Farmer Focus: Combine is the star performer of early harvest

Harvest finished on 22 August. That’s not quite a record finish at Belvoir, but it’s not far off. However, I guess with at times three 12.5m headers running, it’s no surprise we were in good time.

The combine, it has to be said, has been the star performer this harvest. Our Case IH Axial Flow 9230 is in its second season and with yours truly at the helm, I can honestly say the only breakdown was shear bolts on the unloading auger.

No knife sections, no fingers, not even an auger tine in the header broke. And to top that, we averaged 5ha for every threshing hour we operated, so with no breakdowns and high output, combining costs have been kept under control.

Last month I reported average yields for our oilseed rape and barley, which was a little disappointing. However, the wheat seems to have fared a lot better, coming in well above our ten-year average.

To see wheat 12m deep in our new bulk store is a formidable sight. I have to admit to feeling sorry for the poor Frontier girl who had to sample it.

Sitting on the combine, I often ponder on how I can make our business more efficient. It struck me that one of our least efficient activities is grain carting. In a constant struggle to remain within gross vehicle weights, it seems we are actually carrying less than we were ten years ago, as tare weights have gone up with bigger, safer tractors and stronger, better-braked trailers.

It’s time legislation caught up with modern agriculture as yet again we are disadvantaged by rules.

Not everything has gone swimmingly this harvest. Our old John Deere 4040 chose her 33rd year to start playing up. She’s permanently coupled to our hedge cutter and has literally broken down every day since 1 August – her days are numbered.

Keith Challen manages 800ha of heavy clay soils in the Vale of Belvoir, Leicestershire, for Belvoir Fruit Farms. Cropping includes wheat, oilseed rape and elderflowers. The farm is also home to the Belvoir Fruit Farms drinks business.

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