The use of high-performance agricultural machinery has significantly increased the productivity and efficiency of one broadacre enterprise to the point where a core team of three people can comfortably plant and harvest 4000 hectares of winter crops.
Arlie and Robyn Carter crop about 4000ha of wheat and canola at several locations around Drover's Run in the East Munglinup district, 100 kilometres north-west of Esperance, in Western Australia.
Soil type ranges from heavy clay to gravel over clay.
The properties are located in a 450mm rainfall region, with 300mm falling during the growing season.
Over the past three years, Arlie has purchased a fleet of new machinery, including two Claas Lexion 8700 harvesters and two Claas Xerion 5000 advanced technology tractors.
He was first exposed to the famous German marque in 2018 when a long-time friend and colleague, Keith Parker, was contract harvesting on Drover's Run.
"Keith was driving an old Lexion 600 fitted with a 12.3 metre variable cutterbar and he was running laps around my existing single rotor harvester," Arlie says.
"There was no comparison in terms of its capacity.
"It was so much more efficient and faster.
"The front was just gobbling it up.
"Here was an eight-year-old dual rotor machine completely outperforming my brand-new single rotor."
Arlie purchased his first Claas Lexion 8700 Terra Trac and Vario 1230 variable cutterbar in 2019.
"We harvested our entire crop in 43 days with just one machine, which I thought was pretty good going," he says.
"We found we could start earlier in the moving and continue working later in the evening, even in high moisture conditions.
"They just go and go.
"We were averaging 40t/hr every hour for weeks on end.
"Our seed loss is close to zero in canola and maybe half a per cent in wheat."
More than satisfied, Arlie purchased a second Lexion last year.
The new 8000 series has 10pc more capacity than the previous 700 series thanks to its enlarged APS Synflow Hybrid threshing and separation system.
Grain holding and unloading capacity have also been significantly increased to a maximum of 18 tonnes and 180L/second, respectively.
Keith Parker is particularly impressed by the new Cemos Auto optimisation system, which automatically monitors and adjusts machine settings for maximum throughput, grain quality and fuel efficiency.
"Cemos Auto allows us to run these harvesters at 100 per cent capacity," he says.
"We want to harvest as fast we can, as well as we can and as long as we can.
"We don't worry too much about moisture levels - the grain dryer takes care of that."
Based on his satisfaction with the performance of his two harvesters, Arlie was happy to consider a demonstration with a Claas Xerion 5000 advanced technology tractor.
Boasting four equal-sized wheels, permanent four-wheel drive, all-wheel steering and a continuously variable transmission, the 395 kilowatt (530 horsepower) tractor is more than capable of towing a 24m air seeder at just 1100rpm, even fitted with single wheels.
Arlie decided to put the demonstration tractor to work operating a JN&R HDE4200 drawn scraper and was impressed by its ability to tackle wet conditions without stalling or bogging.
Despite its technological benefits, Keith, an ex-farmer and agricultural engineer, had to be coaxed into the cabin.
""I've been driving tractors for more than 60 years and I was fairly dubious when Arlie started talking about the Xerion," he says.
"It turns out I was completely wrong.
"This is by far the most powerful, smoothest and quietest tractor I've ever driven.
"Often we're only using maybe 75pc of the available horsepower, which means there's plenty of extra power available if you run into heavy conditions.
"The transmission just slides through the gears from zero to 50 and back again.
"If you have a job that doesn't require as much horsepower, it runs at less rpm and that equates to big fuel savings.
"If the load increases, the transmission simply slides back a couple of gears and keeps going whereas the old powershift used to shudder or stall.
"I said to Arlie, 'This is magnificent, it's like going from a family car to a race car.'
Arlie went ahead with the purchase and the Xerion was quickly put to work towing a 24m Morris seeder fitted with two 7500L seed bins and a 7000L liquid tank.
Later in the season, it was used to tow a 10-tonne Amazone ZG-TS trailed spreader and a 45t Dunstan chaser bin.
Over summer, it was used to tow Imants deep spader and Rocksgone Reefinator H4C rock crusher.
Xerion 5000 features a 12.8L six-cylinder Mercedes-Benz engine that produces a maximum torque of 2600Nm at just 1300rpm.
This is teamed up with a ZF continuously variable transmission and selectable longitudinal and transverse differentials for optimal power transfer to the axles or PTO, even at low speeds or under heavy operating conditions.
Arlie says it's a powerful combination that adds up to increased efficiency.
"We are finding that we are running faster and using less fuel no matter what we're doing," he says.
"The Xerion is consistently doing the same job at 1400rpm compared to 1800 to 2000rpm with one of our old tractors.
"The benefit in terms of fuel consumption is amazing.
"Overall, I'd say the Xerion is about 20pc more efficient, which means it costs far less to operate.
"In some jobs, we're talking about 30L/hr."
"The big appeal to me is its multi-use - I've got one tractor that really can do the lot."
Arlie traded in his articulated 391kw 4WD seeding tractor for a second Xerion this year, even though the former had less than 600 hours on the clock.
The new Xerion 5000 Stage 5 series has a slightly longer wheelbase, a new frame design with a load capacity of 15t per axle, the choice of single or dual tyres up to 2.2m diameter and 3m wheel spacings.
Both machines are equipped with 710/70 R42 dual tyres all round and a modular ballast system that allows up to 3.4t of ballast to be added to either axle in 400kg increments.
"It's easy to adjust the weights for different jobs," Arlie says.
"We might put 2400kg on the front and 3400kg on the rear during seeding or ripping, but take them off during harvest."
The six rear hydraulic circuits deliver a maximum flow rate of 195L/min, while the optional auxiliary power system delivers a flow rate of 250L/min to power the fans on the airseeder.
"I've had experience with all the different colours and this one's by far the best tractor I've owned.
"It's so much more efficient and quieter.
"Plus we all like the fact the Lexion and Xerion have exactly the same cabs and technology."
This includes the Cebis operating system, which features an integrated armrest, multi-function control lever and new 12-inch touchscreen, Telematics remote monitoring and GPS Pilot automatic steering system.
Keith is living proof that age is no barrier to adopting technology.
"I'll admit I was intimidated by the cabin at first because there are so many buttons and knobs, but once you have driven it and get know what it can do, it's so easy to operate," he says.
"I love the functionality of the Cebis system and particularly, the cruise control is just amazing."
While Arlie officially resides in the coastal town of Esperance and Keith in the Perth suburb of Rockingham, both men live and work on Drover's Run throughout the busy sowing and harvest seasons.
Farm manager, Sam Hazlett, supervises the spraying program.
"We do this because we can - and because we love it," Arlie says.
"With machinery like this, it's a pleasure to come out here to work.
"I must say that Damian O'Neill, Brandon Lee and the team from Claas Harvest Centre have been extremely helpful.
"I genuinely believe that they are committed to helping us to get the most out of these machines."