Klassen successfully answers earlage challenge
By Renae B. Vander Schaaf
Date Modified: 09/20/2012 9:40 AM
MOUNTAIN LAKE, Minn. — In the early 1990s Orvil Klassen was looking for a different way to feed cattle in his 1,000 head feedlot.
He began using earlage, which is ensiled ear corn, husks and cob harvested when the corn reaches black layer.
"Earlage is the best kept secret in cattle feedstuffs," said Klassen. "It can be cut early and stored in bunkers and it tests close to the same value as cracked corn. Here the earlage is supplemented with gluten, distillers grain, alfalfa hay, and high-moisture corn.''
Finding the right chopper proved to be a difficult task. Klassen eventually purchase one, but he wasn't satisfied with it, so he set out to make improvements.
The major modification was to the cutter head drum, which Klassen explained is the heart of the chopper. He added more knives, taking the industry standard from 40 to 56 cutting knives. That change alone made it possible to cut without a screen.
Another change was to the shaft in the cutter head drum. Instead of being permanent, Klassen made the shaft replaceable, and, thereby, lowered maintenance and upkeep costs as individual parts can be replaced as needed.
When farmers and cattle feeders saw how Klassen and his sons Andy and Jordan were cutting earlage, they began asking how they could find a suitable chopper and have it set up for earlage. Many implement dealers don't have used forage equipment on the lots, and privately owned machines can be difficult to locate.
To fill a niche, Klassen began purchasing forage equipment and rebuilt/retrofitted the choppers with his own drums. As his reputation grew in the forage business, implement dealers contacted him as an outlet for their used machines and as a means to locate forage harvesters for their own clients.
The business was based on his father's farm until a fire destroyed the two buildings he worked from. He started over on his farm a couple miles away, but is now in the process of moving into a new facility at the first location.
OK Enterprises has eight full-time employees who appreciate working on machinery and making improvements to the best that is already out there. They understand that paying attention to little details can make a big difference. Most of the employees have an agricultural background that gives them an edge working on farm equipment.
Because Klassen is a farmer and uses the equipment first-hand, he has an understanding and knowledge of what other farmers are looking for and will work to fit their specific needs.
"One cutter does not work for everyone," said Klassen. "A dairy farmer wants his earlage to be one inch length of cut, and the cattleman wants his earlage three-eighths inch. Other variables also come into play — such as kernel processors and whether the customer is pulling wagons or blowing into trucks. They all have a say in how an individual cutter is set up.
Klassen receives calls from all over the United States. He asks each customer a series of questions to determine what machine and setup will fit their needs and budget.