Andrew Kerr

5 October 2001

Andrew Kerr

Andrew Kerr farms 344ha

(850 acres) in partnership

with his parents and brother

at Wyldingtree Farm, North

Weald, Essex. Cropping is

potatoes, including some

on rented ground, plus

cereals, herbage seed and

oilseed rape

AN INDIAN summer? I dont think so! Whatever happened to those halcyon days of yesteryear when seed-bed moisture always seemed in short supply?

Now, the perennial struggle is with the wet. We have already received more than our 630mm (25in) annual average and with three months of the year to go another record-breaking soaker is on the cards. Oct 1 to Oct 1 we have had 1100mm (43in).

The local soothsayer tells me that the difference between a good farmer and an indifferent one is about two weeks in terms of operational timeliness. Working on that basis we have been burning the candles at both ends with spud harvesting and drilling whenever conditions and reliability permit.

Wheat sowing started Sept 15 with Claire at 100kg/ha (0.8cwt/acre) going into a good seed-bed after canola. To date we are 75% drilled up with some second wheats and a field after spuds left. The latter would be drilled too but for SCATS/BDRs decision that Tanker is not an "early-driller" and, therefore, there was no rush with delivery. As the field is now a sodden mess please let me be the judge of that!

But the real bugbear of the season has been several unjustified and unexpected breakdowns with both potato harvester and drill. Control panel circuit boards have failed repeatedly, harvester star shafts sheared in half, and regular welding repairs to the levelling board and main lift frame on the drill drive have been needed. If problems occur due to poor maintenance we reap our just reward but such failures drive me to despair.

Manufacturers may have made machinery more productive and pleasant to use, but reliability has not improved one iota.

In the good old days dealers carried vital parts in stock. Now, you drive four or five hours to some far flung manufacturer for a part then hand a percentage of that cost back to the local "dealer" who did not stock it. We can only exact our revenge at replacement time. &#42

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