Contractee slowly buying DD-relevant kit

Fat hen

Member
After 15yrs of contract farming (500ac clay & sand) mostly with solo and plough I am just taking the reins from my Dad. Primarily in the name of reducing costs I have changed contractors (a brave move as they were cousins). They had been overcharging by Dad for years (15-40% over the going-rate) as I found out and we had been losing financial viability. So I have set about looking at everything and reducing the costs.

The attraction of Strip till/DD to me is primarily financial (as a contractee this is easy to quantify, sometimes the dry & cloddy clay was 100/ac before drilling!) but also in terms of the soil structure and health. It is closer to the natural state. I like the science behind it and want to learn more. Ideally I'd have a CTF contractor but none around.

Ive been spreading duck muck (muck for straw) and/or compost every year, after decades of none. Soil science suggests that SOM is 'king'. So all our fields have had a good dollop (30t/ac) of muck/compost, now the plan is for less but more often to feed worms, etc. Thinking about spraying on compost tea - anyone tried this?

We have mole-ploughed all the clay fields which has helped immensely with drainage on the whole. We think this will need repeating 1 in 4 yrs.

Our yields in the 3 years have been similar to min-till. This year aint looking great though thanks to slugs, but we've had disasters with min-till too. But am omitting OSR for the foreseeable future from clay to hopefully reduce the slugs. Our crops are presently WW, SB, Peas (licensee), Beans & Quinoa. We have set about and reduced the blackgrass massively using Spring crops and low disturbance. The clay is 2 WW then a break/SB. The sand is 1 WW then break,or WW then SB then break.

Ive been looking at each operation and deciding which I might buy kit for Vs a contractor.
So far Ive bought a used fert spreader (contractor costs 7-8k/annum) , a new flail (am in the new Mid-tier sch), and used rolls (contractors often dont get land rolled). We already have a 20 yr old NH 7840 (100hp) and a 30 yr old JCB loader, a trailer and a hedgecutter. My current thoughts are to go down the cover crop route, so to get something to establish a cover crop and provide compaction relief. Eventually a drill but non-committal as yet to which one.

I am thinking this could be sub-tiller (with spreader) and get a used 160hp+ tractor to pull it. In buying this tractor I would then get a used trailed sprayer and perhaps a straw-rake/shallow disks (a la Katros). So its a question of what is worth getting.....

Your thoughts please....
 
Last edited:

Clive

Staff Member
Arable Farmer
Location
Lichfield
Trailer sprayer and do all your own Chem and liquid fert application

Without doubt the most important operation to be in control of

When you can get a zero till drill - a nice used3m 750a maybe

An old shallow cultivator - tera star maybe seems on trend !

Leave harvest to contractors

That's all you need really
 

D14

Member
After 15yrs of contract farming (500ac clay & sand) mostly with solo and plough I am just taking the reins from my Dad. Primarily in the name of reducing costs I have changed contractors (a brave move as they were cousins). They had been overcharging by Dad for years (15-40% over the going-rate) as I found out and we had been losing financial viability. So I have set about looking at everything and reducing the costs.

The attraction of Strip till/DD to me is primarily financial (as a contractee this is easy to quantify, sometimes the dry & cloddy clay was 100/ac before drilling!) but also in terms of the soil structure and health. It is closer to the natural state. I like the science behind it and want to learn more. Ideally I'd have a CTF contractor but none around.

Ive been spreading duck muck (muck for straw) and/or compost every year, after decades of none. Soil science suggests that SOM is 'king'. So all our fields have had a good dollop (30t/ac) of muck/compost, now the plan is for less but more often to feed worms, etc. Thinking about spraying on compost tea - anyone tried this?

We have mole-ploughed all the clay fields which has helped immensely with drainage on the whole. We think this will need repeating 1 in 4 yrs.

Our yields in the 3 years have been similar to min-till. This year aint looking great though thanks to slugs, but we've had disasters with min-till too. But am omitting OSR for the foreseeable future from clay to hopefully reduce the slugs. Our crops are presently WW, SB, Peas (licensee), Beans & Quinoa. We have set about and reduced the blackgrass massively using Spring crops and low disturbance. The clay is 2 WW then a break/SB. The sand is 1 WW then break,or WW then SB then break.

Ive been looking at each operation and deciding which I might buy kit for Vs a contractor.
So far Ive bought a used fert spreader (contractor costs 7-8k/annum) , a new flail (am in the new Mid-tier sch), and used rolls (contractors often dont get land rolled). We already have a 20 yr old NH 7840 (100hp) and a 30 yr old JCB loader, a trailer and a hedgecutter. My current thoughts are to go down the cover crop route, so to get something to establish a cover crop and provide compaction relief. Eventually a drill but non-committal as yet to which one.

I am thinking this could be sub-tiller (with spreader) and get a used 160hp+ tractor to pull it. In buying this tractor I would then get a used trailed sprayer and perhaps a straw-rake/shallow disks (a la Katros). So its a question of what is worth getting.....

Your thoughts please....
In a similar boat to a certain extent although our problem is more staff related because we need a well qualified person that can spray, drill, drive a digger but only on a part time basis on average of about 25 hours per week. After 12 months of searching we have ended up with a young enthusiastic lad who is going to do 20 hours a week as part of his college course and putting the crop establishment out to 2 contractors but keeping the rolling, spraying and fertiliser in house which needs a tweak to make it a bit easier and less time consuming. However by putting the crop establishment out it will bring in some cash of around 50k whilst also making the choice of equipment much wider so we can literally pick on a field by field basis, rather than having to use one tool for everything. I can forsee using both ploughing and combination drilling as well as her till and cover crops depending on the field and crop plan. The missing link is being able to tow the bowser with the sprayer at the moment.
 

