Farmer Focus: Auto-steer breakdown brings drilling to a halt

Following a mild and dry spell we made a start to spring barley drilling on 25 March, three weeks earlier than last year.

Despite the clocks going forward at the end of the month the weather seemed to go backwards, with a cold, wet spell that has now halted land work for more than a week.

Frustratingly, the start of drilling always seems to bring with it problems with auto-steer systems.

See also: Why wheat variety data is vital for right fungicide strategy

Despite this technology having been around now for some time, there still seem to be regular issues with systems, whether old or new, that can bring an otherwise fully functioning tractor to a halt while laptops are plugged in, software updated etc.

Fortunately, we have a good drill man who can carry on without the GPS, but as time goes on there are fewer and fewer people with this ability.

Our system was sorted out fairly quickly and, fingers crossed, will not need the laptop plugging in again anytime soon. But it does give me concerns as we get further down the technology route how much time it seems to cost us.

I guess that it is easy to measure the downtime, but less so the time savings we make when it is working well.

Tractor delays

As the Brexit pantomime continues, we still don’t know what the future holds in terms of ease of import and export.

Even without further restrictions, delays in supply seem to be commonplace. We are awaiting tractors from two manufacturers which were ordered many months ago and have had their delivery dates put back.

I don’t really understand how, with such a long lead time, manufacturers cannot fulfil orders.

Maybe just-in-time production isn’t as efficient as it’s made out to be. Fortunately, our local dealers are looking after us to ensure that in the meantime we have machines to do the job.

It’s not only machinery that is an issue. Over the past year it has become a regular occurrence for the vet to tell us that vaccines are in short supply and that we need to buy now.

Even anaesthetic is currently difficult to get. Hopefully this is not a glimpse of our post-Brexit future.