Tom Chanter: Tractor prices make me long for a ‘high-hour hero’

Dizzyingly high beef finish prices, coupled with high store cattle prices and some cereals harvesting, have been the order of the day for the past month.

The last time we saw a beef finish price this high was in the noughties.

It’s really incredible that, considering only four months ago the finish price was at its lowest levels for five years, it’s now at its highest in more than 10 years. Not even the best crystal balls could have predicted that.

Meanwhile, I have been forced into doing some tractor shopping. As a self-confessed loather of machinery, this task is not high on my fun jobs list.

See also: Tom Chanter – weird weather, Covid-19 and PM’s spending spree

Every time I consider replacing a tractor, I look at the tractor that runs the straw chopper, which has astronomical hours and is in use every day and ask myself: Why don’t they make them like that anymore?

But in order to keep repair bills to a minimum (repair bills are my other big hate), replacing machinery has to be done every now and again.

Starting simply, a quote was obtained for the same machine and spec as the one that was replaced a year ago.

I was staggered to see that the price of this tractor had risen 12%. And I was informed that an order should be placed sooner rather than later, as the manufacturer is going to stick another 6% on the price at the end of the month.

See also: High-hour horsepower: John Deere 6830 breaks 20,000 hours

Sorry, have I missed something? An 18% increase in the price of a tractor. With the current agricultural climate, cheap oil, low steel prices and the aftermath of Covid-19, I was expecting the price to be down, not up.

As farmers, could we confidently say we are earning 18% more from our tractors compared with this time last year? On a regular mixed farm, I doubt it very much.

I appreciate that technology on machinery is coming along in leaps and bounds, which is helping to identify and target running costs, but it is not exactly improving things by tens of thousands of pounds a year – unless you really were that inaccurate with your fertiliser spinner, in which case a pair of glasses might be a better purchase than a tractor.

There has to be some joined-up thinking between farmers and machinery manufacturers. Saying “the price has gone up because that’s what the market is doing” is not good enough anymore.

Price increases, across machinery and inputs, need to be calculated and justified rather than just slapped on because it’s what other sellers are doing.

With the phasing out of BPS, there won’t be as much money floating around and what there is shouldn’t be spent on financing machinery. The time has come for manufacturers to assess where things are going in UK agriculture and plan accordingly.

Meanwhile, I think I’ll go and scan the pages of Classic Tractor magazine and find myself another high-hour hero.