3 September 1999

Enjoying a good year, despite hinge hassles

After a successful spring

drilling and silaging

campaign, Cornish

contractor Graham Couch

reckons hes having a good

year. Andy Moore caught up with him at the end of

a wet August

WITH no grain to harvest, this years weather has caused few problems for contractor Graham Couch of Bodwen Farm, near Bodmin, Cornwall.

All the cereal and linseed spring drilling was out of the way by the end of April and the 810ha (2000 acre) grass/maize silage campaign started on May 7.

Offering a complete service from mowing and foraging to buckraking, everything came to an abrupt stop at the end of May when his Claas Jaguar 860 self-propelled forager tried its best to shred a gate hinge which had been missed by the metal detector.

"The forager was laid up for a whole day – along with the three-man tractor and trailer team and the buck rake operator," says Mr Couch.

Weather permitting

First and second cut silaging lasted until the end of July working within a 20-mile radius of Bodmin moor, while third cut will begin later in the year – weather permitting.

This autumn will also see the first outing for Mr Couchs new, lighter Dowdeswell 100 five-furrow reversible plough which replaced his 120 model.

"The lighter plough should be much safer when turning on steep headlands and is also less demanding on the tractor engine and transmission," he says.

Ploughing, until recently at least, was carried out by the companys main workhorse – a 140hp Fiat/New Holland 140. But a seized back-end has put paid to that.

"Despite ploughing up to 283ha/year (700 acres), I am disappointed with the tractors reliability, especially as it only has 5000 hours on the clock," says Mr Couch. "The old New Holland 7740SL clocked up 7500 hours of similar workloads and did not break down once."

With the tractors residual value negating the cost of repair, a budget for a new or used replacement tractor has been set at about the £50,000 mark.

Second-hand option

At this value, however, new tractors fall into the 125hp bracket which is below the firms preferred 140hp considered necessary for ploughing and mowing operations. There is, however, the option of hunting down a tidy second-hand 140hp model.

Mr Couchs other tractors – a P-reg 130hp Case 5130 and a New Holland TS110 – continue to perform well and contribute to the companys income.

Both tractors have clocked up about 2000 hours with the Case employed on buckraking duties and the TS110 for silage carting and hedge trimming.

Hedge trimming remains an important enterprise with three Bomford Turner machines used during the winter months when required and at other times of the year.

"Over the past three years, the hedge trimming service has really picked up," says Mr Couch who adds that the high replacement cost of flails has led to him to increase his rates from £11/hr to £12/hr."

A contract service which also provides a steady income during the winter months, is muck and slurry spreading for large 300-head plus dairy farms.

For this operation, the machine line-up includes Marshall and Fraser side-spreaders and a Marston vacuum slurry spreader.

On the drilling side, Mr Couch believes his 4m Vicon LZ401 Supa-seeder has performed well in its first season and has provided the extra capacity required for the extra 122ha (300 acre) he achieved this year.

High accuracy

"Due to its high accuracy for seed rate and depth, the drill is ideal for sowing linseed as well as coarser grained seed such as cereals and peas," he says.

For the future, other than replacing the Fiat, Mr Couch says he has no plans to expand the machinery line up or contracting services. &#42