17 July 1998

How horsepower keeps silaging ahead of game…

Our Cumbrian contracting

brothers John and Kevin

Horsley are playing catch up.

Junes rain has put the

silaging operation some two

weeks behind schedule. But,

with the new machinery at

their disposal, they are

certain of completing the

operation on target

WITH combining due to start within a fortnight John and Kevin Horsley are more than confident that, given the weather, silage operations will be completed and cereal harvesting will proceed as planned.

Their assurance stems from their knowledge of local weather patterns and the machinery at their disposal. "Silage in this area is always a drawn out affair, but weve got a bit of muscle and we always catch up," says John Horsley.

That bit of muscle is the result of a machinery replacement policy which has a seen the arrival of a number of new machines for this season.

"We like to sell tackle when it still has work in it, its tidy and has a residual value. Were the main contractors in the area and we aim to keep it that way, which means always having equipment we can rely on," explains John.

On silage, mowing – including first cut, of which there is still a fair bit to do in the area in general – is now the responsibility of two Kuhn 3m mower conditioners. One joins a 2.8m unit front mounted on a Fastrac 155-65 – due to be replaced by a 3155 model in August – the other is on the back of any available tractor, including a New Holland 7840, which joined the tractor fleet in March.

On the collection front, one of the self-propelled forage harvesters, a 220hp Claas Jaguar 682SL, has been replaced by a more powerful 330hp Jaguar 820.

"Last years conditions stretched two 220hp machines to the limit, but with some 550hp at our disposal we have no problem catching up days lost to weather," John comments.

But this year investment has not been limited to just renewing machinery and equipment involved in existing Horsley services, the brothers have now branched out into new territory – muck spreading.

"One customer had a large amount of poultry manure he needed spreading and there was interest for the service from other customers and farmers in the area," explains John. "Many of them have changed from cubicle and slat housing to running cattle in bedded yards and, as a result, were having to hire spreaders,"

The muck spreader chosen was a 12t capacity K Two Duo made by KTwo Sales of Aylesbury. When not being used on a contracting basis, the machine is also available for hire.

That moving into muck handling was the right decision is indicated by how busy the K Two has been since its arrival in the yard at the end of June. "Weve had it a week and Ive only seen it once," says John, who adds that as they are still feeling their way into the market, the price of the service is still to be fixed.

"Were looking at £20/hr, but well move a lot of muck in a day," he says.

The speed at which the spreader can be turned around at the heap is going to be critical to the operation. At the moment, loading is being performed either with the customers loader or hired-in telehandlers, but the Horsleys plan to buy their own machine.

"Its early days so we are looking at a large-capacity front end loader to go onto an NH 7840," says John. "For around £40,000, Id expect a telescopic to be working all year round. It will be more cost effective at this stage of the operation to spend £6-7000 on a front end loader that can be put on as needed."

Spraying is currently occupying Johns time. The acreage, in terms of number of applications, has increased to the point where the operation is putting a strain on the present 18m boom, 2000-litre sprayer, whose capacity comes from an 800-litre/1200-litre rear tank combination.

"With the acreage we are doing now, the sprayer needs to be updated. If funding allows, it has to be a 2500-litre self propelled," says John.

The combines are ready to go and, with the culmination of the years work just around the corner, John takes time to reflect on the season so far.

"It hasnt been a straightforward year. The weather and the state of the industry have not made things easy. Some customers have reduced the work we do for them – farmers have definitely cut back on lime spreading.

"But there has been the addition of the muck spreading service and umbilical slurry spreading work has also increased, so, overall, the workload has stayed about the same.

"While the cost of machinery holds, we can maintain our current charges; if the price of equipment rises we might have to reconsider."

Non-stop silaging with the Horsley team as they strive to complete operations before harvest. Inset: John Horsley:"Operating the 220hp foragers last year stretched us to the limit. Replacing one of them with a 330hp machine has certainly helped this seasons performance."