Machinery Matters Article


Heal Farms… 125 miles upstream and 8 miles north east of Shrewsbury are Heal Farms, they are based at Shawbury and are a new customer to RFM.

Heal Farms is a family run business operating from Butlers Bank, Shawbury (north east of Shrewsbury) Matthew Wallace is Farm Manager of this large enterprise which is a mixed farming business encompassing 4800 acres and specialise in potato production for Mercian and McCain annually growing around 1200 acres. The farm also has a large scale free range egg business.

Soil type is highly variable from blowing sands to heavy clays on varying topography and is reliant on bore hole irrigation to keep the potato crop drought free. The
main pockets of land farmed are within a 25 mile radius around Shawbury, Market Drayton & Sutton Maddock where earlies are grown. Around 18000 tonnes are grown
annually utilising on farm insulated and inverter stores from November through June.

In March 2017 we reviewed our machinery fleet that we manage with a team of seven full time drivers on the arable operation, this swells to 30 when potato harvesting. We had a Challenger 855C 460 Hp which was doing 600 a hours per year and was costing in numerous Track replacements over the 4000 hours we had used it. We replaced the Challenger with a Fendt 939 for main cultivation roles. The 939 396 Hp was the ideal choice at the time due to improved traction from IF tyre technology, re-sale value and overall reliability.

A wheeled tractor is also more flexible, it has clocked up close to 2000 hours in its first season (three times as much as the Challenger was doing). We are able to do as much cultivation work using the 7m top down as the crawler did in a day with half the fuel consumption and half the weight. I have never seen a wheeled tractor be able to put the required power to the ground in different conditions, but tyre pressure and correct ballast (we use 1000kg wheel weights) are crucial and requires a good operator to get the best out of it.

We purchased a Fendt 828 287 Hp to pull our 6M Horsch Pronto Drill, replacing a Case Puma, and that has given us better output, reliability and improved fuel economy. It is a large tractor but is still light enough to spread fertiliser, but has the power to assist with cultivations when necessary. Both tractors are also used for Spring potato cultivations,
both being able to cultivate, ridge and handle triple bedtillers and have replaced two large hired tractors in spring, achieving the flexibility we sought. We plan to run the tractors to 8000 hours (4 years), Fendt’s extended warranty allows us to do this with confidence. Around the same time we also replaced two self-propelled sprayers with one large
36m 6000 litre Challenger Rogator with a view to spraying 500 acres of potato crops per day using a second operator to mix and chase with a high capacity bowser.

We have had the land mapped for nutrients and we use this in conjunction with RTK to spread fertilizer at variable rate. RTK also fixes our boundaries, reduces inputs and tailors our cultivations to achieve nearer 100% cropping. We also use the system for section control, steering andfor putting the tramlines in on the Rogator.
The Fendt integrated guidance from Trimble is very comprehensive and user friendly. The tractor screen also gives the operator important information such as accurate fuel consumption, engine load and wheel slip so that the operator can fi ne tune the implement and tractor to maximise effi ciency. We are hoping for a telemetry package to come from Fendt to monitor the tractors remotely in more detail and in real time.

We are very happy with the tractors. They are incredibly busy and flexible machines, and have given us impressive fuel economy and reliability. They are very popular with the operators, and have very comfortable and quiet cabs.

RFM are an hour and 20 mins away from Shawbury
and the farm had never done business with them before, so we did think twice before getting RFM involved in tractors, but they demonstrated the right model in the week we
wanted it, they brought out the AutoGuide system we wanted, RFMs specialist stayed with the tractor to ensure our guys knew all they needed to, and they came up with a package structured the way we wanted it. They gave us decent money for what we knew would be difficult part exchanges a 855C with poor tracks and mid wheels, and a NH T8.390, we were given local references to check out the back up. On delivery of the two tractors the
specialist returned to install the Tractors and AutoGuide and has been back since to re-install with a change of operator. After sales back up from Ross Farm Machinery has been fantastic from the Martley branch, servicing has been arranged in good time with engineers being very conscientious and thorough. We have found the whole process of Dealing with Ross Farm Machinery professional and business like.”

Since taking these notes Heal Farms have invested in a Fendt 1050 (517 hp) for delivery in July to handle cultivations on a substantial additional acreage.

Ross on Wye