Fat hen

Member
Where abouts in the world are you? Are there any DD contractors around you?
N Lincs. Yes Claydon 2 miles away and a Mzuri 7miles. Also Dale (Dale Drills) is 5 miles away. prefer the former 2 rather than the latter. Have been using the Claydon mostly and this year used the Mzuri to drill the Quinoa (v shallow- good depth control).

ATM On sand I favour the Mzuri as it can cut a channel through the pan. So providing deep tillage. However on the clay it tends to drag up wet soil.
 

Fat hen

Member
In a similar boat to a certain extent although our problem is more staff related because we need a well qualified person that can spray, drill, drive a digger but only on a part time basis on average of about 25 hours per week. After 12 months of searching we have ended up with a young enthusiastic lad who is going to do 20 hours a week as part of his college course and putting the crop establishment out to 2 contractors but keeping the rolling, spraying and fertiliser in house which needs a tweak to make it a bit easier and less time consuming. However by putting the crop establishment out it will bring in some cash of around 50k whilst also making the choice of equipment much wider so we can literally pick on a field by field basis, rather than having to use one tool for everything. I can forsee using both ploughing and combination drilling as well as her till and cover crops depending on the field and crop plan. The missing link is being able to tow the bowser with the sprayer at the moment.
Yes you're doing the fert, spray, rolling - as I [plan] to do. As I see it these are relatively quick operations, not moving soil so no wearing parts and not hp/diesel-hungry. What type of sprayer do you have?

As regards the rest of it, I guess 'horses for courses' is one of the advantages of being a contractee when it comes to establishment. You are not committed to what you've bought. That said it does add up when you look at it over a 5yr period when its 20-25/acre.
 

Fat hen

Member
What's this?

Any sort of draft work you want a contractor to do. Buy a cheap Moore drill and a sprayer.
By a sub-tiller I am meaning tines which cut through the to sub soil rather then lifting it.

Used a Moores last yr for Quinoa. v good at shallow depth. but I dont think it makes room for roots/water - like the slit-till, which we need really.
 

Fat hen

Member
Trailer sprayer and do all your own Chem and liquid fert application

Without doubt the most important operation to be in control of

When you can get a zero till drill - a nice used3m 750a maybe

An old shallow cultivator - tera star maybe seems on trend !

Leave harvest to contractors

That's all you need really
Yes the Terra star now seems to be Claydons preferred approach to its Straw-rake. Our contractor has a Straw rake and Katros discs

How would you establish cover crops? I find it difficult to justify spending 20-25/ac on a contractor drilling them.
And loosening the sub-soil?
 

Clive

Staff Member
Arable Farmer
Location
Lichfield
Yes the Terra star now seems to be Claydons preferred approach to its Straw-rake. Our contractor has a Straw rake and Katros discs

How would you establish cover crops? I find it difficult to justify spending 20-25/ac on a contractor drilling them.
And loosening the sub-soil?
zero till drill covers or off the back of a shallow cultivator - both work well

don't bother subsoiling - there really is no need
 

Fat hen

Member
zero till drill covers or off the back of a shallow cultivator - both work well

don't bother subsoiling - there really is no need
No Sub-soiling? How do you deal with the compaction from harvest/balers/muck-spreaders ?
 

Clive

Staff Member
Arable Farmer
Location
Lichfield
No Sub-soiling? How do you deal with the compaction from harvest/balers/muck-spreaders ?
I don't deal with it, it sorts itself, cultivation creates the compaction problem, uncultivated soils cope and structure themselves, Of course we do aim to minimise damage with light machines and big tyres where possible and limit traffic as much as practical

there are plenty threads about it here, I don't want to repeat myself but we don't have compaction and haven't done anything deeper than 2" for quite some time now

plenty of people who cultivate will say I'm wrong but frankly how would they know if they are cultivating ?

anyway in short, our yields are better than they were when we cultivated / subsoiled etc - if compaction was an issue would that be the case ?
 

D14

Member
As regards the rest of it, I guess 'horses for courses' is one of the advantages of being a contractee when it comes to establishment. You are not committed to what you've bought. That said it does add up when you look at it over a 5yr period when its 20-25/acre.
When you factor in the cost of a full time member of staff over 5 yrs just so you can do all of your own work then I'm not convinced there are any savings to be made. For a decent guy your looking at a minimum of £25,000 per year before you even think about the tractor and associated machinery costs.
 

franklin

New Member
By a sub-tiller I am meaning tines which cut through the to sub soil rather then lifting it.

Used a Moores last yr for Quinoa. v good at shallow depth. but I dont think it makes room for roots/water - like the slit-till, which we need really.
I'll be drilling some stuff with the Mzuri later this week, subject to rain.
 
I don't deal with it, it sorts itself, cultivation creates the compaction problem, uncultivated soils cope and structure themselves, Of course we do aim to minimise damage with light machines and big tyres where possible and limit traffic as much as practical

there are plenty threads about it here, I don't want to repeat myself but we don't have compaction and haven't done anything deeper than 2" for quite some time now

plenty of people who cultivate will say I'm wrong but frankly how would they know if they are cultivating ?

anyway in short, our yields are better than they were when we cultivated / subsoiled etc - if compaction was an issue would that be the case ?
Same here
 
If you have clay that holds a mole there is little need to subsoil

Subsoiling became fashionable in the 1980s to break plough pans that had built up from ploughing in the previous 20 years
Farmers started doing it every year then got on the treadmill with one pass tyne and disc combinations

When we burnt straw min till produced the highest yields when done properly once the plough pan had been broken

If a field produces a high yielding crop why cultivate it deep the next year a modern combine running on tracks runs on less than 20% of the field
 

Fat hen

Member
How much difference do you think we'll two combines make in terms of compassion verses those with tracks?
 

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