A swather is a piece of farm equipment that cuts hay or grain, and drops it into a row called a windrows or swath. The grain is cut so that it can dry out before being harvested. ‘Swather’ is mainly the North American term for these machines. In Australia and other parts of the world, they are called ‘windrowers’.
Cyrus McCormick’s reaper was the first swather invented in 1831. This piece of equipment, along with McCormick’s self-raking feature, allowed one man to cut 16 hectares (40 acres) in a day, which is what 5 men could do by hand at the time.
The first swather could cut 16 hectares (40 acres) in a day!
The McCormick design was then further developed by other agriculture companies. These new designs started to incorporate engines and open cabs which allowed the farmer to ride through the crop and steer while the machine cut the crop and swathed it down.
Open cabs were added to swathers where farmers could steer the machine from.
Modern swathers use a sickle bar to cut the stems of the crop. A reel helps the cut crop fall neatly onto a canvas or auger conveyor which moves it and deposits it into a windrow or swath, with all of the stems pointing in the same direction. Because of the swather, the combine is able to do its job of picking up and separating the crop from the chaff easier.
New swathers are equipped with technology that allows farmers to map out their crop, cut the stalks evenly, as well as turn on ‘autosteer’ so the swather will drive itself up and down the field.
Swathers cut down the crop and drop it in a row so the grain can dry out before it is harvested.
Aside from the addition of closed-cabs, engines, and computers, many of the original design elements remain on modern swathers today. You see the large headers with rakes to pull the crop in, as well as the machines’ ability to lay the crop down in a straight row after it’s been cut.
Swathers eventually replaced the binder and combines replaced the threshing machine.
Modern swathers have closed-cabs so the driver is protected from the noise and dust.
Combines are used to harvest most crops. In order to do this, special headers were designed for specific crops. Straight-cut headers are the large implements that attach to the front of the combine and will cut the crop and pull it into the combine.
The combine headers are attached to the front of the combine and they cut or pick up the crop and pull it into the combine.
Straight-cut headers (also known as draper headers) have belts that feed the crop to the centre, where it is pulled into the combine. These headers cut the crop and harvest it at the same time, which means that a farmer doesn’t need to use a swather to cut the crop first. This saves a lot of time for farmers!
In order for a crop to be straight-cut, it has to be sprayed with a desiccant. The dessicant will kill the crop (and any weeds) so it can dry out the crop more quickly and evenly.
Straight-cut headers cut the crop and harvest it at the same time!
Corn headers are built specifically for harvesting corn. They have cones that stick out and fit between the crop rows. There are gather chains between the cones that pull the stalks back and cut them with 2 knife rolls. The stalks then fall to the ground and the heads of corn are fed back into the auger.
Straight-headers cut the crop and harvest it at the same time!
Auger headers (also known as pick-up headers) are used to pick up swaths. The belts turn, picking up the swath, and then the auger takes it through the combine to be threshed.
There is a large auger that pulls the crop into the combine on pick-up headers.
The advancements of the combine harvester have made harvest much more efficient. This is important because some years the hot, dry weather that is perfect for harvest lasts only a few weeks in fall.
The interior of combines has also evolved, and the farmer has a great view of what is happening on the combine header.
This is the view that farmers have of the combine headers while they are combining.