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Cousins working together on our family owned farm with the aim of running a commercial modern farm producing high yielding, high standard crops while maximising wildlife diversity. Brian is said to be the farmer and conservationist, whereas Patrick is a conservationist and farmer. This mix has given a new direction for the farm, building upon the work that our fathers and grandfather has done to improve the overall success of the farm business. The farm has gone from strength to strength with the farm being recognised at a national level winning the coveted National FWAG’s Silver Lapwing Award for farming and conservation in 2009 and then Patrick and Brian were named Countryside Farmer of the Year by the Farmers Weekly in 2010.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Claas Challenger 55

I had a bit of a ticking off from my dear grandmother when I popped in to see her a week or two back. The first ticking off I got was why I hadn’t I seen her for so long and, without giving me a chance to say sorry, I got the second which was that she did not understand some parts of my last story about what had been going down on the farm. My Nana is an avid listener as, without direct access to a computer, my mother or aunt are requested to keep her updated with what has been written about on our Blog.  I do apologise to all and especially Nana for any jargon that I used, if I did not explain some things very well and that the length was a bit long - once I start, I find it hard to find a sensible end point.
So I thought, how could I help everyone understand what each bit of machinery does on the farm, why we use it and how it works?
From time to time on this blog, we add a different bird species as a post, which gives a general profile of what they are all about, so I thought I would do the same for the different machines we use on the farm. Hopefully this will help with the blog updates and also help everyone to understand what the different machines do that you see out of your kitchen or car windows.
I begin with the 3 different work horses on the farm, our tractors, and initially with our big beast:
The Claas CAT pulling the drill

Name:  Claas Challenger 55
Driver: John Leggett and very occasionally myself but it is hard to get John off the seat!

Cat pulling the Subsoiler

Visual Description: Green and White in colour but not a typical-looking tractor as it does not have 4 wheels but two rubber belts known as caterpillar tracks. These increase its so-called footprint, which spreads its considerable weight over more of an area, so it is better for the soil in most conditions as this reduces the chance of soil compaction that leads to reduced crop yield.
Size: Our model is only a little one in today’s sizes, with 280 horses powering the tractor and implement forward – normally referred to as ‘hp’: horse power. Some top of the market tracked tractors have 600+ hp under the bonnet! The engine is very large, loud and thirsty! During a working day, depending on what it is doing, it can burn over 400L of fuel in 10 hours.  

Inside the cab

Controls: In the cab, it has the normal controls of a steering wheel, hydraulic leavers that control the oil flow to the implements attached to the tractor and a gear stick. The gear stick is not a standard ‘H’ as in your manual car but a shuttle shift gear box which means you have a range of 30 gears and to go up or down you just push the stick forward once or back once to change gear. Also in the cab are the electronic controls of the different implements that the tractor pulls.
Cat pulling the Unipress

Cost: We bought this machine a few years back, second hand, and I think it was close to £140,000. This is now half of what a new one would cost. Obviously, it is an important tractor to keep going as it is used at the really busy times of year. We have an agreement with the local dealer to keep it serviced on a contract, so it gets all the care that is needed to make it very reliable.
Cat pulling the SL400
Jobs it does on the farm: Due to its special tracks, it is used to do most of the early primary cultivations like Sub Soiling and pulling the SL400. All the secondary Cultivations, the Unipress and the Toptilth are done with this tractor, as well as all the planting of the different crops using the Vaderstad 6m seed drill. Once the crops are up and growing, this tractor becomes obsolete and has to sit back in the workshop. Over a year, it will normally do about 600hrs of work.

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