Totting up just how much he has spent on slurry application equipment in the last 12 months is a pretty frightening exercise, admits Bere Regis, Dorset, contractor Philip Trim.
First there was the self-propelled Claas Xerion and SGT 15,000 litre tanker. Add to that the three Joskin tankers, the three applicators (a 4m Simba X-Press, a 7m Kaweco grassland injector and a 6m trailing shoe applicator) to go on the back of the Xerion and you come up with a substantial figure.
But Mr Trim is confident that this is the way forward for his business. Slurry is a massive part of his operation, he explains, even when you consider that he already does 4500ha (11,000) of silaging annually, has 17 tractors, seven balers and 23 full-time staff.
He took delivery of the 388hp Xerion 3800 and custom-made 15,000 litre SGT tanker last August. Since then, he has applied more then 40,000cu m of slurry on nearly 20 of his existing dairy and pig customers’ farms.
Mr Trim had been looking at different options for a year before opting for the Xerion setup. “We’ve been operating slurry spreading and umbilical systems for years, but we have become increasingly aware of rising P and K levels in fields adjacent to dairy units. It was also clear to see that there was a potential waste of nutrients that could be used more efficiently and more in line with cropping.”
The SGT tanker he chose has a 10,000 litre/min pump, so it takes just three to four minutes to refill. Once the Xerion and SGT combination is in the field, the Joskin nurse tanks travels to and from the yard, enabling the rig to fill from over the hedge using its massive loading arm.
“There’s no need to travel to the gateway each time or for tankers to come into the field, so compaction is kept to a minimum.”
When Mr Trim purchased the machine, he budgeted on applying about 80,000cu m in the first year. “Now we’ve already applied 40,000cu m and we’re not even halfway through the peak season. I’d like to think that we’ll have applied nearer 100,000cu m come September.”
A further £20,000 has been invested in a CEBIS controller in the Xerion which means that a complete breakdown of what has been applied, and where, can be sent to the farmer with his invoice.
The waste side of the business started in 1992, when Mr Trim secured a contract to inject septic tank waste into farmland. Now, six Scania vacuum tankers and a DAF wheeled unit are responsible for handling commercial factory waste of all types, mainly in the form of milk washings from seven processing plants in the area.
Once collected from the dairy or factory, milk washings are stored in purpose-built all weather lagoons before application. Mr Trim’s agronomist Frank Van Nes then carries out soil sampling, analysis and mapping for each field, both to enable customers to gain a true picture of nutrient status and to meet Environment Agency obligations.
“A number of application methods are on offer, including a tractor-mounted umbilical system that can either apply on the surface, through shallow tine cultivation or through sub-soiling,” he says.
“It is a risk, investing so much money in one area of the business. But, you have to lead from the front, and there isn’t going to be room for two or three of these machines in the same area.
Precision Farming Event
Make sure you get to this year’s Precision Farming Event on Wednesday 10 March (9am to 5pm) at the East of England Showground, Peterborough. All main GPS kit suppliers will be there and there is an outside demo area.
Seminars will focus on IsoBUS, controlled traffic farming, guidance and autosteer costs, variable rate applications and yield and moisture measurement on foragers.
There is also a chance to win the use of a Yara N-Sensor for a year.
Entry is £7.50 in advance or £10 on the gate. You can get details (or tickets) by calling 0845 4900 142 or visiting www.farm-smart.co.uk/precision