Mike Burdass is the manager of a 688ha (1700-acre) estate at West Stoke, near Chichester.
He is constantly looking to reduce costs where possible and has recently put together his own min-till cultivator to achieve just that.
Having decided that the min-till route could save on establishment outlay, he set out to look at the soil-engaging equipment options.
But, unsure if min-till operations would be a success on the farms’ mix of soil types, he was dubious about high investment.
“Having looked at the options from all the leading manufacturers we discovered that we’d have to fork out close to 20,000 for the machine we wanted,” he says.
He decided that with a bit of thought and some time in the workshop, he could modify an existing pan buster and knock together his own cultivator.
Having consulted some friends at Farm Force Engineering he set about the 4.1m cultivator with the grinder and welder, turning it into a 6m frame to match up with the farm’s John Deere 7710 tractor.
“At 4m wide with 19 ‘C’ tines fitted it wasn’t going to be suitable for the tractor, so I added 2m and three more sprung ripper tines,” says Mr Burdass.
He didn’t stop there and continued by fitting Kockerling PC points and Quad-row wings to the “C” tines as well as a row of levelling boards on the rear.
“To get the best consolidation in front of the drill I also added a 600mm Farm Force heavy coil roller as the final stage,” he says.
Keeping the machine mounted was important, as he wanted it to be easily transported and to remain as close to the tractor as possible.
“A lick of paint and the unit was finished, we even named it the Tillmaster 600 and had some decals made up for it.”
Mr Burdass is hoping to use the cultivator on 50% of autumn cultivations this year and hopes to cut his establishment costs significantly in the process.
“With our current system – a five furrow and a seven furrow plough – we are looking at a cost of about £19.80/acre for ploughing alone, plus £3/acre for one pass with a spring-tine set,” he says.
He is looking at a cost of about 5.80/acre with the new cultivator and even at two passes it still works out cheaper than the plough-based system.
“I reckon I can get between nine and 11 acres/hour done with the cultivator, which is more that the two ploughs can manage together,” says Mr Burdass.
He is aware that in the first year he may well have to spend more money on agrochemicals, but he remains confident that he can maintain this cost at about £111/ha (£45/acre).
All in all he believes building the new cultivator has worked out at a cost of under £5000.
“Including all the steel and parts it cost about £4900 and it will also free up an extra man, as one of the ploughs will be out of action,” he says.
He has already had pleasing results with the cultivator, as some OSR established in the spring is now heavy with pods and promises a good harvest.