21 November 1997

Sowings done, now time to take stock of the fleet

A good autumn has meant

our Scottish contractor

David Carnegie is ahead of

the game going into winter.

Its time to reflect on – and

repair – the machinery.

Geoff Ashcroft found him in

the warmth of the farm office

WITH David Carnegies contracted 800ha (2000 acres) of winter cereals safely in the ground, there is time to crunch the numbers back in the office and assess the state of the machinery fleet.

"It is worth weighing up the options if there is a possibility of facing too much down time," says Mr Carnegie, our Scottish con-tributor to the Contractors Comment series.

Under close scrutiny is the firms fleet of 10 oilseed rape swathers. Their ages range from 1982 onwards and header sizes span 3.65-4.8m (12-16ft).

"The limiting factor now we have increased the combine capacity is the 12ft headers on the swathers," he says. "To keep on top of the job we really need larger capacity swathers – but there is no telling how much work will be swathed or desiccated next year.

Poor second-hand value

"The poor second-hand value of these machines is a very important factor, too, and could mean only the oldest two will go."

Also being assessed is the firms silage operation. At about 200ha (500 acres) of grass, it makes a high level of investment difficult to justify. "We would like to speed up the mowing and wilting operation because of the narrow window of fine weather in which to make good quality first-cut silage," he says.

Top of this particular agenda is to buy a front-mounted mower conditioner, to accompany the trailed machine and cut 6m (20ft) of grass in one pass. But also in the back of Mr Carnegies mind is whether to go for Greenlands HPC system.

"Switching to the HPC system would bring added cost because we would have to change the trailed mower and then we would need to row up, too, probably with a twin rotor rake to stay ahead of the forager.

5% DM difference

"Having seen a 5% difference in dry matter between the HPC and our own John Deere mower conditioner, I know it will be an improvement. And because of the high rainfall in this area, I feel we must try to make first cut silage with a higher dry matter content." Mr Carnegie is also aware that should he change to the Greenland system, he wont be able to hike up his prices to cover the cost of investment. But consolation may be found in knowing that existing customers will get a better service and, with reduced effluent, may bring an increased workload to help spread the cost of investment.

With little field work going on most of Mr Carnegies staff are resigned to moth-balling, repairing or rebuilding equipment in the firms extensive machinery fleet.

After the wet harvest, all seven combines are getting a thorough cleaning, inspection and greasing before being tucked away at the back of the barn.

And reflecting on the wet harvest, Mr Carnegie is pleased with the way the combining went – and also the decision earlier in the year to step up combine capacity.

"Two of our four new combines gave a few teething problems, but on the whole, the season was relatively hassle-free in terms of breakdowns, despite the difficult harvest conditions," he says.

Output not exciting

Output, he recalls, was nothing to get excited about. In one week, total output fell to 75 acres and the rain just made harvest later and later.

This delay meant that when the weather did improve, the Carnegie combine fleet ballooned to 14 machines to ensure remaining acreages were wrapped up quickly to allow cultivations and drilling to commence.

"We hired a combine from New Holland which came complete with an area meter so we could pay accordingly for the number of acres harvested.

"I am sure it was quite an accident that the area meter was set up for a 20ft header and the machine was supplied with a 17ft header," Mr Carnegie says wryly.

But for now, though, it is back to the calculator. Clearly there is much more head-scratching for the Carnegie brothers to do before the cheque book is opened once more. &#42

One of DM Carnegies seven combines gets an early, but thorough overhaul in readiness for next season.

1997 Scottish reversible ploughing champion, David Carnegie, intends to brush up on his ploughing skills over the quiet winter months, ahead of next years world ploughing match in Germany.

CARNEGIE DATA

&#8226 Base Steelstrath, Laurencekirk, Grampian (01674-840288).

&#8226 Work undertaken All arable and livestock operations.

&#8226 Machinery fleet 30 tractors (80-160hp), seven combines, 10 rape swathers, range of conventional and self-propelled sprayers, New Holland S1900 self-propelled forager, two Big A lime spreaders.

&#8226 Labour 35 full time.