December 2010 - Posts
The result of last Wednesday's Young Farmers meeting... lots of wooden reindeer - it’s something different for Christmas at least!
As well as the reindeer, I have been saying I'll write something about the Manitou evening at the local JD dealers; J.E. Buckle, and the CESAR security and registration scheme for farm machinery, or anything you like really...
Firstly the Manitou evening was primarily for the Hertfordshire Machinery Club, but Buckles customers had also been invited along. It was a simple but well laid out evening with a presentation about Manitou as company, and then a quick overview of the telehandler products - including a breakdown of what the hundreds of different numbers on each machine mean!
There was also a little bit about the CESAR security scheme put on by Buckles to raise awareness of the scheme and explain how the scheme and the actual data tagging works. Basically, CESAR is the name of the scheme, which is promoted by the Agricultural Engineers Association, and also the Construction Equipment Association with the idea that it will help to recover, and return stolen equipment - Its also backed by the Police and a number of Insurance companies. A rather scary line at the bottom of the sales literature reads 'Unbelievably - £1 million of UK equipment is stolen every week and only 5% ever recovered' which is a hell of alot! The scheme uses Datatag ID technology to create identification points around the equipment that are unique to each individual piece of equipment and are detectable visually, and also through using hand held scanners to find hidden identification tags. Should the visual identification marks be removed, as well as the hidden tags then there should still be traces of DNA that is painted onto the machine that again is unique. The Datatag system is not a physical barrier to theft, but should act as a deterrent due to the increased traceability of equipment fitted with it, as well as generating an insurance discount!
It doesn't have to be a tractor, digger or loader either - I asked what could be done to help increase the security of things like GPS screens, steering motors or ISOBUS screens etc and was told that the same Idea could be used to tag them, e.g. the 'DNA paint'. For more information about the scheme take a look at the website, it's got alot more information and probably explains it better than I do! It's http://www.cesarscheme.org On a different note, after phoning up to cancel the lorry I was expecting today because we couldn't load it late this afternoon, I was told that it had already been cancelled and that someone must have forgotten to phone and tell me. I then received a phone call from a lorry driver a couple of hour’s later saying he'd be at the farm within an hour! And he was... So thankfully the final load for the contract has gone, the bin is ready to be cleaned out and I no longer have to try and organise everything around the possibility of a lorry turning up... until March when the rest is due to go!
The cold weather is starting to cause a few problems around the yard, mainly with frozen water pipes and snow covered cattle grids. However, it's also causing a number of problems in the milking parlour, with milk lines between it and the dairy freezing first thing this morning, and frozen water pipes - resulting in it taking the herdsman 1 &1/2 hours to milk 20 cows! The answer (hopefully) has been to invest in a space heater to keep the temperture within the parlour above freezing between milking, and to install some more pipe insulation. The latter job sounds simple enough, but with the freezing tempertures this morning, coupled with numerous brackets and tightly fixed together pipework it wasn't, the same goes for thawing out the lines and water troughs.. I'm sure the 15minutes spent thawing the ball valve and water pipe out would need to be repeated within an hour!
It's not only been the dairy side of farm that has been affected by the 'big freeze' and snow however. I have been expecting a grain lorry to collect the last load of Einstein from a contract since last Friday when it was held up on its previous load.. No-one got in contact with me however until they were chased when it still hadn't turned up at half 4. It was then due to be collected today, but traffic within Milton Keynes ment the lorry due to collect it only moved half a mile in 1 & 1/2 hours, so collection was cancelled again.. Its now due tomorrow but I won't hold my breath..
Finding jobs for both John and me that can be done at the moment is also proving difficult, with the workshop seemingly colder than outside and the snow stopping any chance of muckspreading, muck carting or ploughing. Today was taken up insulating pipes, sorting out the new heater and setting up gas guns and bangers to keep the pigeons of of the OSR. The rest of the week looks like it shouldn't be to hard to keep busy though as we still have one shed to muck out, and the continuing job of keeping everything thawed out!
A bit overkill as I've said before, but the 6420 didn't want to start, and I think it would be better on the trailer carting out of the yard in icy conditions as there is a slight ramp off of the muck clamp. After thawing it out, dropping the plough off and thawing the trailer pipes this morning to get it hooked up we decided not to cart muck in the snow! (although no road travelling would be needed)
While out about about round the farm today keeping the pigeons moving, hopefully if the rockets, bangers or gas guns don't keep them away then the eyes on the old pheasant feed bag will! failing that it is helping to warm the engine up quicker..
