Dorset contractor David Legg is the latest in a long string of farmers to fling open the doors to his machinery shed.
We get the low-down on the best and worst machines of his John-Deere-dominated tractor fleet and find out how things have changed since he started fifteen years ago with a Massey Ferguson 6180, combination drill, AW silage trailer and rear-discharge muckspreader.
Farm facts: Doghouse Farm, Chideok, Dorset
- 566ha arable in hand
Cropping: 225ha of arable – mixture of share farming agreements and let ground
Silage: 810ha first-cut, 485ha second-cut and 160ha third-cut
Maize harvest: 345ha
Drilling: 485ha cereals, 485ha maize
Spraying: 2,830ha a year
- Livestock: 320 North Country Mules and 530 store lambs
- Other: Slurry spreading, muck spreading,
- Staff: Two full-time and two part-time
How did you get started?
I set out on my own fifteen years ago with a Massey Ferguson 6180 that broke down all the time, a combination drill, an AW silage trailer and a rear-discharge muck spreader. Before that I was a farmworker for Johnsons in Marshwood Vale.
Are you brand loyal?
I have tried all sorts of tractors over the years. After the Massey I bought a Case-IH MXM120 and I have tried a Claas Arion and New Holland T6070.
I switched to John Deere in 2007 and I’ve stayed pretty loyal since then.
However, I am hiring a New Holland T7 to do the ploughing this autumn. We always go for Claas grass kit, though – it’s much better than the Deere stuff.
Our local Claas dealer, Hamblys of Honiton, is our favourite. It’s a good family company and we always get brilliant service with more of a personal touch than the bigger boys.
Favourite piece of kit?
The Bateman RB16 tops it for me. It’s getting on a bit now, but it is so smooth to drive and has been pretty reliable, too. I bought it three years ago for £32,500 with 6,500 hours on the clock and I’ve added at least another 1,000 to it. Other than some new track-rod ends and a service, I haven’t had to touch it.
It’s on 24m booms and has the bigger 3,000-litre tank, so you can cover a fair bit of ground to a fill. The only real problem is that the hydro transmission runs on a bit on steep banks, which can be hairy.
Least favourite piece of kit?
We have a Protech saw head for the hedgecutter and it is a pig of a thing. We use it for bowing up trees and slashing back hedges and it will burn through a set of drive belts in a couple of days. They only cost £16 to replace, but it gets pretty tedious.
We got a new Claas 3200 big square baler at the start of the season and after putting 7,000 bales through, we are pretty happy. It cost £45,000 to upgrade from the old 2200, but it’s in a different league – the bales are much tidier, you can whack the density up higher and the ejector is a lot slicker.
The old 2200 had been a good machine, though. We had it for six years and it clocked up 86,000 bales. Metal fatigue started to set in and we were getting cracking in the metal around the knotters. In the end we baled something a bit tough and it bent the ram.
Oldest machine still at work?
Our L-reg Ford 7840 is the oldest on the fleet, so nothing that ancient. It is a cracking tractor, though. I bought it for £7,000 off a local thatcher about four years ago and it is on the go all the time. As well as being the general run-around it does a bit of maize drilling and all of the hedge cutting. It’s on about 6,500 hours now and the only thing I’ve replaced is the hydraulic pump.
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How long do you keep your machines?
I normally hang on to tractors until they have done about 6,000 hours, which usually takes four years. I keep the rest until it is knackered.
What’s next on your wish list?
I want to upgrade the Bateman to a slightly newer model with more power. At the moment I’m looking at an RB25, but I’ll still go for 24m booms and a 3,000-litre tank.
Biggest machinery mishap?
I used to drive an old Hardy mounted sprayer with 18m booms that folded up the side of the tractor cab. When driving down the road one day, I pulled in tight to the verge to let a car past, hooked the booms in a phone cable and pulled them clean off. I was left with just a tank hanging off the back of the tractor and a tangled mess of booms, phone cable and half a telegraph pole lying in the road. Luckily it was empty.
What’s your best invention?
It’s actually an idea I pinched off someone else. To speed up filling the slurry tankers, we added a new hydraulic valve and a short length of flexible pipe that is just long enough to dip into the lagoon. This stays on the tanker all the time, so you can just back up and pull a spool lever to start filling. You can’t even smoke a fag in the time it takes to fill.
What couldn’t you live without in the workshop?
The half-inch AC Delco impact driver – we use it constantly.
- Tractors: John Deere 6150R, 6125R with loader and 6930, Ford 7840
- Foragers: Claas Jaguar 850 and JF Stoll 1050 trailed
- Combine: Claas Lexion 430
- Sprayer: Bateman RB16 with 24m booms
- Drills: Horsch Pronto DC 4m, Kuhm 3m power harrow combination and two Gaspardo maize drills
- Cultivation kit: Dowdeswell five-furrow plough, 3m Simba Express
- Grass kit: Claas liner 2800 rake, 2 x Kuhn 10ft mowers, Claas 3200 baler
- Fertiliser spreader: KRM
- Muck and slurry kit: 2 x Major 2,400 gal tankers, 2 x Shelbourne Reynolds rear-discharge spreaders, 2 x umbilical pumps
- Other: Mitsubishi L200 pickup, 2 x 18t Smyth silage trailers, 12t Marshall silage trailer, twose flat roll, Honda ATV with slug pelleter, McConnel hegecutter.
Spraying – you don’t get too many interruptions and you can cover a satisfying amount of ground when it’s going well. We are lucky we don’t have to travel too far either.
Least favourite job?
Hedgecutting, as it is slow, tedious and I always feel as if I should be doing something else more productive. The umbilical is also pretty tedious, but at least you can do some paperwork.
Do you buy second-hand?
I buy quite a bit of second-hand machinery, with fairly mixed success. The Claas Lexion 430 was one of the most recent and it has given a bit of trouble – mainly with the electrics behind the panel next to the cab. Luckily it came with a bit of warranty and Vaughan Agri has been great at putting it right.
What is your everyday transport?
I have a 60-plate L200 Trojan that’s on 85,000 miles. It’s a decent truck and is pretty car-like to drive.
Biggest machinery bargain?
The best buy I’ve had was our KRM fertiliser spreader. It is a 2009 model with all the gizmos, does variable rate and it only cost me £1,250.
Best tractor you’ve ever had?
The old 7840 takes a bit of beating, but I probably have to go with the 6930 I have now. It did need a head gasket, but otherwise it has been spot on. It’s also on its original set of Michelin tyres that have done 5,700 hours and have still got about 15% tread left. We can’t believe how long they have lasted and they’ve done plenty of road work, too.
Worst tractor you’ve ever had?
It is a toss-up between my original MF 6180 and a Claas Arion 640 I had for a couple of months. The 6180 had to have the gearbox rebuilt, the shuttle was troublesome and we had numerous problems with the hydraulics. The Claas had serious gremlins in the front-axle suspension, the ride was terrible and the head gasket was on the way out.
What would you buy if you won the lottery?
I would start off with a new Bateman and a telehandler, and then start looking for a farm to buy. It would make a nice change from contracting for a living.
Any machinery toys or classics in the shed?
The 7840 is the closest I’ve got – I think it is a bit of a classic already.