Second-hand tactics pay off in big savings
New machinery has relatively
few takers on our barometer
farms this autumn.
Andrew Blake examines the
latest thinking on arable
LITTLE new equipment has gone on to Keith Snowballs North Yorks land in recent years, even though a fair chunk of the income at High Farm, Brandsby comes from contracting.
"We have not bought new for a long time. We tend to look for good second-hand machines needing a bit of repair, and spend money which is 100% allowable against tax to put them back into sound condition."
Helping achieve that, apart from his own skills and that of brother Alan, is a well-equipped workshop in a second-hand industrial shed bought three years ago. "It is 60ft by 40ft and cost just £3500. It is one of the best investments we made."
Typical of the work done is the rebuild of a fire-damaged combine. "We used it for three seasons and sold it for £1500 more than it stood on the books." The farms home-built sprayer, based on a 1983 tractor, cost £12,000 compared with about £50,000 for similar new, he notes. "It does not look much, but it meets all our requirements and is very functional."
The sluggish export market may force a shift in tractor policy which concentrates on straightforward, gadget-free, reliable models. All three current Case IH 107hp machines have done nearly 5000 hours each. "Until now they have been very exportable, so there was virtually no depreciation on them. Now that has changed we may have to keep them a bit longer."
Sowing tactics are being reconsidered after wet weather this autumn. "We have always ploughed and knocked down with two power harrows in front of a 4m drill. But that came unstuck in the rain." Some form of minimum cultivation or combination harrow/drill system to follow close behind the plough is being explored. "We could put an air drill on the back of our Kuhn 4m power harrow." The need for a higher powered tractor rules out a wide cultivator drill approach.
On lighter land there may well be a case for rougher seed-beds achieved more cheaply with older equipment, he believes. "We combined some very uneven fields this year and yields were no worse. You have to question whether we really need a billiard table."
A second-hand buying strategy plus careful maintenance brings big savings for northern barometer farmer, Keith Snowball. This self-built 12/20/24m forward-control 1500-litre sprayer cost £17,200, an equivalent new machine would have cost £50,000.
lSouth Patrick Godwins rolling replacement policy spreads capital outlay, but brand-new equipment is rarely part of the strategy. "Two years ago we replaced the materials handler and last year got rid of our old tired 110hp tractor and bought a good second-hand one as general workhorse." Another hired from Shropshire-based Michael Powell eases autumn workloads. "We only need it for five to six weeks but the minimum hire period is 10. So we offset the cost by sub-contracting elsewhere," says Mr Godwin. "In future we shall have to make much more use of contractors, machinery rings or sharing." Most recent attention has been on anti-compaction radial tyres and a front-mounted press for the drill tractor.
lWest Whether new or second-hand the key point in any machinery buying policy is to match capital spending to annual depreciation, says Steven Mackintosh. Failure to do so risks a wasting asset base, he says. "But in the current situation we are replacing only as necessary and concentrating on the higher value crops." Deals with in-built maintenance warranties offer added value in what is clearly a buyers market, he adds.
lSouth-west Good second-hand tackle to cope with more acres are sole entries on Stewart Hayllors shopping list. Apart from his novel drill (Arable, Oct 2), main requirement before long will be a replacement for the 12m boom sprayer. At over 240ha (600 acres) a year the 4.9m (16ft) cut Massey 30 combine is also nearing its limit. Genuine manufacturers parts are always used for engines, but cheaper earth-wearing parts are the norm, more for convenience than cost savings.
lEast David Pettitt has few regrets about buying a new Maschio 4m power harrow at short notice when his nine-year-old machine died this autumn. "We got a good deal. It got us out of a hole and we were thinking of buying another next year anyway." The levelling board on the new model is much easier to adjust, and side mounted packer roller adjustment will permit a drill to be mounted above if required, he notes.
lMidlands "We try to renew something each year," says Steven McKendrick. This year it is the turn of the combines, a 2188 Axial Flow and a seven-year-old TX36. Principle needs are for more capacity to avoid using contractors and a machine gentle on valuable straw. "We shall look new or ex demo, there are all sorts of deals and we wont necessarily buy." A Claas Challenger crawler claimed to boost work rates by 10% through less wheel-slip looks interesting, he adds. Lease agreements and contract hire are often used. "We just take whichever is most attractive at the time." Main concern is that "just in time" dealer arrangements threaten timeliness.
lScotland First caller on any of Eric Haggarts spare cash would be a storage shed, not equipment. "We try to change machinery as often as possible when finances allow, but at this stage we are not making any money at all. Fortunately we have replaced most key machines in the past three years. I have no plans to invest now."
Sole expenditure will be on patching up the Opico mobile drier bought second-hand eight years ago.
lN Ireland "To some extent we are putting the brakes on," says Michael Kane, who is nevertheless keen to investigate GPS technology. "We changed two tractors two years ago and the combine is only five years old, so there is no real need to purchase again for two to three years." The nine-year-old pneumatic spreader is a potential casualty but would cost £15,000-£20,000 to replace. "It is surprising how long you can make a machine last if you look after it." *
BAROMETER TACKLE STRATEGY ROUND-UP