What’s in Your Shed? visits a Buckinghamshire contractor

An agricultural contractor based near Milton Keynes is the latest in a long line of farmers to reveal the contents of his machinery shed.

Daniel Tuckwell specialises in grassland contracting and supplying local AD plants with maize. He runs a brace of Claas Jaguar foragers, a fleet of K-Two trailers and uses a JCB 434 loading shovel on the clamp. He’s also branching into arable work and has just invested in a Claas Lexion 600TT with 35ft header.

Daniel Tuckwell (third from right)and father Robert Tuckwell (right) with the team at Crabtree Farm.

Daniel Tuckwell (third from right)and father Robert Tuckwell (right) with the team at Crabtree Farm.

How did you get started?

When I left college in 1993, my dad was running a 30ha county council dairy farm. I was mad keen on tractors and shiny machines, so decided to go contracting. We were running Renault tractors at the time, so I started out with one of those and steadily grew the business from there. It was when the local AD plants got up and running that we really started to grow quickly.

Are you brand loyal?

Yes, we moved from McCormick to Claas in 2008 and it has been our main tractor brand ever since. The bigger frontline tractors are all Fendts and we got into those after a random demo back in 2010. They are brilliant tractors, but far too pricey for anything other than the top jobs.

See also: Map: Best of our What’s in Your Shed series

Favourite dealer?

We have a fantastic relationship with our local Claas dealer, Olivers, and we get tractors, foragers and quite a bit of grass kit from there. The dealer really helped us grow the business and the service we get from it is top-notch. That’s partly helped by the fact the service manager is my neighbour. We also deal with PA Turney, Lister Wilder, Big Bale North and direct with Samagri and K-Two.

Forager

Claas Jaguar 960 Forager

Favourite piece of kit?

Farm facts: Robert Tuckwell, Salden Crabtree Farm, Little Horwoord, Buckinghamshire

  • Arable: 603ha
  • Livestock: 205ha of grass and a 100-head Belgian Blue suckler herd
  • Contracting: Silaging – 1,820ha grass, 800ha of maize for biogas, 600ha of maize for dairy and some wholecrop
    Combining – 728ha
    Drilling – 480ha cereals and 1,200ha maize
  • Other: Baling and wrapping, slurry and muck spreading, grassland overseeding, multiple types of cultivation work, spraying, hedge cutting, fencing and digger/construction work.
  • Staff: 11, plus four full-time on fencing work

I feel a bit sad saying this, but it is our new K-Two 20t dumper trailers – they are just awesome. We had them made to our spec, with 10mm plate on the floor and 8mm on the sides. They will happily cart around 20t of stone or compost and they also have silage sides so we can make use of them year round.

Least favourite piece of kit?

It is the Bale Band-it. The job it does is fantastic – it allows us to do 50,000 small square bales with just two men – but you can’t take your eye off it for a second. If you are not constantly tweaking the settings and getting the bale to feed in properly you can end up with a right mess on your hands.

Latest purchase?

I have just bought a second-hand Claas Jaguar 950 forager to run alongside the 960. Last year we chopped 3,220ha with one machine – which took some doing – so we decided we needed two. There also seems to be more and more investment into AD plants in the area, so it is good to have some extra capacity. We bought it from Forager World on about 1,000 hours and judging by the performance of the 960, it should be a good machine.

Oldest machine still at work?

The oldest machine that still earns its keep is our 1998 construction-spec Cat telehandler. It has a 13m reach, which is ideal for stacking bales and it gets a lot of use on the construction side of the business.

WIYS3

How long do you keep your machines?

Every tractor is on a 6,000-hour warranty and we move them on as soon as that is up. We get the dealers to do all the servicing too as the amount of electronics on board makes them way too complicated for us to deal with properly. Other equipment is changed as we see fit. We usually have a bit of a stock check during winter and decide what needs to be upgraded.

What is next on your wish list?

I’m definitely looking to upgrade the maize drill. At the moment we have an eight-row Kverneland, but I have my eye on a 16-row Horsch. It is a bit on the pricey side, though, so I will have to see if I can barter them down.

In the shed

  • Tractors: Fendt: 2 x 936, 828 and 724, Claas: 6 x Arion 650s and 2 x Arion 640s
  • Foragers: Claas Jaguar 960 and 950
  • Combine: Claas Lexion 600TT with 35ft header
  • Balers: 4 x Massey Ferguson 2170s, 4 x Massey Ferguson 2150s and a John Deere 459 conventional baler with Bale Band-it packer
  • Sprayer: Kelland Agribuggy 2500 with 24m booms
  • Loaders: JCB 434 loading shovel, 3 x JCB 320 pivot steer and Caterpillar telehandler
  • Cultivation kit: Sumo Trio, 2 x Lemken ploughs, Vaderstad Carrier, Simba Cultipress, TWB mole plough and 4 x powerharrows from 4m to 6m.
  • Drills: Horsch CO4, KRM 4m combination drill, Kverneland 8-row maize drill and Vredo 5.8m overseeder
  • Muck and slurry kit: 5 x 16t Samson rear-discharge spreaders and 20,000-litre tanker with 24m dribble bar
  • Trailers: 9 x 16t K-Two silage trailers, 4 x 20t K-Two dump trailers
  • Diggers: 13t Case CX130 and 3.5t JCB mini digger
  • Hedgecutters: 7 x 8m McConnel hedgecutters

Biggest mishap?

I was chopping down a 16ft conifer hedge with our circular saw and managed to get the blade caught when I was a bit too close to a telegraph pole. I backed up to release the blade, but as it popped out it swung forward and sliced the pole clean off.

What is your best invention?

We designed a pretty neat toolbox that sits between the tractor and the front weights. As well as giving us space for a decent amount of tools, it pushes the weight further forward on the tractor. The Fendt ones pick up on the front links and we hang them off the tombstone on the Claas tractors.

What couldn’t you live without in the workshop?

Our hydraulic pipe repair kit. We paid £900 for it four years ago and it has saved us thousands.

Do you buy much second-hand equipment?

If the job doesn’t justify a new machine we will look at buying second-hand. And when taking on new jobs we will often hire the machine in for a season to see if it is viable, before taking the plunge.

Biggest machinery bargain?

Our 2010 Fendt 930 has definitely been the biggest bargain. We had it for three years, clocked up 6,200 hours and the cost of ownership was just £5.30/hour. It is easily the best tractor we have had – nothing major went wrong with it.

Worst tractor you have had?

We had a 1997 Gold Edition Renault 120-54 that had terrible problems with the electrics. In the end the repair bills totaled more than I had originally paid for the tractor.

What would you buy if you won the lottery?

A bigger farm and a Case Quadtrac – I have wanted one for ages.

Any classics in the shed?

We have a 1970 Massey Ferguson 135 and 1968 Land Rover Series II.