For the Chirpich family of Wells, MN, their farming roots run generations deep. After decades of farming and raising their children on the family farmstead, Don and Teresa Chirpich drive positive change as they integrate the next generation into their operation.
Three years ago, the harvesting season for the Chirpich's was a challenging one. Facing down corn with an under-performing combine head, their family initiated the next steps to upgrade corn heads.
Don and Teresa's son, Kyle, was humbled by the opportunity to return home and farm with his parents. The former Engineer with AGCO Equipment jumped on the chance to relocate his family onto the Chirpich family farm, precious soils that his family has dedicated their life's work since 1910. Working alongside Don and Teresa, Kyle is beginning to take over the reins as the fifth generation to carry on the Chirpich farm legacy.
Over twenty years ago, the Chirpich family began implementing organic crops into their operation. Their crop rotation may consist of corn, soybeans, sweet corn, peas, and oats in any given year.
Integrating the next generation was not the only change on the farm that Don was envisioning. The Chirpich's have always operated a stalk chopper post-harvest in the fall. Recognizing the added value that a chopping corn head could bring to their operation, Don aspired for years to purchase one.
Don and Kyle researched options that could meet their needs. The Automatic Self-Adjusting Deck Plate™ design innovations, along with the QuadSuspension™ feature, set the Drago corn head apart in their search. Good reviews of the GT model, featuring a Twin Chop+ option, helped the Chirpich's decipher the Drago corn head to be the best fit for their farm. "We contemplated purchasing a used corn head," says Don. "However, after hearing of the world of difference that the GT series made, we decided the investment in a new corn head would be worth it."
During cold and wet harvest seasons, the timeframe to complete fall fieldwork is narrow. Kyle admits that completion of fall tillage can be challenging due to limited resources. "The chopping head was a huge revelation to us on how much time we were wasting, making an extra trip through the field," states Kyle. "The chopping head has saved us a tractor, an operator, and an extra pass through the field," he adds.
Embarking on the first harvest with their new Drago GT corn head, Don's initial reaction to the overall performance left him impressed.
Don and Kyle noticed a significant drop in shelling loss the first time they used their Drago corn head to harvest 16% moisture corn. "With the Drago corn head, we had a hard time finding kernel loss in the field," states Don. "I am amazed at how effective the deck plates are and that they react so fast. It's been an unbelievable, noticeable difference."
The Automatic Self-Adjusting Deck Plates feature low-maintenance, spring-loaded deck plate pistons that continuously apply pressure to incoming stalks, automatically minimizing plate gap where yield loss can be significant.
The QuadSuspension design integrates four spring-loaded pistons beneath the deck plates within each row. These act as shock absorbers to reduce the impact of ears striking deck plates during harvest, limiting ear bounce and kernel loss from butt-shelling.
In the third season of use with their Drago GT corn head, Kyle continues to find it eye-opening to walk behind the combine and see how few corn kernels are left behind while harvesting dry and wet corn. "The deck plates aren't a gimmick," Kyle states. "When we are harvesting 18-25% moisture corn, nothing is popping up on the corn head, and nothing is gathering up in the snouts," he adds. "The deck plates are very impressive. It doesn't seem like they should make that big of a difference, but they do."
Kyle performs visual assessments of his equipment's performance and accredits bushels saved to his Drago corn head during harvest. "What we see on the Drago corn head and the ground is almost zero head loss, while we are running in 14-15% moisture corn," states Kyle. "With our previous brands of corn heads, we would expect to see a yellow row of kernels on the ground behind the combine. No matter how you set the deck plates, hydraulic or not, they did not keep it in there," he adds.
While researching corn heads, the Chirpich's found the Drago chopping option to be an attractive option for their needs. They were particularly interested in the blades turning in opposition for a quality cut. "We have noticed a huge difference in tillage. The chopping system breaks the stalks down nicer," states Kyle.
The Drago GT's Twin Chop+ option allows knife rollers to run slow for maximum yield retention and still have continuous chopping of the stalk as it travels back and down through the entire length of the knife roller.
Don is impressed with the chopping performance and clean cut that this option leaves behind. "Our Drago Twin Chop+ option leaves a nice even mat out there and is effective at not windrowing the stalk," adds Don.
Kyle knows the value of uptime after putting his corn head's durability to the test. Last fall, while harvesting too close to a fence row, Kyle accidentally ran a steel T-post into the corn head. Kyle expected the worst as he stepped out of the combine to assess the damage; however, he was relieved to find that only the chopping blades had broken. "Since the slip clutches kicked in, there was no damage to any of the stalk rolls or gearboxes. It just stopped the one row," contributes Kyle. "I was able to replace the chopping knives and be up and running in less than 15 minutes." Their Drago corn head's durability provides Kyle with peace of mind when he is combining.
Olimac, the global manufacturer of Drago corn heads, is the first to integrate Precise Clutch Technology™, a radial slip clutch design with four different operations, internally, within the row-unit. In the Drago GT, each clutch has precise settings for gathering chain drives, knife rollers, and a chopper gearbox – completely sealed from external elements, bathed in oil, and delivering significantly better protection.
Don and Kyle also have a greater appreciation for having the ease of taking off a few bolts to remove the gathering chains and sprockets as a unit, offering a clear deck for serviceability and post-harvest cleaning.
Reflecting on the biggest surprises after purchasing their Drago corn head, Kyle feels that the deck plates are a bigger deal than he expected them to be. He added that the chopping option is very nice.
Don offered tips to farmers considering upgrading corn heads. "Believe that the deck plates do what they are asked to do," states Don. "The QuadSuspension is amazing. I'm very impressed with what it is capable of doing."
Grateful to be a part of the farming community, Don and Teresa are instilled with pride to have their young grandchildren growing up on their family farm. With the Drago chopping corn head being a time-saver, it makes life more enjoyable by freeing them up to spend quality time with their grandchildren on the farm every day.
"We always like to consider our options when making a major purchase. When it comes time to replace our corn head, we will begin by looking at Drago," states Don. "As you consider upgrading corn heads, do your research and make Drago the standard to prove other brands against."
With no reason to look back, undoubtedly, the Chirpich's roots will continue to run deep for many generations to come. "We have a nice family operation," adds Don. "We work well together and are enjoying farm life at the same time."