26 June 1998

Longer tackle life and spare sourcing can trim more cost

By Suzie Horne

SAVING time and money is still possible even in businesses which at first sight show no room for further improvement.

At Fordham Hall Farm, Fordham, near Colchester in Essex, manager John Jinks questions and reviews apparently less significant issues, such as spare parts sourcing, as well as the fundamentals like cultivation policy in an effort to improve performance.

Fordham Hall, the venue for a recent Sentry Farm open day, is the base for an arable operation spread across several farms totalling 890ha (2200 acres).

Shocked at the £52 he was quoted for a bearing from the normal source recently, Mr Jinks found he could source exactly the same product from a bearing supplier for just £13. The only difference is that the second bearing does not carry a spare part number, he says.

"This is the sort of thing we are going to have to do in future."

Machinery replacement policy is also evolving, with tractor life gradually being increased. Mr Jinks original policy had been to buy 1000 hour tractors and run them to 3000 hours. In 1980 he began to buy new and started to keep them longer. Tractors are now taken to 6000 hours.

"But if grain prices stay where they are, I can see than going to 7000 and beyond," he says. Tractors are depreciated at 15% on the books, though actual depreciation has been running at 12%."

He also rejects the need to renew combines every two or three seasons. "Combines go to 7000 and 8000 hours in the US – we would not think of that here," he says.

Cultivations have been developed over the years to a plough and press system using a Vaderstad drill, but Mr Jinks has recently become concerned about the cost of this as early ploughing led to too much moisture loss and added to seed-bed costs.

"Discs may be all or part of the solution," says Mr Jinks, "particularly for second wheats."

Planned preventative maintenance gets more out of machinery.