Farmers like me who have access items in their agri-environmental schemes have been heartened after DEFRA backtracked and said it will continue to pay for educational visits and capital costs for setting up educational facilities in new HLS applications (Farmers Weekly, 7 January).
But all other access items continue to be excluded from new HLS applications, so further persuading will be necessary to avoid what could turn out to be a public relations disaster.
“Change of month, change of weather” is an adage that I stick to. This certainly happened this month, which is just as well, as we started lambing on 1 March. All our crops will be drilled by the end of March and then I think we’ll be wishing for the old saying to hold true for 1 April.
In our drive towards risk management and managing costs, we have now completed our plans for the replacement and management of our tractors. With the help of the annual investment tax allowance, we have replaced the last Fendt 716, which had in excess of 5000 hours on the clock. Our five Fendts now are all sub-5000 hours and I have negotiated with our dealer warranties and service packages to cover all the tractors up to 5000 hours when the plan is to replace them.
Fuel costs are difficult to budget for because of price volatility, but tractor servicing and repair costs can now be ring-fenced and the warranty policy will ensure that they are serviced on time.
Past experience shows that when running modern tractors up to 6000-7000 hours, the electrics start to let you down first. Besides repair costs, the inconvenience of the downtime and the effect on staff morale must be considered. Forking out a hefty repair bill for tractors that have run up these higher hours also doesn’t make financial sense.