I seem to have avoided talking out the CESAR scheme and the Manitou evening at our local JD Dealers the other night again, but seeing as tomorrow will be spent thawing things out, hopefully loading the lorry and unfortunately for me, the dentist then I'll get something written about them tomorrow night.. unless last Friday's Farmers Weekly turns up in the post tomorrow and is more of a distraction.. the electronic version isn't quite so handy!
Luckily for me I haven't been abducted by aliens, although I'm told someone did tell our herdsman that one morning when they were an hour late one morning for feeding - probably the best excuse seeing as they lived on the farm! Away from talking about aliens - hopefully it was a random enough title to grab your attention and get you to read this! It’s been at least a week since I last managed to get on here and write something, and unfortunately tonight isn't much more than a few excuses and a mention of what I plan to write something about either tomorrow or over the weekend!
The excuses being that I spent the weekend in Suffolk for Halesworth YFC's Christmas Dinner, while last night my local YFC were 'reindeer' making in the shed over the farm - I'll explain abit about what this involved in my next post. Tonight I've been at our John Deere dealers for a talk about Manitou telehandlers (the evening was organised by the North Hertfordshire Machinery Club for their members, although the dealer’s customers were also invited). As well as the Manitou talk, Buckles (our JD dealer) were also explaining the CESAR datatag security system and tractor immobilisers - again I'll write a bit about it in the next post.
So hopefully I'll get back on here tomorrow and write something rather more interesting. If it’s not interesting it'll be more about the winter ploughing, weather, fertiliser that has now turned up and anything I have to moan about (judging by tonights attempts it could be the ability to format text on this blog.. this is attempt 4!)
...or Lapwings? Whatever you call them, I seem to have plenty about the farm at the moment. It makes a nice change to see at least 50 of them following the plough rather than twice as many seagulls.
They also seem to be braver that seagulls, I was able to open the door and stand on the steps of the tractor to take the picture above without them flying off, the bottom picture shows the number of them better, but also how badly my ploughing matches up where there was muck heap!
And so the seagulls don't feel left out and decide to dive bomb the tractor more than usual here's one of them, only a few mind... the others must have been somewhere warmer yesterday!
Here are a couple of pictures of the ploughing in general... I've stuck with 5 furrows even on the lighter sandy land I'm ploughing now for a number of reasons. Mainly so that I can still pull it if its abit too frosty and hard but also so that I can pull it deeper and help to get rid of some compaction; last year’s maize yielded pretty poorly and I think compaction was one of the main reasons (also not helped by a dry spring). I'm currently ploughing at about 10 -12 inches which is working most of the topsoil nicely and should help to improve the structure of the soil, ideally we need to subsoil the maize ground as well, but that will depend on conditions before drilling now as its too wet at the moment.
I also had to visit the JD dealer today to go through the 'winter maintenance' list for the combine. Along with the normal service they go through the combine and highlight any areas that require attention and make a list, we then discuss which jobs they will carry out and which we'll do back at the farm. Although this can result in a hefty labour bill I think it is worth it because we get a trained and experienced person going over the machine, so they know of any problems with specific models etc but also it means that the dealer knows our machine well (and that it is looked after) which is beneficial to us if there is a problem during harvest; It’s also cheaper for parts and the labour than finance on a new combine when there's no big issues with ours - it may be getting old at 10yrs, but it's the right size and creates a good sample, it’s alright to drive and has low depreciation.
With the snow gone - here at least - we've been able to carry on muckspreading and start ploughing the heavier fields, or more awkward soil types so that we can take advantage of as much weathering as possible before we have to cultivate them in the spring - not even Vaderstad/Simba/Sumo can build a cultivator as good as a few good frosts!
Its not all easy going in the frost though, with some ground being too frozen to get the plough in the ground, or just ploughing up in horrible slabs like in the picture below... (it's about 2.5 inches thick). I did manage to get the headlands finished that I mentioned in my last post, so at least all the ground that should be drilled with winter beans by now is ploughed - ready for a spring crop.
Another thing the frosty weather is good for is creating some very picturesque views... just a shame I haven't invested in a Digital SLR camera yet!
Away from ground work, I spoke to our agronomist yesterday regarding the size of the OSR plants - especially on the headlands of a couple of fields - about whether he thought there could be an issue with our method of drilling - the Simba DTX - not mixing and burying previous crop residues well enough in the sticky conditions we were drilling in, and whether this resulted in Atlantis applications last year affecting the young plants. However, given the conditions since drilling, and the later drilling date compared to other OSR crops locally he didn't think that was the problem - at least not entirely, it could be that coupled with other factors it has had an effect (I got thinking about this because in some places a 24m 'line' can be seen on the headlands where the sprayer overlaps slightly).