26 December 1997

Quick, affordable solution needed for field-to-store puzzle

For many contractors, winter

brings idle machines and

with it plenty of time to

assess the years

performance. Colin Hinchley

was doing just that when

Geoff Ashcroft went to visit

AFTER the wet 1997 cereal harvest, our Contractors Comment contributor Colin Hinchley is readdressing his teams harvesting tactics for 1998.

"It is not the combining capacity, but our ability to get grain from the fields back to store that needs looking at," explains Mr Hinchley. "We need a fast, economical solution."

This last harvest saw the Hinchley team use contract hauliers to move grain from the headland back to store. A rubber-tracked 14t chaser bin ran between the combines and headland and proved a worthwhile investment in reducing compaction in the field and increasing combine output.

But during the many days when combining was rained off, Mr Hinchley still faced hauliers bills for trucks standing idle.

"Paying hauliers when they are rained off midway through the day made moving grain a very expensive operation," he says. "With falling grain prices, we have to preserve what little profit there is left by controlling the job ourselves.

"For our business I can see two sides developing for the harvest operation – field work and transport. And it is the transport area where we are currently weak."

But the options facing Mr Hinchley to develop his transport operation are somewhat limited. Buying trucks and running his own haulage business just to move grain is clearly out of the question. That only leaves "fast" tractors.

"Whatever we buy, it will mean trading in some of our conventional tractors so the fast tractors can also be made use of for autumn cultivations."

Faced with a choice of JCB Fastrac or Unimog, Mr Hinchley has a difficult decision to make. Two highly capable machines, the Fastrac offers a useful degree of manoeuvrability for field work, while Mr Hinchleys past experiences of MB-Tracs for spraying affords a bias towards the German marque. "We need to keep our options open and not rely heavily on single tractors or items of machinery during peak times."

This Hinchley approach has already seen the firm dispense with its heavyweight Cat Challenger 65B. Its replacement is a 275hp Challenger 55, and joining the lower powered Challenger 35, gives the firm two similar sized machines which can be put to good use on primary cultivations and drilling work.

"A third Challenger will fit our system nicely when we come to replacing the old articulated Ford FW30."

&#8226 Next month a Suffolk business joins our four-strong Contractors Comment team. &#42

Winter for Colin Hinchley brings time to think of ways to improve the efficiency of the business…

C&B HINCHLEY DATA

&#8226 Base Hill Farm, Stanton-on-the-Wolds, Nottinghamshire (0115-937 5031).

&#8226 Work undertaken Whole farm contracting on about 1200ha (2965 acres), specialist spraying, high density square and round baling and wrapping, agronomy and management services.

&#8226 Machinery fleet 275hp Cat Challenger 55 and 205hp Cat Challenger 35 rubber-tracked tractors, seven-wheeled tractors (100-265hp), Claas 218 Mega and two 460 Lexion combines, 24m Chafer Mistral sprayer, a 24m MB-trac self propelled sprayer, JD6400 with 24m boom plus front and rear tanks, 12m Toyota pick-up-based sprayer, and a 6m JD Gator-based unit for amenity work. Plus associated implements and support tackle.

&#8226 Labour Eight full-time staff, plus additional self-employed and casuals as required.

…And in the workshop, time to prepare the kit for the coming season.