8 December 2000

Awful weather fails to

upset sugar beet harvest

Despite a difficult summer,

autumn cultivations and

sugar beet lifting have so far

run smoothly for

Contractors Comment

contributor Alister Wait.

Andy Moore reports

WITH spring and summer dubbed as the wettest and most difficult seasons ever known, the start of 2000 has been a trying period for Contractors Comment contributor Alister Wait.

Most of the silage and haylage cut in mid-June was spoilt by catchy rain throughout the month, relegating the Welger AP63 conventional baler to barn so the New Holland 1010 baler could perform a fire brigade operation.

"We managed to bale some very good quality silage and haylage in early June, but by the middle of the month we were lucky to see two sunny days throughout a whole week," says Mr Wait of Happisburgh Farm Company (HFC), Lessingham, east Norfolk. "At the end of the season, we managed to bale about 70% of the haylage and 80% of the silage, despite high amounts of forage having to baled in poor conditions."

But it hasnt all been doom and gloom. Mr Wait reports his straw baling operation got off to a good start, with the Fastrac 2150 and 1010 mini Hesston baler team producing good quality barley straw which was in the barn by mid-August.

The good start coupled with the reliability of the 1010 also enabled HFC to pick up extra baling work throughout its 15-mile radius of Lessingham.

"The 1010 has had about £1300 spent on it this season, performing a reliable service for our increasing number of straw customers," says Mr Wait, who runs HFC with four other directors. "Next year we may buy a New Holland BB940 square baler with rotary chopper to produce bales with shorter chop lengths for higher quality silage and straw for poultry markets."

Despite the good start, inclement weather delayed baling to such an extent that it was carried out alongside ploughing and drilling during the last week of September.

This year, rising diesel costs have led HFC to adopt a slightly different cultivations policy throughout the 283ha (700 acres) destined for ploughing and combination drilling work.

Contract rates for ploughing and combination drilling have been increased by £2.50/ha (£1/acre), while cultivation operations were reduced in favour of glyphosate chemical treatment to kill off residue.

"We are starting to do more heavy discing on pea ground before going straight in with the power harrow and drill to cut costs," explains Mr Wait. "Although there has been little feedback from customers on minimal tillage techniques, we are trying to reduce establishment costs whenever possible."

To reduce tied up machinery investment, HFC has hired in a New Holland TM165 tractor to pull its five-furrow Kverneland plough, preparing ground for crops such as winter cereals, sugar beet and potatoes.

Ploughing this year has been carried out in combination with a 3m tine and Flexi-Coil press to condition soil rather than the usual plain ring press which was used for consolidation.

On the combination drilling side, a neighbouring farmer is employed to operate the power harrow and 3m Amazone RPD drill behind a New Holland 7840 rather than HFCs usual Fastrac 2115.

"Using a neighbouring farmer for the combination drilling work has freed up the Fastrac 2115 to power one of the muck spreaders for our sewage sludge disposal contract for Anglia Water," says Mr Wait. "This service provides an invaluable mainstay during the quieter winter months."

On the sugar beet side, drilling and harvesting the 607ha (1500acres) is managed by Cubbit Siely – one of HFCs five directors who, in addition to owning a self-propelled Riecam RBM 300S harvester, runs the combining operation.

Besides Mr Siely and Mr Wait, HFCs other three directors are farmers Greg Anderson, Steven Robinson and Rob Cary, who respectively manage spraying, potato operations and office administration.

"Because each director owns his kit, we are able to supply and pool a vast of armoury of machinery and farming expertise," claims Mr Wait. "Owner operators significantly reduce the amount of tied machinery investment compared with a single entity company which often has to keep kit rolling 365 days a year to make it pay."

In terms of invoicing, each director charges the customer for the entire machinery operation carried out which is paid as a lump sum at a given rate per ha/acre.

The sum is then paid into a central fund, where HFC take a standard 2% commission to provide a float for overheads such as rent, electricity, telephone and office administration.

After the commission is taken out of the invoice, the director is paid the remaining sum.

If the operation involves machinery belonging to separate directors, the sum is adjusted and paid to each person according to type and size of kit used. &#42

Sugar beet harvesting and drilling is managed by Cubbit Siely – one of HFCS five directors who owns a self-propelled Riecam

RBM 300s harvester.

HFCDATA

Base Church Farm, Lessingham, Norfolk (01692-58230).

Work undertaken All arable operations and silage/haylage baling.

Machinery fleet Four JCB Fastracs (115hp-155hp); five furrow Kverneland plough, 3m Amazone RPD drill; 3m power harrow, self-prop sprayer, two combines; self-propelled beet harvester, trailed potato harvester; small and large square balers, three slurry tankers.

Labour Three full time plus casuals at peak periods.

HFCS brand new Sam 3000 Low Line self-propelled sprayer from Sands is operated by director Greg Anderson and is set to cover 5000ha

(12,350 acres) a year.

Alister Wait believes HFCS owner operators significicantly reduce the amount of tied up machinery investment compared with a single entity company.