Farmer Focus: Machines sat idling are a drain on bank accounts

The weather finally decided to change its mind about raining, so we are currently trying to beat the ground into submission for maize.

I decided to get on with the maize planting, despite slightly colder soils than I would like. It felt like this dry spell wasn’t to be taken for granted, and it has done wonders on some very wet clay cap soils.

With all these cultivations, I am watching the fuel tank drain alarmingly quick and the machine hours rise significantly.

See also: Greater yield and margin for winter barley grower

About the author

Charlie Cheyney
Arable Farmer Focus writer Charlie Cheyney farms more than 480ha land in Hampshire in partnership with his father. They run a mixed arable and 450-cow dairy enterprise, growing cereal and forage crops on varying soils, from chalk to heavy clay.
Read more articles by Charlie Cheyney

I dread to think how much this will all cost. Some quick scrap paper calculations make for sobering reading.

Depreciation per hour on machines has got out of hand.

Not long ago I was told to expect a depreciation rate of £10/hour on a tractor, but when I did the maths I worked out that it was significantly higher, at more than £15/hour.

Every tractor sat idling is a like a tap on the bank account. I was pleased to see that our new loader comes with an auto idle shut-off – something that was a big selling-point.

It feels like agriculture is way behind the curve compared with the likes of the construction industry where this feature has been common place for years.

Furthermore, why is it that in agriculture we accept this level of depreciation on our machines?

Surely 3,000-5,000 hours is not a machine’s lifetime, after which they are deemed worthless and destined for the scrap heap.

It seems more likely that our machines are shipped abroad where they are stripped of all their life-shortening gizmos and go on to make a farmer very happy, for many years to come, at a good discount to new.

Reliability, running costs and depreciation are top priorities on any farmer’s kit list, so why is it not being achieved?

Whereas in the construction and transport industry, machines do 10,000-15,000 hours or a million miles as standard and we are led to believe more than 7,000 hours is “playing Russian Roulette”.

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