Arable Farmer Focus: Tractor price hike forces Robert Law to review his replacement policy

We are going to have a major review of our tractor replacement policy here due to Agco seemingly losing the plot.

At present we run eight Fendts. We ordered an 820 last October and took delivery of it in late April. As mentioned in my previous focus columns, this tractor was stolen within a month of arriving here on the farm.

When in early June we sought prices to replace it with exactly the same machine, we found that the price had increased by a staggering 22% in eight months. This comes at a time when we have had record low inflation and a relatively stable exchange rate.

The new tractor looks very similar to the first 716 we bought 11 years ago and now looks seriously outdated although prices in that time have more than doubled. Naturally my insurers have questioned this dramatic increase in price in the course of eight months and have left me with a gap to plug between what the stolen tractor cost and the cost of the replacement.

The other arable area where we need to take decisions is wheat varieties and choice of break crops for the coming season. We only grow soft wheats, having some three soft wheat mills within 20 miles of here.

I haven’t grown milling wheat for 22 years and, with premiums down to 10% over feed at present, won’t be tempted either. We are faced with the annual question of whether there are any alternatives to Claire and Consort, the mills keep requesting these and with the demise of Wizard and Ambrosia the choice is getting more limited.

Newer soft varieties have lower bushel weights and poorer retentions, which can be a big issue on our light soils in the continuing dry seasons we are experiencing. The break crop choice is made more difficult by yet another poor pea harvest, a reduced sugar beet area due to the likely non-availability of temporary beet tonnage and no Cereals event to host here next year.

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