Farmer Focus Arable: Time to change the main tractor, says Andrew Charlton

The time to change the main tractor has come around again. I find this activity creeps up on you quicker than you think, and before you know it many thousands of pounds are changing hands.

I am involved in a machinery-sharing operation with a neighbour, which has which has proved very successful in reducing fixed costs quite considerably over the past four years. The area we farm between us is now nudging 300ha and that means we have to increase the horsepower a bit to be sure of getting across all we have to do on time. So 125hp is out, and 165hp is in.

One disappointment has been the value of the kit I’m trading in. I’ve been really happy with the old tractor, and have rubbed my hands at its potential second-hand value as its retail cost has shot up by more than 20% since I bought it in 2006.

However, the effect of that increased price has been to turn off demand for new and second-hand sales alike; and it doesn’t help that not many farmers are changing kit at the moment because it’s been such a poor year for many.

We did just manage to drill Paragon wheat at the very end of November, the first time that the weather has allowed us to get away with this on our land. It was a skin-of-the-teeth job as we had 27mm of rain in the 72 hours after finishing the field.

This was part of what I think has been a very successful experiment as, preceding this crop, we ploughed in a winter bean green manure crop sown on 12 August. The crop grew to about 50cm and has probably fixed enough nitrogen for a good-quality milling wheat sample at harvest – at least I hope so.

Read more from Andrew Charlton here. Or see what our other Farmer Focus Arable writers have to say.