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BiG Times Issue 6

Richard Anthony and his

Richard Anthony and his son David BIG X FORAGE HARVESTER BOOSTS PERFORMANCE Richard Anthony and his family have built a successful business that grows and supplies around 20,000 tonnes of high quality forage to customers each year. From Tythegston Farm near Bridgend, Glamorgan, R and L Anthony has carved out a niche business growing and supplying high quality forage to customers. 14 And what started 18 years ago with just 108 acres and the chance of some contract work has blossomed into a 3,000-acre operation that produces 20,000 tonnes of forage annually. The business, run by Mr Anthony, wife Lyn and son David, has a carefully planned rotation geared towards making the most of forage production. With half the acreage producing combinable crops, the remainder comprises grass, maize and forage rye. When it comes to productivity, the Anthonys are effective at making the most of their resources. As soon as enough wheat has been harvested, 750- acres of forage rye is planted, in fields that are allocated to maize. Rye is then harvested and clamped in early spring ahead of maize drilling. This highly efficient approach avoids leaving stubbles to over-winter. Additional benefits include effective blackgrass control, and the farm benefits from producing three crops in two years. Crop diversity also spreads the workload, and with a small amount of contract work, it becomes easier to justify heavy investment in high output machinery. With the emphasis firmly on quality, all forage is tested for dry matter and digestibility, so livestock customers and AD operators know the quality they are getting. Equipment for such an operation is considerable. Forage harvesting duties are the domain of a Krone BiG X 700 with grass and maize headers to maximise productivity. A fleet of five 18-tonne capacity Dooley trailers supports the forager, and boosts transport efficiency. With a 12-row EasyCollect maize header, forager output is a consistent 85 acres/day. And depending on the length of haul - clamps and grain stores are strategically located at nearby St Brides Major and Llampha, in addition to Tythegston - their five trailers are often supported by local owner-operators. When it comes to grass, the Anthonys take multiple cuts from a 580-acre crop. Mowing is the domain of a Krone EasyCut B 870 CV butterfly mo-co combination on one of the farm’s New Holland T7 tractors. Swaths are now pulled together using a Krone fourrotor Swadro 1400 rake, to make the most of forager performance. “We had previously been using a twin-rotor rake to pull 9m of grass into one swath,” explains Mr Anthony. “What we found was our forward speed was too high, and if the metal detector went off, everything was travelling too quickly to stop easily. “The four-rotor rake lets us pull 14m of grass into one swath, which has reduced our forward speed and gives all the kit a much easier time,” he says. “And the heavier rows mean much more chopping output too.” In grass, Mr Anthony says the BiG X 700 can see off 200-acres/day. Supplied and supported by Pallisers, the forager has just completed its third maize season, and has completed two seasons in grass. It is the first self-propelled owned by the firm, following several seasons of using contractors and latterly, hiring in a forager, on a seasonal basis. “We didn’t have the acreage to justify buying our own forager in the early days, but as the business has grown, the numbers started to stack up,” he says. “And when you’re chasing the best forage quality, you really need to be in control of your own destiny, rather than waiting for that phone call to say we can’t get to you until the end of the week. “We have had lots of experience with different types of forager, but having tried a BiG X on demo, there is little to compare to it. It really is a fantastic machine. And one of the biggest influences on our buying decision was chop quality – we have a 28-blade cylinder, and with six feed rollers, we can give customers a very accurate result with chop length. We can also give them exactly the chop length they want. “Typically, we can chop from 25mm down to 10mm – the shorter chop is very important for our AD customers,” he says. “Too much leaf can float to the surface of the digester and restrict gas production. “And the second factor is fuel efficiency,” he adds. “Over a season, the BiG X has slashed 25 per cent off the forager fuel bill, which is a huge saving for us. And we’re getting a slightly higher work rate too.” That work rate is managed efficiently by putting adequate resources not only on filling the clamp, but also into clamp construction. With the benefit of space from recently built clamps, it means a telehandler with duals on the front axle, and two tractors can often be found clamping and rolling. “We fill all our clamps progressively in layers, and in maize, using a blade helps to level the crop as it gets rolled in,” says Mr Anthony. “Push-off buck rakes and forks are the only option in grass though. “And building our clamps this way - rather than in wedges - means we can supply customers with consistent forage quality, all the way through a clamp.”

