Beset by tackle troubles…
With third-cut silage just
about wrapped up, theres
little respite for our Cornish
contractor, Graham Couch.
Geoff Ashcroft caught
up with him as
maize harvesting was
about to start
A SHORT break between grass and maize silage has given Graham Couch, an unscheduled opportunity to review his machinery fleet.
Though most kit is not due for replacement for at least another season, niggling reliability problems have created almost enough turmoil in the camp for the cheque book to be considered.
"It all started with bearing troubles in our new 3m Claas Corto drum mower, bought to replace a similar three-year-old model," explains Mr Couch. "One drum assembly has already been replaced and it wont be long before the same thing needs doing again."
"These days, with manufacturing facilities claiming to be second to none, its disappointing to find new equipment giving so much trouble – all it has to do is cut grass."
Mr Couch admits hes a fan of Claas equipment and as such, places great dependance on the service back-up from Mill Engineers. Though after only 800ha (2000 acres) and not yet a year old, can he afford to change the new mower?
"Not really. Its only just starting to earn its keep, which makes it harder to justify spending more money on a replacement. But what price is lost business as a result of unreliable kit?" he asks. "An extra years warranty might be the best option, then move the mower on when its two years old."
A hefty repair bill also followed a blocked radiator on the firms Claas Jaguar 695 self-propelled, which Mr Couch admits was a problem, not entirely the fault of the machine.
"We were chopping some dry, seedy grass and couldnt see across the field for dust. It was the classic scenario, really," he says. "I could see the temperature gauge going up, but it didnt get to the red. A long way from home and with only a small area left to finish, we decided to press on."
It proved a costly decision. Shortly afterwards, unhealthy noises from the engine brought the foraging operation to a complete standstill.
"She got a bit hot and damaged a piston and liner," he says. "Fortunately, we were only stopped for half a day. Mill Engineers had the motor stripped, repaired and running within four hours."
Having done only 2500 hours and been on the fleet for two seasons, its destined to do at least another season, but its performance will be under close scrutiny during maize silaging operations.
The last bone of contention lies with Mr Couchs Fiat F140 tractor which has seen a love/hate relationship shift more towards a hate/hate relationship.
"The main hydraulic piston which operates the lift arms is the latest addition to a growing list of repairs which includes a twisted lower link arm, continually leaking hydraulics, faulty fuel gauge, weak door frame …the list goes on," he explains. "It still leaks oil like a tea bag".
"The Fiat spends too much time back at the dealers yard. The only bonus is everything is under warranty."
That said, the warranty runs out in Feb 98 and it looks unlikely the tractor will stay with the firm beyond that. Mr Couch has already had a demonstration with a new Case MX125 tractor which left a lasting impression.
"The MX125 has less power than the Fiat, but pulling the same five-furrow plough, seemed to make easier work of it. The cab is more comfortable and the transmission is also better," he says. "If its anything like our Maxxum 5130 – which has never seen a spanner since it left the factory – then it could be money well spent."
"Theres still some number crunching to do before we make any firm decisions on changing kit," he says, though early indications are the Fiat could be the first to go down the road.
He loves me, he loves me not, he loves me…the future of Graham Couchs Fiat F140 hangs in the balance. Chances are, it will go down the road when the warranty runs out next February.
Barry and Brian Couch set about tidying up the landscape on Bodmin Moor between grass and maize harvesting workloads. When maize silage is finished, the prospect of miles of hedgetrimming throughout the winter months demands a tractor with a good heater.
• Base: Bodwen, Helland, Bodmin, Cornwall. (01208-72507).
• Work undertaken: Grass silage, maize silage, ploughing, drilling, hedgetrimming, slurry and muck spreading.
• Machinery fleet: Three main tractors – 140hp Fiat F140, 100hp Case Maxxum 5130, 95hp New Holland 7740SL. Also Ford 7610 with loader, Fiat 90-90. Claas Jaguar 695 Mega self-propelled forager, 3m (10ft) Claas Corto 3100N mower, three Bomford Turner B49X hedgetrimmers, Dowdeswell 5f reversible, trailers and muck spreaders.
• Labour: Graham, Barry and Brian Couch, plus additional staff when required.