Making better forage faster
Randy Clark, owner of RCI Engineering in Mayville, hosted the Dodge-Fond du Lac Forage Council Twilight meeting, providing the opportunity for guests to see some of the unique pieces of forage-related equipment he designs and manufactures for a specialized market.
RCI Engineering provides engineering and manufacturing services for the specialized agricultural equipment industry.
Clark grew up on a Mayville-area farm and began his career as an engineer with John Deere Co., traveling the world troubleshooting for the company and servicing self-propelled choppers. He then went out on his own after realizing the need for designing specialized equipment for unique farming operations and research plots.
He and his wife, Wendy, started the company in 2004 in a shed on his family's farm.
'My folks, David and Patty Clark, put up a pole shed for me to use,' Randy said. 'I leased it from them.'
RCI Engineering's first project was an attachment to install a combine head on a forage harvester.
'This was a new design and a very specialized project,' Randy admitted. 'It is used mostly in Alberta, Canada, and in our western states.'
This was followed by the RCI 170 A Windrow Merger. He has specialized in merger equipment and attachments since then.
'It was difficult for large equipment manufacturing companies to make specialized equipment,' Clark said. 'A lot of engineering goes into it, and the market is not that big. That's when we saw the opportunity to start this specialized company.'
After four years, his company had grown, and they relocated to a facility in Mayville. In 2014, they added a warehouse but found it was still not big enough for their growing needs. In 2015, they moved to their current locations in Mayville's industrial park.
The company has five engineers on staff, along with shop techs, assemblers, welders and others to design, build and test the specialized equipment.
He described the company's tremendous growth in product offering and size and said the company continues to grow.
'We are fortunate to be located here in Mayville because within a mile radius of our plant we have 15 lasers and 15 brake-presses available at other companies so we can send things out and get them back into our shop very quickly,' Clark said.
He commended his employees for bringing in their individual skills that is making it possible for the company to be more and more of a one-stop shop.
The specialized pieces of equipment made by RCI are sold through John Deere and installed by their dealers, but RCI Engineering offers other engineering services such as design services from 'cradle to grave' that includes development; manufacturing and product support; complete analysis of equipment issues and equipment fabrication; manufacturing; and assembly.
'Sometimes a manufacturer will seek assistance in the development of new products,' Clark said. 'They may not have the time for research, development and testing; that's where we can get involved.'
Those attending the meeting had the opportunity to see some of the unique pieces of equipment the company makes, including custom smaller forage harvesters that can quickly harvest and test forages on small plots.
'If we can lower the cost of doing a test plot, the researchers can do more plots in a year, do them faster and upload the data right on the spot,' he said.
Besides the forage harvesters with testing capability right on the machines, he showed what he calls the 'sky walker,' the company's newest machine set up for research companies to use in fully grown corn.
Farmers attending the meeting were invited to bring forage samples for free NIR analysis onsite. He explained that the research plot harvesters are equipped with NIR sensor to gather moisture, starch content, protein, other constituents, weight, sample weight and location settings on a tablet PC in the cab of the power unit.
Clark showed a hand-held forage tester the company developed for specialized uses.
'Equipment like this is useful for making quick adjustments on the farm because you don't need to wait for results,' Clark said. 'It's useful to check the feed nutrient content at the bunk because we know that may be different than what was mixed because of the speed and time of mixing that can change things.'
As for the future, Clark said they will continue to expand with research for the forage market, and they plan to expand into the larger merger market.
Deputy Brian Severson of the Dodge County Sheriff's Department was also on hand at the forage meeting to talk about lighting requirements for farm machinery on the road.
The lighting rules are part of the implement of husbandry laws that were established last year to accommodate the needs of larger equipment. As farms get bigger, there is also a need for more equipment to travel on rural roads.
He brought along samples of lights that can be easily attached to equipment and moved from one piece of equipment to another. These specialized lights available are magnetic and battery-operated. They can easily be attached to forage wagons and other pieces of equipment that are not connected to the tractor's electrical connections.
Deputy Severson said Dodge County farmers have been doing a good job in adequately marking their equipment on roads, and he said there have been very few issues of improperly lit equipment.
Questioned by some farmers about weight-limits on the roads, Deputy Severson said farmers need to talk with the chairpersons of their local townships to find out weight limits and obtain special permits if needed. The only limit beyond local road control is the weight limit for equipment traveling on bridges.
State Representative Keith Ripp and farm road safety specialist Rob Richards of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau were on hand at the meeting to answer specific questions about the implement of husbandry rules.