5 April 1996

is a big step forward

Spraying appointment

Winter is traditionally a time when contractors rethink their machinery policy for the coming season. Notts-based contractor Colin Hinchley is no different. Andrew Faulkner reports

ONWARDS and upwards. The relentless drive for growth is an integral part of every contractors psyche.

But that growth has to be sustainable, says our Notts-based contractor Colin Hinchley.

"It is important not to be too greedy. A contractor who overstretches himself is following a dangerous policy which can quickly end in disaster."

Nevertheless, businesses must move forward. Latest Hinchley enterprise up for expansion is the firms spraying operation, which covers 12,000ha (30,000 acres) a year.

To take over this side of the business, Mr Hinchley is in the process of appointing a full-time agronomist/contracts manager to walk fields and share some of the management burden. He admits that employing an outsider is a big step.

A family affair

"Up till now the contracting operation has been very much a family-run concern. So appointing an outside person onto the management team is a bit of a landmark for us," Mr Hinchley says.

To cover the extra management overhead, the plan is to expand the spraying acreage and also use that acreage more as a lead-in for longer-term work.

"Contracting is about building up trust with your customers. We hope that offering a complete package – advice and equipment – will encourage people to use more of our services."

Imminent change on the spraying operation includes hardware as well as personnel, with one of the firms two forward control MB Tracs 1000s up for renewal this autumn. Both Mercedes power units are still sound but the older of the two 24m (79ft) rear-mounted Knight sprayers is beginning to show its age.

Despite earlier interest in one of the new generation of self-propelleds (Machinery, Dec 15), the more obvious and dramatically lower cost option of just fitting a replacement sprayer now looks odds-on favourite for the change.

"MB Tracs are good for at least 10,000 hours, so it makes sense to hang on to the power unit. Both tractors are still reliable and if they do break down their direct drive transmissions are easy to repair," Mr Hinchley says.

What will probably swing the final decision is that the forward control MB Tracs, unlike their conventionally configured counterparts, are hefty depreciators. Hence they are worth far more to Mr Hinchley on his fleet than they will ever return as trade-ins.

But, should he decide to go down the new self-propelled route, top of the options list are either a Knight Crusader or Clayton Buggi, both powered by Deere engines through mechanical boxes. Mr Hinchley is no lover of hydrostatics.

Sprayer choice may be on hold but there are already some definite new arrivals in the firms machinery sheds. These include two 120hp Massey Ferguson 6180 tractors, on contractor hire from Chandlers at Grantham, replacing two similarly powered 3120s.

Prime movers remain the six-month-old 205hp Caterpillar Challenger 35 rubber-tracked crawler and the firms flagship, a 285hp Challenger 65B. The 65B was also up for replacement next year but that decision is now under review.

Again, depreciation is the problem. Such has been the success of Cats two smaller models, the 205hp 35 and 235hp 45, that the previously stable second-hand values of the massive 65/75/85 models now look less solid.

When the 65 does eventually leave the Hinchley fold, the plan is to follow what is turning into a mini trend and downsize to a 235hp 45. That will also mean replacing the firms 10-furrow semi-mounted plough with smaller units. No bad thing, according to Mr Hinchley.

Size has its problems

"The 65/Besson plough outfit may have a massive output in big fields but it has its problems, too," he says. "In smaller fields it is cumbersome, and having just the one big plough can be logistically limiting."

Ultimately, Mr Hinchley is looking for two modular, mounted offset ploughs which can be readily interchanged between power units – the smaller Challenger and a 150hp tractor running on oversized tyres and fewer furrows on the back.

Returning to the more immediate future, two new MF185MB balers are due to arrive for this harvest. Before placing the big baler order there were several months of machine choice deliberation into what has become a fiercely competitive sector.

The two MF 80 x 85cm (32in x 34in) section balers replace two seven-year-old New Holland D1000s. And New Holland, along with Krone and Welger, figured strongly in the fight for the new deal.

"In the end it came down to the usual combination of price and design," Mr Hinchley says. "The Krone and Welger rotary feed-type machines certainly have high outputs in straw but we feel the pre-compression packer systems used by MF and New Holland are better suited to big bale silage, another side of the business we hope to expand.

"What finally swung the deal to MF was parts availability and proven baler technology. MF has just opened a new parts depot down the road at Desford, and under that red paint is a proven Hesston machine. Although new to the UK, it has been sold in the States for years." &#42


&#8226 Base Hill Farm, Stanton-on-the-Wolds, Nottingham.

&#8226 Operating area Within 20-mile radius of base.

&#8226 Farming area West of base is predominantly mixed dairy/cereals, east root crops/cereals.

&#8226 Work undertaken Whole farm contracting about 1620ha (4000 acres), specialist spraying and medium square baling.

&#8226 Machinery fleet 285hp Caterpillar Challenger 65B and 205hp Challenger 35 crawlers, five-wheeled tractors (100-265hp), three Claas combines, two forward-control MB-Trac sprayers, JCB 415 wheeled loader.

&#8226 Labour Five full-time machine operators plus self-employed labour during peak season.

&#8226 Annual turnover £900,000.

Synergy winter rape gets a 350 litres/ha final dose of N35 + S fertiliser from the younger of two Hinchley forward control MB Trac/Knight sprayers.The two machines spray about 30,000 acres in an average season.

Simba 4B discs, bought second-hand last year, get new bushes, bolts and a paint job. Next door, the firms low loader now sits on Super Singles.

Colin Hinchley has already invested in new balers and tractors this year. The other major machine purchase planned for 1996 is a 3000-litre sprayer.