America’s farmland has long been the stuff of song and myth; romanticism, storytelling and heroism have revolved around the pioneers that controlled and tilled the pastures that comprise the nation’s breadbasket.
No one, however, has paid homage to the people who manufactured the tools that enabled such pastoral pursuits. The Agricultural Division of the Alamo Group is comprised of a group of companies founded not in the frontier days, but at the first half of the 20th century when the nation’s farmers were seeking out better methods for planting and harvesting. And in today’s climate, in which farm consolidation has precipitated the need for larger, more durable equipment, the Agricultural Division has heeded the call with even more efficient machines.
“There has been a lot of consolidation in the agriculture market; the fewer number of farms means that the average producer is having to cover a lot more ground,” relates Alamo Agricultural Division Director of Sales and Marketing Tom Taylor. “Farmers depend upon us to supply rugged, efficient, heavy duty products that will let them be more productive. At Alamo Group, we offer the machinery solutions that our customers really need.”
Outside of the large-scale farmer, the Agricultural Division also offers smaller equipment for the weekend farmer’s plots, generally referred to as “ranchettes;” its third market niche is municipal/government, for which it produces a range of grounds maintenance, and right-of-way equipment. Alamo Group also offers a number of industrial products as well as aftermarket products and services.
The Agricultural Division’s technology and dealership base is enhanced by parent Alamo Group, a leader in the design, manufacture, distribution and service of high quality equipment for right-of-way maintenance and agriculture. Its products include tractor- and truck-mounted mowing and other vegetation maintenance equipment, street sweepers, agricultural implements, front-end loaders, backhoes and related aftermarket parts and services. The company, founded in 1969, has more than 1,600 employees and operates 13 plants in North America and Europe. With corporate offices in Seguin, Texas, Alamo Group, a $250 million concern, has focused on satisfying customer needs through geographic market expansion, product development and refinement, and selected acquisitions. The company’s development has been enhanced by approximately 25 acquisitions over its history. Alamo Group went public in 1993 and since 1995 has been listed on the New York Stock Exchange as ALG.
The following form the companies and product lines offered through the Agricultural Division:
- M&W Gear Company, Gibson City, Ill.: This company can trace its history to 1948 when Elmo Meiners, an Illinois farmer, had an idea to increase the performance of his Farmall tractors. He decided more gear options in the transmission would greatly increase the tractor’s versatility and reduce time spent working in the field. With the help of a friend, Arthur Warsaw, the two designed and installed the first M&W nine-speed transmission. More than 1,400 of the nine-speed kits were sold the first year. In 1950, M&W Gear Company was incorporated. Today M&W continues introducing new and innovative products that include the Earthmaster and Dyna-Drive tillage equipment, hay mowers, hay rakes, a complete line of round hay balers, and Prairie Clipper rotary cutters.
- Rhino, Holton, Kan, and Gibson City, Ill.: Incorporated on Dec. 18, 1930 as Servis Equipment Company, a wholly owned subsidiary corporation of Austin Bridge Company, Servis-Rhino was organized to maintain equipment for the Austin construction companies and gradually started designing and manufacturing construction equipment such as rollers, packers, and road graders. The first semi-mount, hand-adjustable road-grader blade was produced in 1934. On June 26, 1986 Alamo Group purchased substantially all of the assets of Rhino Products, Inc., including name and trademarks. That same year, Alamo Group also purchased BMB, Inc. in Holton, Kan., to provide much needed manufacturing capacity for the Rhino product line. Also in 1986, Alamo Group purchased Temple Manufacturing Company to provide a line of post-hole diggers to the Rhino product line. Today Rhino products are sold throughout the world and are well respected for their efficiency, dependability and performance. The product line includes rotary and flail mowers and cutters, rear blades, post hole diggers, pasture renovators, tillers, disc mowers, and box blades.
