Farmer Focus: Kicking off the year with complete kit overhaul

If anybody had told me a year ago we would have a rubber track crawler, a self-propelled sprayer and a Fastrac on our farms at the start of 2018, I wouldn’t have believed them.

Reliability issues with the existing make of tractor lead to extensive downtimes. This coupled with a dramatic fall in residual values made us to look at all options.

We now contract hire the rubber track crawler and the sprayer for a fixed annual fee over a five-year period.

See also: New farm kit: Is buying, hiring or contracting best?

We now know what our costs are going to be and don’t have concerns about machinery downtime and the eye-watering cost of catastrophic failures, or any future concerns about the residual values of these machines.

New kit

In the past year we have also replaced our three 240hp tractors and replaced them with two new like-for-like replacements with 3,000-hour warranty packages. When they reach the end of their warranty period, they will be traded out.

Our 6m green combination harrow has been traded in after 18 years of sterling service for a blue 7.5m seed-bed cultivator that is suited to our growing area of sugar beet.

An 18-row beet drill has also been purchased. This will be used, along with the cultivator, on some neighbouring farms where beet growing has been introduced in the past two seasons following the demise of oilseed rape growing in the area.

We have been fortunate in achieving all the above machinery changes with virtually no cash outlay due to the decision to contract hire the two largest items.

Growing beet area

More settled weather this week has allowed field work to be undertaken. The final lifts of beet are happening both at the Nottinghamshire and Royston farms, while base fertiliser will be applied to the 2018 crop areas once the ewes have been housed, ready for lambing.

This Saturday I will attended my first ever Six Nations game. Retirement from being an active participant has enabled me to, although I did receive a text this morning requesting my participation in a local derby game in Cambridge on Saturday as well.

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 catchcrop 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.