DIFFICULT DECISIONS TAKEN NOW TO BENEFIT NEXT GENERATION The slow decline of the agricultural industry in the north east of Scotland led Bill Beaton and his family to re-evaluate their successful contracting business and start a farming business of their own. The business, situated near Elgin, covers a wide area as they are surrounded on one side by mountains and heather and so they can travel up to 70 miles to do a particular job. “This was the only way out, we are still losing customers at the rate of around five per year as farms are integrated and prices remain stubbornly low,” says Mr Beaton. The area has also just been delivered another blow, which is the one remaining creamery in the area has been given notice to close by Mullers. The reaction to this by local dairy farmers will certainly have a knock on effect to the investment the Beaton’s make to their own business over the next few months. As farms have slowly gone out of business or combined for more efficiency Mr Beaton realised he was losing customers. With a young family looking to help out, he and his wife, Sarah, and father Bill, decided to buy a small 60 acre farm and start a beef suckler herd. However, things started to go wrong when they applied to the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) for their Single Farm Payment (SFP). They were told that they did not qualify for the payment. “We realised then that we had to enlarge the farm to make a go of it and fortunately one of the local estates let us rent a large area of land. Since then we have rented more land and even taken some on a management partnership. Our problems with the RPA are now sorted out, although timeliness of payment is still a problem,” says Mr Beaton. They now have a growing farm which consists of around 600 acres of hill land and 450 acres of cultivable land which supports 70 suckler cows, 220 fattening animals and 150 ewes. The business is still centred on contracting however, as calving and lambing periods are deliberately timed to coincide with slack times and school holidays. The Beatons supply everything that farmers would need in the varied agricultural climate of the north east of Scotland. “I started the business in 1991 after I was made redundant from one of the local estates. Despite some local scepticism I bought a new Deutz Fahr tractor, trailer and a plough and then a drill in the following spring. After two years the business was still growing and I was able to employ my father when he was made redundant and now we employ five full time staff and several seasonal staff when there is a need,” says Mr Beaton. “We now provide everything for farmers from plough to harvest, as well as foraging and other grassland operations, lime spreading and destoning potato land, plus a whole range of snow clearance services in the winter.” All swadro rakes feature a good headland clearance Speed, efficiency and good quality silage are the key elements that go towards the silage making branch of the Beaton family contracting business. To make sure this happens he relies on two Krone butterfly mowing kits as well as two Krone rakes and a Krone tedder. “We started buying Krone machinery in 2007 and then in 2009 we purchased our first set of EC 32 CV & EC 9140 CV triple mowers. Sitting round a table with the guys from Krone and the dealers solved a few early teething problems such as getting the geometry of the mowers right in relation to tractor. “It was good to know that when we came to purchase another set of mowers the advice had been taken on board in the newer models and we had no problems whatsoever. The newer mowers also have more improved break back bars and shear bolts, which make mowing easier,” points out Mr Beaton. Fuel efficiency and speed is also a key part of any contractors business, he adds, and when using a set of Krone triple mowers with a John Deere 7310 he is able to get this down to around 3litres/acre and on a good day cutting up to 180 acres, mowing up to 30 acres/hour. “Our mowers are fitted with spreaders as I firmly believe that making good quality silage isn’t possible without spreading the crop. Consequently we have two Krone rakes, a 9m and a 10m to row the crop up in front of the harvesters. We also have a 9m tedder that allows us to spread the crop again if the weather conditions are catchy.” There is still a lot of hay made in this area which means that a tedder is an essential part of the process explains Mr Beaton. Catchy weather conditions also mean he has to be very flexible as farmers can change their mind and decide to make silage instead. He believes that one of the main problems facing the business over the next few years will be climate change. “The weather seems to be getting worse and the windows available to do the work, which were already small in this part of the world, are getting shorter. Consequently we cannot hold back on investment on newer and more efficient machinery. “However this has to be tempered by the doubts surrounding the dairy industry in the region, and low commodity prices in the other sectors. There must be a concerted effort to encourage people to eat locally produced food. We feel that we have taken the right steps to ensure the business carries on into the future. Having three children who are already showing a great interest in the farm and the contracting business is a great incentive to make sure we get it right.” EC 9140 Cv mowers spreading the swath full width whilst cutting grass 15