FARMER FOCUS: GPS is not an extra, says Robert Law

My eldest daughter Anna finally got her university application off last weekend along with her personal statement which had ended up being a family effort.

I am glad to see that my old seat of learning Harper has made it onto her short list along with another situated to the west of London on the Thames. Anna enjoys farm and countrylife and a couple of spells of work experience with a firm of chartered surveyors in Cambridge has crystallised in her mind where her future career might lie. Work experience in the lambing shed has been carried out under duress!

I am trying a different tack with my youngest, Lydia, who at 11 now has her own small flock of Suffolk sheep registered and has a MF550 to learn to drive on when she hits the appropriate birthday.

When, as a green teenager being sent out to work on a farm in my school holidays, one of my first jobs was to act as a bout marker for the sprayer operator.

On the farm at that time a lot of the corn was broadcast and there were of course no tramlines, I used to step the bouts out and then stand waving a flag in the air for the operator to aim for.

At the end of the day my clothes would often be drenched with phenoxylene or some other less-than-operator-friendly product.

When leaving college my first job was working for a farmer who wouldn’t have tramlines, bout markers or reversible ploughs on his farm saying that I must be a pretty poor tractor driver if I needed any of “this technology”.

How things have advanced over the intervening years, through tramlines and guidance systems, then onto GPS. We have had auto steer on the combine for a number of years, but when we replaced one Fendt 930 for another 930 we opted for a GPS/Trimble system. I must admit gasping a bit when I had to pay for this extra, but have since become a complete convert.

We are saving inputs by cutting down on overlapping and achieving large increases in output through time saved on headlands and maximising the working width.

But what’s been really noticeable has been the reduction in operator fatique, leading to greater productivity. GPS is not an extra anymore – it’s a must!

Former Farmers Weekly Farmer of the Year Robert Law farms 1,200ha on the Hertfordshire/Cambridgeshire/Essex borders growing cereals, peas, forage rape for seed and sugar beet. He also manages 500ha of Nottinghamshire sandland

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