About Us

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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.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Simba SL400 Cultivator

Name:  Simba SL400 Cultivator
Operator: John Leggett as it can only be pulled by our largest tractor, the Challenger, on tracks.
Visual Description: A long 4 metre wide orange trailed cultivator, with rows of soil-moving discs and tines and a metal DD packer roller on the back. On top, there is a white tank and a number of pipes that can be used to broadcast Oil Seed Rape seed or slug pellets, if required, as it moves over the soil.
Size: It is 4m wide and about 15m long and is fixed onto the tractor by a bar that is connected to the two arms on the back of the tractor, so that the operator can always keep the implement level, depending on the depth that the soil needs to be worked to.    
Work rate: With an start and an finish, you would easily cover 40 hectares of stubble, which varies on field size, headland shape, depth of work, but still is much quicker and more fuel efficient than ploughing. General rule of cultivations: the deeper you move the soil the slower you go and the more fuel you burn and the more pounds that are added to the cost of productions.
Controls: There are not many controls for the operator in the cab, apart from the unit required to power and calibrate the broadcasting seeder on the back. Other than that, the tractor pulls the implement behind it and hydraulic oil from the spool values, linked to the levers in the cab, lifts up the wheels at the back or moves the packer roller on the back to ease the SL400 in and out of the ground.
Cost: We had been looking for a primary cultivator that could work at a range of depths. The SL400 first arrived on the farm as a demonstration unit from a local machinery dealer after we had looked at it in the year. Unfortunately, that one was sold before we had made a decision about buying it so we had to look to the second hand market in the farming publications. We came across this one with the added bonus of an already installed seeder on the back, so were happy to invest a bit more as we would not have to adapt our other seeder to fit on the back. We brought it back in March of 2011 and are really happy with the job it does and money it has saved us in reduced passes of cultivations this year. The whole machine cost £34,750 but this is a long term investment as the frame is built very strong, so hopefully only wearing parts will need to be replaced.        
Jobs it does on the farm:  This is a primary cultivator that is designed to break up the soil right behind the combine. It has five rows of soil movers attached to the frame.  It starts with a row of concave discs that are designed to cut, mix and break the surface of the stubble. Then two rows of sprung loaded tines are pulled through at a depth depending on what the aim is of the cultivation. Another row of discs then follow the tines to level the ground off before a packer roller consolidates the soil by pressing the weight of the machine down on to the surface of the soil. This produces what is known as a ‘rough stale seed bed’, which is left to allow any old grains of wheat dropped during harvest and any weed seeds to germinate and start to grow, so that we can then kill them off with a herbicide as they are unwanted. We sowed our Oil Seed Rape using the broadcaster on the back this year and it has radar on the frame that measures the unit’s speed which is calibrated to blow seed down the pipes to be dribbled on the soil surface. This is a vey cheap way of establishing the Rape and it worked well this year as the soil was very damp, which is ideal for starting a crop off well. The tines that are on the machine are designed to be lifted easily up and down so the depth is very flexible, when we sowed the rape we put them in deeper (8-9 inches) as the rape plant likes deeply loosened soil, whereas when we were using it for wheat establishment we lifted them up as shallow as we could to move the full width (3-4 inches) if we knew that the soil was in good condition underneath. We would judge the soil structure by digging a test pit or by looking at the crop previously grown in it and by notes taken throughout the year.

Monday, 19 December 2011

John Deere 6430 Tractor

Driver: John Leggett during the spring and myself during the cultivations.  It is our jump-on-and-drive tractor, so even the senior generation on the farm can drive it without worrying about any computers or too many buttons to press!
Visual Description: The John Deere livery of distinctive dark green and yellow. It is a small compact tractor that is light, nimble and speedy.
Size: This is our smallest work horse on the farm, it has 110Hp with a power boost when needed to give it an extra 15Hp if we are pulling heavy trailers or using the PTO, which is the power take off; this is the system that transfers movement through a shaft from the tractor into any implement that requires powered movement of parts e.g. makes the blades rotate on the mower mounted behind the tractor.    
Weight:  When we looked for a replacement for our old tractor that did similar jobs, I wanted a tractor that was as light as I could justify without losing its capability to lift and pull certain implements that may be needed. The 6430 is considerably lighter that the Challenger and the Fendt , but still has good pulling power when we need it. We wanted it as light as possible as it would be covering the land at critical times of year when soil compaction could easily be caused e.g. fertiliser spreading in early spring after wet winters and rolling after drilling.

