19 May 2000

Restructures a capital idea

When a Lincs arable farming

company streamlined its

business, profits were

boosted and capital released

for converting a redundant

building into cash-generating

holiday cottages.

Edward Long reports

CHANGES at Hallington Farming Companys 400ha (1000-acre) Home Farm at Hallington, near Louth, suggested by ADAS, stem from installing a modern grain drier and storage facilities four years ago.

The old 6t/hour system with a 1400t on-floor store was inadequate and needed constant attention. It was replaced by a 30t/hour drier, which needs only occasional checking. The store was expanded to 4000t.

Cropping on the chalkland farm consists of winter wheat and malting barley, winter oilseed rape, and vining peas for South Wold Traders.

The new set-up eased the workload at a busy time of year. "When I started farming here 15 years ago four men were employed," says owner, Heather Canter. "We have since been forced to cut back."

The latest reduction saw the two-man labour force halved. "Because of the slump in cereal prices it was becoming increasingly obvious by early summer 1999 that something drastic had to be done if we were to survive. I felt there was scope to improve efficiency so decided to streamline the business."

ADASs Chris Winney visits five or six times a year to review progress. His cost monitoring system clearly showed the two biggest burdens were labour and machinery. The farm employed two men and had a four-year-old 6.15m (20ft) John Deere combine, one 190hp and two 150hp tractors, a 6m Accord drill, two ploughs, two 4m power harrows and a range of cultivators.

With a four-year rotation of two wheats, barley and a break, seed-bed policy had been to plough early and use a power harrow for heavy work before drilling and rolling.

For combining it was clear that it was just as cheap to contract the work to a neighbour. Drilling presented a similar picture.

So the decision was made to radically restructure.

Last summer the combine was sold to a neighbour who took on harvesting and autumn drilling. One of the smaller tractors with 6000 hours was sold, but the Accord drill attracted no buyer and the power harrows were retained for flexibility.

"Now we just have one full-time employee but take on a local man for back-up during harvest and autumn drilling," says Mrs Canter. "Our regular man, Chris Hales, feeds back useful cost-cutting tips and highlights ways to improve efficiency and save time.

"Last autumn he realised he had spare time and could cope with some of the drilling after all. Our neighbour had done an excellent job with combining and had drilled 300 acres of first wheat plus the rape and barley. As our drill had not been sold we put it to work getting in the second wheat."

To speed the job next autumn a 10m non-powered harrow has been bought for £10,500. It has about three times the capacity of a smaller powered machine, so there should be no delay getting cereals drilled on time. The new machine should cope with all but the stickiest land.

Madrigal first wheat is now drilled in early September instead of the traditional mid-September slot.

There is then a pause because Halcyon and Pearl winter barley are not sown until early October to allow time to remove wheat volunteers. Because of severe take-all, second wheat Consort is not sown until mid-October.

"Having drilled the late wheat Chris is convinced he could cope with all the drilling. So in future the contractor, who has been very flexible with our agreement, will help us out with some or all of it when time runs out and we get into a muddle."

The £50,000 released from selling the combine and tractor was reinvested in the holiday cottage development. In a project supported by Lincolnshire Tourism with funds from both MAFF and the EUs Lincolnshire Objective 5b programme they have been converted into two modern holiday units. Opened in March and marketed as suitable for holidaymakers with horses, they are already attracting bookings.

The farm has stabling and offers the six mile Hallington Ride, a UK Chasers Course with 50 professionally constructed jumps. &#42

Restructuring the business at Hallington Hall, Lincs, has cut labour and machinery costs for owner Heather Canter, with support from ADAS adviser Chris Winney.


&#8226 £50,000 capital release.

&#8226 Full-time labour force halved.

&#8226 New non-powered wide harrow.

&#8226 Holiday cottage development.


Cereals 2000 is the key event for farmers wanting to improve their arable businesses. It hosts a range of experts, all equipped to solve your business and technical queries. But where do you start?

To help focus on the main issues farmers weekly is taking a closer look at five main factors affecting arable farmers. Over the coming weeks we will address:

&#8226 Farm strategy.

&#8226 Cost management.

&#8226 Improved production.

&#8226 Better marketing.

&#8226 Environmental awareness.

These topics will be further examined in the official Cereals 2000 event guide in farmers weekly on June 2. At the event itself staff in the Plan Your Day area will be on hand near the entrance to ensure you get the most from your visit.

The Plan Your Day feature is supported by RASE, ADAS, HGCA, Morley Research Centre and farmers weekly.