November 2010 - Posts
A little bit of snow (here at least) and everything seems to grind to a halt. Headlands that were too wet too plough are now frozen solid resulting in the plough barely making a scratch, and the job carting the FYM from the yard to field has also had to be postponed until the snow/ice thaws out enough to enable the tractor to get a grip on even the shallowest of slopes. The only thing that hasn't been stopped so far is the muckspreading, but this will have to stop if we can't get it ploughed in, or we get more snow.
The snow has meant that more has been done around the yard however, with a couple more cattle sheds being mucked out and combine washed off. I'm not keen on the idea of washing a combine before winter when there is little chance of it totally drying out, but in this case it has been taken straight into the dealers heated workshop for its winter service - so I guess it will have time to dry.
Today I’ve been busy mucking out some of the cattle sheds, but instead of using the 7920 on my trailer I’ve had the 6420s. The trailer used is a 14t Marston grain trailer, which we used this harvest behind the other 6420s for the first time, again rather than the 7920. This change might cause a few people to say 'why!?' and there are a number of reasons for not changing from big to small. One argument could be that the 6420s isn’t a big enough tractor, however we have no major hills around here, and the only issue I’ve noticed could be if the combination were to be driven around corners too fast – the trailer tries to push the tractor around due to its light weight. However, neither of these were an issue during harvest when there is more pressure to get the trailer to and from the field quickly so I didn’t see an issue with using it on the trailer when hauling FYM. In terms of ride comfort, the 7920 maybe slightly smoother, but I personally prefer the 64’s cab, and being alot smaller and more manoeuvrable is a strong advantage when moving around the yard between cattle sheds etc.
The biggest advantage to the change from big to small, is with running costs and while I was busy today I wondered what the difference –roughly- would be. So I’ve had a go at working the fuel costs out (I’ll stick with just fuel costs as I think this would be where the biggest saving would be, at least, without going into alot of detail with figures/costs etc). I’ve used a ‘fuel calculator’ that was provided by one of my Lecturers for an assignment I had to complete in my 2nd year at Harper, so I’m not exactly sure how accurate it is (it doesn’t take into account number of cylinders, turbos etc) but I think it does give a rough guide to fuel use. Below is the fuel calculation for each tractor, the only difference being the engine power – 6420s is 120hp, 7920 is 200hp. I have put the work rate at 40% as most of the time the tractor wasn’t working very hard today as I was only hauling the trailer down farm tracks at a relatively slow speed.
It is interesting to see that the 6420s is nearly half the hourly fuel cost to that of the 7920 – which then makes the next calculation I did (using the same method, so it is only a very rough guide) whereby I increased the work rate to 90% to try and simulate the tractor when it is on the Drill.
There are a number of other factors to consider with this result however, to begin with, the 7920 is an autopower gearbox, so shuts engine rev’s down automatically on the headlands – reducing fuel consumption, whereas the 6420s is constantly running at 1900rpm on the drill to obtain enough oil flow to lift, operate markers and run the hydraulic fan. Also, the 7920 will have more power in reserve resulting in lower reductions in work rates on hills etc (the 6420s pulled the drill at roughly the same speed as the 7920 on the flat).
Altogether, even though they are only approximate calculations (even without any calculations its fairly obvious a 120hp tractor will use less diesel than a 200hp one), I think it is fair to say that switching from the 7920, to the 6420s, even though there are alot of other factors to consider before going mad about the saving; whenever there is the possibility – drilling and trailer work for us – is definitely a good idea!
First the weather forecast people say it might snow at the end of the week, and then to top things off my Land Rover keys ended up on the train back to Leicester with my girlfriend, so I'm vehicle-less. Hopefully by the end of the week there will have been some progress with my Ranger, and it'll be back on the road before it snows - the Land Rover has a tendancy to freeze on the inside of the windscreen even when the heater is on!
Lets hope they're wrong about the snow for a few weeks yet though, as the only thing snow garentees in the UK is complete transport disruption! The photo below was taken when it snowed back in January - the lorry wasn't even supposed to have been going through the village to get to our farm, but ended up stuck on a hill right in the middle of it..
It’s nice to be able to say that I'm slowly working my way through the ever growing pile of spray recommendations on my clipboard - I probably should say start, as apart from some glyphosate on stubbles, a contractor has been doing the spraying while I was cultivating/drilling. However now that it looks like everything that is currently undrilled will be a spring crop, I am able to take over and hopefully find a gap in the patchy weather we seem to be getting and get some spraying done! It hasn't been a completely fault free change over though, a number of obstacles have been encountered, the main one being the need to learn the specifics of the sprayer on the farm which, being mounted on the back of a JD 6420s, is very different to the Bateman I've gained most of my experience on. The second isn't quite so technical, at least that was the first impression - getting the chemical from the front tank, to the sprayer at the back! Even with the assistance of the normal bowser operator it seemed to take a while but eventually after turning valves in all directions we managed to work it out - the problem being an air lock in the pump and a bad electrical connection on the pump solenoid.
Finally I can say that we've finished the first part of the autumn spray programme for blackgrass control (today); albeit a little late with around 60ha having to be sprayed post emergence, rather than pre emergence. However, there is no time to stand about wishing we'd done something different, as tomorrow I'm hoping to start on some of the early drilled wheat’s with Atlantis provided it’s a drying day so that the target - blackgrass - has a dry leaf.
