the farmer, helping him set up and adjust the machine. It’s a new concept, so you have to invest the time to help them set it up to avoid frustration. You can adjust the discs to make them aggressive or not so aggressive. You adjust packers on the back to set the depth of the machine you need to run it level. To ensure there are no ridges left between passes you need to adjust the outer left and outer right discs.”
And Becker adds, that after they’re sure the farmer understands how it works, the sales rep lets them have the unit on their own, without standing around and watching.
Becker says just about everyone who has demoed a unit in his sales territory has purchased one.
“The first year we carried the product, I had one customer who wanted to demo the unit on 10 acres. They ran the 10 acres and then decided to rent it for an additional couple hundred acres and thought they were done,” says Becker. “Then they went back to working the ground the way they normally would. Later that same day they called back and asked if they could rent the Terradisc for the remainder of the season. They did and we ordered them a new one for the next year.”
Word-of-mouth is also strong in the Finger Lakes region of New York. So often times there are several farmers in an area who have asked about it and when that happens, Becker will invite them to a demo taking place at a nearby farm. Typically, by the end of the demo a crowd of 10 or 15 will have gathered to watch.
“Inevitably, one or two of them will want a demo as well,” he says.
Becker says they also encourage customers to try out the unit on different types of soil on their land as well as to do some test strips.
“Another important sales technique for us,” he says, “is encouraging people to do five-acre test strips of land prep side-by-side with their traditional methods. That way they can go back in and compare the results at harvest time.”