Farmer Focus: Reliability issues with newish tractor fleet

This year I have kept hoping the old adage “change of month change of weather” will come true, it does seem with the arrival of October it has actually happened this time.

We have made good progress down here at Royston and in Nottinghamshire catching up after a trying harvest period.

For years around here it almost seemed to be a race to get drilled up in the autumn and whenever you met colleagues or even people outside farming the first question always to be asked was: “Finished drilling yet?”

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Now, with the blackgrass problems, the competition almost seems about who can hold off the longest.

When I came to work in the Royston area in the early 1980s, my late boss gave me two guidelines about cropping, I wasn’t to sow anything until the 14 October and the farm was to be split equally between autumn and spring-sown crops.

Looking back, this caused frustrations at the time but was actually quite sound advice.

Despite all the interest in no-till and min-till establishment of crops over the past few years, the piece of equipment that seems to have made a comeback this autumn is the plough.

Driving around the countryside, there seems to have been a lot more done. Looking at the gleaming horseheads produced, I have often wondered what peoples’ next move will be?

Scottish survey

We had a trip to Edinburgh a couple of weekends ago for a family event and we travelled up and down by my favourite means of transport, the iconic Intercity 125 diesel train. This mode of transport gives me an excellent chance to view a great range of farming over a 350-mile stretch of country.

As we sped at 125mph through the Vale of York, I had to admire the train I was travelling on, it is a 1970s British invention and is now 41 years old and races up and down the East Coast mainline daily.

I contrasted this to my supposed state of the art fleet of four “green” machines in my yard at home. None are five years old yet, but their reliability has ranged from 25% to 75% availability this autumn.

One is after six weeks still in pieces in my dealer’s workshop while another is waiting for a major hospital visit and is on light duties only.

Robert Law farms 1,700ha on the Hertfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Essex borders growing cereals, mustard, a range of forage crops for seed, sugar beet, up to 200ha of catch crop stubble turnips and 300ha of grass supporting a flock of 2,500 ewes. All land farmed is in environmental stewardship schemes. He also manages 500ha of sandland in Nottinghamshire.