The alternative to starting to apply Atlantis to the wheat is to get the OSR sprayed to control blackgrass, give some phoma protection and control Cabbage Stem Flea Beetle Larvae - this would be the preferred 'next job' in terms of washing the sprayer out, however this also requires a dry, or drying leaf and the lack of anyone to operate the bowser tomorrow, along with a shoot on the farm and the need to control the blackgrass in the wheat being a higher priority means I'll have to put up with doing a more comprehensive washout! (It’ll be good practice if nothing else!)Maybe any celebrations should be put on hold for a while, at least until the current pile of recommendations have been completed - then at least a fair proportion of spraying this side of Christmas (yes, unfortunately I did say that) should be done!
By drifting off, I don't mean falling asleep - although that could be the main use of this blog? (I hope not). But Drifting off would be what any chemicals I applied today would have done if I'd gone spraying. Yesterday I managed to finish spraying maize stubbles with glyphosate to help control the weeds; mainly nettles and twitch along with a few other broadleaf weeds, before we spread muck and plough them. The plan was then to move quickly onto finishing what should have been the pre-emergence applications for the wheat, however as typical as ever, as soon as there is something urgent to do the weather jumps in and stops you!
It probably was a good thing that it was too windy in hindsight, as the conditions under foot were very sticky when I had a look late this afternoon so I would probably made a mess that would haunt me every time I sprayed the field this season!
Instead the morning was spent updating the nozzles on the sprayer to allow me to achieve 100litres/ha at a slower forward speed, while maintaining a fine droplet size - essential for targeting herbicides onto targets such as blackgrass. The afternoon on the other hand was more of a headache, but a useful one. It was spent sorting out the chemical storage shed, organising and stacking boxes in a more logical manner so that the bowser operator or myself can quickly and easily find what we need, and identify the correct chemicals in situations where a number of different brand names have been delivered for the same active ingredient.
Away from spraying, and onto Twitter (yes this is a cheap plug in an attempt to get some followers!) but if you are actually enjoying reading this blog - and not drifting to sleep! - then add me @redmanmatt as I attempt to keep it updated with whats going on, with words and random pictures and it'd be great to recieve some feedback from time to time about what I'm writing!
Last Friday saw me completing another 'first' in the form of clamping silage - although I had a relatively easy time on the clamp as I only had to deal a single (27t) load every hour! The reason for this re-clamping exercise was due to our own maize silage yield being well below the norm, and therefore we would have a shortage later next year. Luckily for us we managed to locate some about 30miles away; unfortunately it has come from a farm that was in the process of selling its milking cows.
One problem that was encountered on the other farm was the inability to get the lorries near the silage clamp, so silage had to be carted from their clamp via tractor and trailer to an area of farmyard where the lorries could be loaded - which did cause a few delays towards the end of the day - resulting in the last few loads being pushed up and rolled in the dark (not a problem, but maybe could have been avoided)
While on a stock related subject, sometime last week we also modified the new yard scrapper after complaints that it was too light - a simple modification with an RSJ - However even with the extra weight (and miss-spelt warning message) the old scrapper is still preferred even though I'm sure it would fall apart if it was washed! So another winter project has been added to the list.
A few pictures from last Friday when I was re-clamping some maize silage that was being brought in from another farm. I'm a bit short on time tonight, so I'll write about them tomorrow!
It seems there is always something to keep me busy just lately - I seem to be fixing, modifying or servicing something to do with the dairy on a daily basis at the moment, which is a good thing as I'd be short of things to do if not!
I did manage to get some tractor work done this afternoon, mowing round the outsides of the maize fields to tidy them up, but as far as spraying goes then nothing will be happening for a while yet!
Only a short post today and no pictures unfortunately as I'm off to the County NFU AGM tonight which should be interesting as Ian Pigott is the guest speaker, and I have some plans to run an Open Farm Sunday on the farm at home next year, and am quite interested in holding some form school visits in the future - after being involved in a few while on placement (when 20 odd school kids all leave the farm shouting how they want to be a farmer and that they've had an amazing time it is really quite satisfying and encouraging!)
Things are starting to look green like they should this time of year! Wheat that was drilled around the 10th October is now emerging well, and within a couple of days we should be able to see how well the GPS steering kit we had in the tractor on demo performed. There is also another prominent feature in one of the emerging wheat fields - a good reminder to check the stone trap regularly!
The OSR on the other hand is still very small, and there is a massive difference in appearance between what I drilled around the 9th of September and what Dad drilled at home a week before - using pretty much the same method. Both crops have received the same amount of Nitrogen, however at different timings after emergence; Dad's received nitrogen as soon as it started to emerge (the same day I finished drilling ours) where it was a month after drilling before ours received any extra nitrogen.
The ploughing of wheat stubbles ready for beans (winter or spring!) is moving along again after today - a fair bit of rain last Sunday has meant the last few days have been spent around the yard so we're now on top of servicing and maintenance.. And pressure washing! Hopefully another day should see the ploughing finished apart from some headlands that will have to wait for a sharp frost (their too wet and sticky at the moment); as I'm off to Harper this weekend for a good catch up and the Agric Block Fixture weekend.
It may be the case that we have to abandon trying to get the winter beans drilled now. With conditions being very wet and ploughing that has been completed consisting of some very evil looking slabs of clay in patches, and not much better elsewhere. The stubbles that haven’t yet been ploughed are also saturated and waterlogged - halting any chance of getting the ploughing finished anytime soon.
Therefore we may be forced into defeat (unless conditions changed drastically - I did drill winter beans at Christmas two years ago and the resulting crop still managed to yield relatively well), and have to opt for spring beans instead - at least it will allow us to take advantage of the winter frosts to help consolidate the ploughing into something that resembles a seed bed, and takes the pressure off in terms of having to try and get the remaining stubbles ploughed in less than ideal conditions.