Controls: The controls of the John Deere are much more traditional, a gear box with range selected by the driver on a standard ‘H’ like a car but within each gear selected it has an added four levels to select or you can ask the tractor to select the most efficient of the four by a button called Auto Power.  With the latter, it slips up and down the range automatically depending on the strain on the engine.    
Cost: The 6430 is not a premium size or a very high spec tractor like the Fendt but even with the exchange of our other old John Deere, we still had to pay £28,000 to change. We also have accessorised it with some new wheels and tyres. Tyre technology has dramatically improved and they are a very important part of the tractor, as they are needed to transfer its power on to the ground to move it forward but also they need to be sympathetic to the soil as we do not want to damage the soil through compaction as it is expensive to restore. The traditional tyre has a ridged wall, high air pressure and they spread the weight by being very wide, so creating a large footprint but the new tyres we bought have a soft wall, very low pressure and are not so wide, making it safer on the road. The clever bit is that by having soft walls and low pressure, the tyre bellows out and flexes to increase the amount of tyre in contact with the ground and so the footprint increases. They only run at 6-7psi pressure and look flat as the wall rolls out so much but they are spreading the weight of the tractor very well and you don’t leave a rut or mark on the field.        
Jobs it does on the farm: This tractor does all the light work, firstly in the year it rolls the whole farm after the drill to press the seed into the soil, then it will cover the farm 3 or 4 times spreading fertiliser. In the summer it does all the mowing, teddering, and raking of the hay crop and also the flailing of the grass with the large 6m topper but is has the ability to pull our 14T grain trailer if needed. It is a very useful tractor and a lovely size for the range of jobs it does, we would certainly not be without a tractor of this size as it fits so well into our farming approach of using the correct size tractor for the specific jobs that are needed to be done throughout the year. We record all our fuel usage into every tractor so we know when tractors are efficient in fuel intake for every job they do.   

Christmas Down on the Farm

In the deep mid winter, all is quiet on the farm. As the winter moves in, life on the farm slows down and the list of winter jobs written on the wall slowly get reduced day by day.

For the past month we have 750 sheep on the farm, three different flocks all grazing our herbage grass crops tight to the ground and a smaller flock concentrating on grazing our conservation grassland. It is nice to have the sheep on the farm but they do need to be checked twice a day as some get stuck on their backs and occasionally we have an escapee!
Twice a week, one of us will be out and about adding supplement feed to our areas of wild seed mix that, due to the dry spring, have not filled out with as much natural food as we had hoped, so each area gets 50kg of old wheat and rape seed that has been sieved out of the crop that we put in the barn during harvest.
Pigeons are also flocking up and starting to move in on the nice lush Oil Seed Rape fields, so every day we will be out checking on the number of deterrents such as kites, gas bangers, rope bangers and scarecrows. If we did not use these deterrents, we come out of winter with either no plants or a crop that has been grazed and is very patchy and not consistent, and the yield would never be gained.
John has been busy going through all our machines giving them a service, so that they are in tip top condition when we need them and will remain in full working order. He has also been busy in the barn cleaning and bagging up all our Grass Seed we harvested this year. The grass is passed over a number of sieves of different sizes and has wind blown through it to remove any weed seeds and bits of grass stalk that would affect the purity. If they were left in there, we would be penalised financially as the contract is for seed that is 98%+ purity to get the top grade.
Nick is showing his full range of skills with our annual building checks and repairs. This year the farm office is being given the once-over, so paint, new cupboards and floors have been fixed and hopefully the dust will settle. He has also been helping Patrick with other projects in the Cottages, as well as wielding the chainsaw on the few days that have been nice enough to be outside, with some scrub clearance and our next stage of pond clearance.
Apart from decoration, the office is busy with paper work and planning for next year, I have been looking at fertiliser plans, analysing yield maps from harvest and keeping up to date with all the crop records from all the passes that have happened since harvest. Patrick has been keeping the accounts all up to date and has been busy looking into possibly installing PV solar panels on a few buildings.
It is amazing that the list of jobs never ends and we are so busy throughout the cold months. This year we are earlier doing these as we had an efficient autumn, so early in the New Year, we may be able to start some more ambitious projects like rain harvesting, a new chemical store, a revamp of the bygones collection and more conservation work.
The crops are all slowing up with the frost and as the nutrients in the soil become less readily available. It has been difficult on the crops with this mild winter as the disease has been high and this is why they have a yellow tinge to them as green leaf has died due to Mildew and some early rust that we would expect in the spring!
All in all, life is never dull and every day is different for us.
We wish you all a Happy Christmas and thanks from us for reading these snippets into our working life that we post, sorry that they have been a little irregular. Enjoy your Festive season. BWB