- SMC, Sioux Falls, S.D.: SMC is a manufacturer of loaders/backhoes and tractor loader attachments. SMC equipment includes a broad line of front-end loaders and backhoes that fit many tractors in the market. Taylor describes SMC as a “strong company, providing innovative high quality equipment to our customers. We’re now extending the market reach of our loader and backhoe business under the Rhino brand,” he says.
- Schulte Group, Canada: John Schulte began in the blacksmith business with his father in 1932. In 1938, he took over sole ownership and began a dealership for Oliver farm machinery. In the early years the majority of work involved repair of farm machinery. In 1942 the business started to manufacture brush cutting and clearing equipment. In 1948 Schulte developed and tested his first front-mounted snow blower. Snow-blower sales steadily increased and in 1963 the Schulte conveyor type rock picker was designed and patented. The company now manufactures and markets a full line of rotary cutters, rock removal equipment and snow removal equipment.
Through all of these companies and their product lines one over-arching concept forms the basis in equipment design: safety, efficiency and ruggedness. “This equipment has to provide superior service in a very demanding and unfriendly environment,” explains Executive Vice President and General Manager Doug Anderson. “Manufacturing these machines for efficiency, safety, and ease of operation is what our products are know for. We also want to stay on the market edge, with the innovation to evolve our products to the next level.”
Keeping this mission in the forefront, the company is set to introduce a number of new products. In the area of rotary cutters, the model SE15-4A Rhino FlexWing rotary cutter has undergone a performance upgrade, featuring higher horsepower gearboxes, and a strengthened mainframe. The FlexWing can handle everything from farm work to municipal ground maintenance. In other enhancements, the company has adapted a rotary cutter for use on skid-steer loaders. The models SM60 and SM72 are suitable for both industrial and agricultural use, and make skid steer loaders more versatile and productive.
This upgrade adds to Rhino’s more than 50 different basic rotary cutter models that offer hundreds of possible feature combinations to fit most applications. Cutting widths range from 42 inches up to 240 inches. Three-point lift, pull, or semi-mount hitch types models are available. Maximum cutting capacities range from one inch for the regular duty series, two inches for the medium-duty series and from three to six inches for the heavy-duty series.
In its tillage line, the M&W EarthMaster is seeing an upgrade in its 1700 and 2200 models for fall tillage. With its unique ripper tillage design, the updated models will have higher horsepower compatibility and offer higher productivity and durability.
The EarthMaster, relates Taylor, had revolutionized the tillage industry by incorporating two tillage operations into one pass. The front tandem discs cut and mix the crop residue into the top six to eight inches of soil. This mixing increases microbial activity, quickens decomposition, and helps protect against erosion. The massive rear shanks go deep into the soil to lift and shatter the soil’s hardpan and reduce compaction. The result is greater water and nutrient infiltration into the soil and a better environment for maximum root growth.
The company also offers the M&W Dyna-Master that combines the deep tillage shanks of the Earthmaster with the dual rotor system of the M&W Dyna-Drive, allowing the operator to subsoil and finish fields in a single pass. The shanks go deep to shatter compaction and create a deeper, healthier root zone. The dual rotors of the Dyna-Drive follow, mixing the crop residue into the top soil and leveling the surface leaving an ideal seedbed.
Expanding the frontier
“We have found that an important way to grow our business is to offer more products, with the increased efficiency and improvements that our customers want,” adds Taylor. For example, as tractor technology evolves, the company will keep pace through technologies for equipment such as loaders and backhoes. “As the compact tractor market grows with more weekend users, the design focus is to make those products more efficient, very operator friendly, and long lasting.”
Adds Taylor, “We are specialists in rugged durability – Rhino is seen as the “Work Horse” in rotary cutters. What we do is give customers the best solutions, not just a me-too.”
“The Alamo Group’s Agricultural Division dealer base is extremely important to us. With our strengths throughout the country, we want to be sure that we have the right dealerships in place to serve the dynamic agricultural market”, says Anderson, “Our mission is to be a lean world-class manufacturer that relentlessly delights and creates value for our customers.”