Dan Crick wanted to cut hay faster, using two cutting platforms but leaving wide swaths for faster drying.

“We couldn't buy a machine that would do that,” he says.

So he bought an old combine, removed the header and other grain-handling components, and connected 16'3" mower-conditioners to the front and rear.

Cutting up to 32' of hay with each pass, Crick can windrow 80 acres in a half day — almost twice as much as when he had just one mower-conditioner. That frees up time for other work and results in more-uniform hay drying.

“It used to take most of the day to cut that much,” says Crick, of Menno, SD. “So from start to finish we were almost a whole day apart in drying time.

“We've cut fuel use quite a bit, too,” he adds. “We're burning between ¼ and ⅓ gallon per acre.”

With help from sons Nathan and Ben, Crick grows 450 acres of alfalfa hay, primarily for the dairy market. He bought a 20-year-old Massey Ferguson 850 combine and began dismantling it late last year. He removed everything except the cab, 150-hp engine, drive wheels and the mechanism that drove the threshing cylinder. That now drives both mower-conditioners.

Then he removed the hydro-swing tongue from his mower-conditioner and replaced it with a homemade tongue that pushes instead of pulls the machine. That unit is at the front of the combine, with the tongue anchored to the combine frame.

The rear mower-conditioner is new. For traveling between fields, it's pulled directly behind the combine. When starting a field, he swings it to the left and locks it in that position.

“It takes time at the ends if you slow down to swing the tongue,” says Crick. “This way, once you're swung into operating position, you don't swing again until you're done with the field.”

A piece of cable hanging from a hydraulically operated telescoping arm runs along the edge of the standing crop. It serves as a guide to help Crick keep the machine positioned correctly in the crop without looking back.

He has about $3,500 invested in the combine and modifications, not including a labor charge or the cost of the new mower-conditioner.

He recently rectified an engine overheating problem that existed when he bought the combine. Other than that, the cutting machine has performed well.

“If I were building another one, I'd build it very similar,” he says.

He averaged about 16 acres/hour in the first cutting and 19.5 in the second. With more experience, he hopes to cut 20 acres/hour.