Increase in kit boosts output and client list
With maize drilled in early
May, a 14-day window of
warm weather enabled East
Anglian contractor Robert
Self to crack on with 1200
acres (500ha) of first cut
silage. Andy Moore reports
UNTIL this season, Robert Selfs mowing and foraging operations were performed by an all-green John Deere fleet, a line-up which included 3m 360 and 2.8m 228 mowers, and a 410hp 6910 self- propelled forage harvester.
Undoubtedly an impressive fleet to the on-looker, there was just one big problem – a lack of output. Hence the purchase of a Kuhn Alterna 500 trailed mower, which, powered by a John Deere 7800 tractor, would appear to have put the job in order.
"With the new 5m mower, we can mow at rates which match the capacity of the forager, up to 100 acres a day," says Mr Self. "The usual procedure is to ted-out the crop for wilting, then rake back into two rows with a 7m Kuhn rake."
A need to increase foraging capacity has resulted from additional new customers this year, one of which at Southwold in Suffolk, is 35 miles from base.
On this farm, spongy reclaimed marshland with rough undulations has made silaging operations a challenge, although Mr Self reckons the mower and forager were able to float over the bumpy ground with only marginal scalping of the soil.
"We still managed to maintain reasonable operating speeds, filling a 17t trailer in about five minutes," he says.
To keep the forager rolling, one 17t trailer and two 12t trailers are required to maintain harvesting speeds, with two John Deeres and a Fastrac providing the pulling power.
With first cut silaging occupying the next week or so and a further 800 acres (333ha) making up the second and third cut later in spring, the team cannot afford to hang about.
"The key rule in contracting is reliability and turning up exactly on time, even if it means working through the night before to get there," he says. "Letting the customer down just once is enough for him to lose trust in you, twice and you are out on your ear."
Careful and methodical forward planning of harvest dates is also deemed to be essential for accommodating an intensive schedule.
After the planning, which usually takes up the quieter months after sugar beet lifting, customers are visited to discuss their needs for the coming year. Sometime before harvest all contracts are booked officially by a letter.
After maize and grass silage, the typical years calendar includes rape swathing, straw baling, sugar beet lifting, winter maintenance and then on to maize and beet drilling.
Straw baling, in particular, is set to increase this year with the addition of a Hesston 4900 square baler next to two existing Krone Big Pack 80 medium density machines.
Bale handling has really taken off after the purchase of an Arcusin automatic big bale transporter and stacker, which carries up to 21 bales.
"Customers are looking for contractors to shift bales any other way than by telehandler or tractor and loader," says Mr Self. "It does not take an expert to see that one man, a tractor and stacking bale trailer is less expensive than a three-man team."
But on a more sombre note, Mr Self believes a continuing cause of concern is the low rates charged for contracting operations, making reinvestment in good machines a difficult prospect for the future. *