Big and orange coming to field near you

Kubota/Versatile?


LANGHAM, Sask. — Not only are we seeing more orange machines on the Prairies lately, but we’re also seeing bigger orange machines, as Kubota continues making a bigger footprint on prairie farms.

Kubota rented a large chunk of real estate at the recent Ag in Motion show near Saskatoon, which it needed to show off its stuff to the 26,000 farmers who attended the event.

The move from small-scale horticulture and yard equipment to big broad acre farm machinery is part of a very deliberate strategy, according to Kubota’s Don McClughan.

“Kubota is taking the stance that we want to become more involved in dryland farming, so we’re introducing new machines in the hay lineup and the large tractor category, where we now have tractors up to 170 horsepower,” said McClughan.

That will not continue to be its highest horsepower tractor, he added.

Rather than start from scratch developing its own line of haying equipment, Kubota bought a Norwegian company. Kvernaland has been designing and manufacturing high-end farm equipment for European farmers since the 1800s.

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After the purchase, Kvernaland engineers quickly turned their attentions to designing Kubota forage equipment appropriate for North American growers.

“Our new BV4580 baler is a five by six baler, and it’s brand new this summer,” McClughan said.

“It’s based on the same design as our other balers, but larger. Five by six is the popular size for big round balers in Western Canada, so we made sure we had a machine to fit that market.

“It’s a fixed chamber baler that does either net wrap or twine wrap. It seems to be priced right at $58,000 because we’ve sold quite a number of them already this summer.”

He said Kubota has a full line of utility vehicles that have always sold well to farmers. It recently introduced two skid steer models that are appropriately sized for farm use: one at 65 h.p. and the other at 75 h.p.

“Stay tuned because we’ll be making more moves in the tractor business and other areas as well where we can supply machines to fit a specific niche,” he said.

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“The global population is growing, and farmers will grow food to meet that need, and Kubota is part of that.”

It’s impossible to listen to Mc-Clughan’s comments without calling up the rumour that’s been floating around Western Canada about some sort of merger or partnership between Kubota and Versatile.

The logic is that if Kubota wants to become a major player in broad acre farming, it must have a line of appropriate, big-sized equipment. It makes more sense to buy into a broad acre implement manufacturer, as it did with Kvernaland, than to set up a new engineering team and start from scratch.

Conveniently, the top end of the Kubota equipment lineup fits almost perfectly with the bottom end of the Versatile lineup. A merger or purchase of some sort would create a new company that could offer producers on the northern Plains and the Prairies virtually any machine they might need.

The purchase of Great Plains equipment of Salina, Kansas, last spring means the company now has tillage and seeding tools that it doesn’t have tractors big enough to pull.

“We’ve heard those stories before, and of course we don’t know what’s going to happen in the future. Certainly that decision would be made at a much higher level,” said McClughan.

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“But you know, we’re always looking. We’re always exploring to find opportunities in dryland farming, so who knows.”