From the Ground Up - New Cotton Picker

If you've taken a drive through the Brazos River bottom you've probably noticed that it's harvest time you may have noticed something a little different in the cotton fields.

Some cotton is being round baled like hay.

"My brother and I can pretty much do this with one other guy. We've got a tractor that stages the modules out into a central location and then our eighteen wheelers can haul it straight to the gin."

Mac Kutzenberger and his brother are custom cotton harvesters.
"Plus this machine never stops, so the capability of picking all day long without ever having to go to a module builder and dump."
But new equipment is expensive.
"This picker itself is a little over a half a million dollars."

The decision to buy the new harvester was based on labor costs.
"What you've got with this one machine and one tractor and handler is the equivalent to basically two traditional basket machines, two module builders, and what they call a boll buggy, which will run out to the field and get the cotton off the picker, and you've got a tractor on the boll buggy and two tractors and the module builders and plus all the labor that you're trying to pay and having to feed and for those guys that are out of town you have to pay for hotel rooms and all that."
And the new round baler out performs older pickers when fields are wet.

"That machine is heavy but it's very well balanced, whereas a basket machine is very light on the back end of the machine. Well this one's got a fully functional four wheel drive system, so we were picking in mud where basket machines were almost two to three days behind us actually getting into the fields."

Even though these machines are pricey, Kutzenberger believes they're here to stay.

"Last year there were just a few of them down in the Rio Grande valley and this year when we were down there there was just twice as many, and I know in the coastal bend region, there was a guy that told me that there was probably 505 picked in round modules compared to last year and he said that probably next year it'll be closer to 85%."
So no, that's not round bales of hay you see being made in a cotton field. It's new technology that helps a farmer do more with less. I'm Bob French, looking at Brazos Valley agriculture, From The Ground Up.

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