Contractors Charlie and Dave Blandford are the latest to open their shed doors for our monthly What’s in Your Shed? series. Sifting Screen Mesh
Our team have been all over the country, and this time we park up at a mixed farm in Herefordshire.
We’re more loyal to our local dealers than specific brands of machinery, but the kit needs to be good quality and we do shop around a bit to get the best tool for the job.
Pallisers of Hereford has been our go-to dealer since it opened in the early 1990s and we’ve stuck with it as it’s moved from Massey Ferguson tractors to Deutz-Fahr and now Kubota.
The level of service we receive is the main reason for this, but we’ve also been happy with the tractors we’ve had, particularly the new Kubota M7s.
All our Krone grass kit came from Pallisers too, as well as our Merlo telehandler and the Amazone drill, fertiliser spreader and sprayer.
Continuing the theme of buying local, our Claas combine came from Morris Corfield, our trailers are from AW Trailers just down the road, and we’ve got a few bits and pieces from Tallis Amos at Leominster.
We have never been interested in trawling the country to save a few quid on individual pieces of kit. It’s time consuming and you don’t always end up better off in the long run.
See also: Video: Kubota’s 170hp four-cylinder M7173 on test
Charlie: It’s the Kubota tractors for me. We’ve got three of them – two M7172s and a later M7173 – and they’re all brilliant.
In the past, we’ve always had a six-cylinder tractor for heavier draught work, but these have got more than enough power for everything we do.
At 6.1 litres, the engines are big for a four-cylinder and they generate plenty of torque.
We first became aware of the M7s when Kubota rented some yard space off us to store its south of England demo fleet.
Just before the launch, a disguised blue prototype turned up on a lorry and we got to look around it.
It was a bit rough and ready, but we could see the potential. Soon after they went on sale, we bought a M7171 and we haven’t looked back since.
Dave: I’ve been really impressed with our Horsch Joker disc cultivator and Mono TG toolbar.
It’s very well made and versatile, allowing us to make a seed-bed in one pass with the legs and discs in play, or separate them so that the discs can be used to work down furrows.
The auto-reset system is a godsend on our stony ground and I like the fact it’s so easy to swap the points around.
This means we can use a narrow one for deep working and a wider one when we want to move soil at a shallower depth.
We have a 2.7m Joskin topper that isn’t quite up to the work we’re throwing at it.
It gets used for knocking down bird cover and environmental margins, which causes it to chew up drive belts for fun.
The blades also get trashed in no time, so it spends more time in the workshop than it does running.
The biggest purchase this season was a Claas Lexion 5400 combine, which we got to replace our 630.
It’s a five-walker machine with the new four-drum threshing system, which is supposed to give performance closer to that of a rotary.
We’ve noticed a big jump in output and we can go about 15% faster than the old model without pushing the losses up.
The cab is also nicer, with a slicker screen that’s more intuitive to use, better sound deadening and a much simpler system for setting the reel speed.
We have had a few minor teething problems, but thankfully nothing that stopped us combining. These should all be sorted before we get it out next season.
As impressive as it is, there are still some improvements Claas could make. First, access to the concave, lower sieve and grain pan is needlessly awkward.
Before we moved to Lexions, we had a Deutz 6065HTS, which had big access panels at the side – it would be nice to see something similar on this machine.
We have also just done a deal on a Trimble Centerpoint RTX GPS system, which has a satellite correction signal.
We struggle for mobile reception for RTK correction in parts of the farm, and this was much more reliable than the Kubota RTK system we tried.
The equipment itself was quite reasonable but the subscription is expensive at £1,160 a year.
We have a 2002 Supertino trailed straw blower and silage feeder that we bought new from a local farmer who had branched out into machinery dealing.
It is well built and hasn’t shown much sign of wear over the past 18 years.
These days it mainly gets used for straw, which puts very little strain on it, so it should have plenty more life left.
Anything with an engine and transmission we tend to keep until the warranty is up. In the case of the tractors and combine, this is five to seven years.
It’s a formula that seems to work well, as we don’t have to stomach expensive repair bills and we’re not stressing about broken machinery when we’re busy.
If we do have a problem, it’s reassuring to know that Pallisers or one of the other dealers we use will soon get it sorted for us.
This approach isn’t necessary for simpler and less frequently used equipment, such as the straw bedder or plough, which we keep until they start to get worn or give trouble.
We would like a front-mounted flail topper to replace the Joskin.
It should be better suited to the bulky vegetation we’re cutting and having one on the front should mean it does a tidy job.
The topper isn’t a machine we’ll use very often, so we’ll probably look for a good second-hand example.
We would also like to swap our 12t AW trailers for larger 14t models with flotation tyres, and our oldest 2018 Kubota M7172 might get changed soon as it’s reaching the end of its warranty.
Dave: I’ve had a couple of embarrassing trailer tipping incidents of late. Last year I was uploading in a shed with the sun shining in so I couldn’t see very well.
I thought I was clear of the roof, but I pushed the trailer through the fibre cement panels and damaged a couple of solar panels mounted above.
I did the same thing while drying grain this harvest and rushing to keep up with the combine. Thankfully there were no solar panels above that roof though.
Charlie: I haven’t bashed much machinery, but I did make a serious setup error when we got our first Lexion.
We were cutting beans, and I didn’t realise the rotor on the top of the straw walkers needed to be lifted right out of the way.
The combine blocked solid three days running and it took about three-and-a-half hours each time to clear it. It was a horrendous job.
We haven’t had many expensive bills recently as we’re well covered with warranties. However, when we had a Deutz Agrotron M620 we spent a small fortune on a series of repairs to the aircon.
The main problem seemed to be a filter that broke up and caused debris to go through the system. In total, it cost us about £7,000.
Back in the 1980s, we also had trouble with an early Collins Teleshift that was based on a Massey Ferguson 240.
The forward/reverse selector wasn’t up to the job and it failed repeatedly. It even packed up once as it was being taken off the lorry after repair.
We liked it enough to buy a couple of later production models though, and these didn’t give us any significant problems.
We’re not big on inventing and building equipment, but we make the odd tool and occasionally modify bits to make them work better.
However, when we’re using the kit, we often think of ways that manufacturers could improve the design.
A recent idea that came to mind this harvest was for combine makers to fit a high-powered battery leaf blower on the machine with an integrated charger.
It would be so handy to always have one there for blowing off, rather than having to bring one out from the yard.
We have a big Milwaukee cordless impact wrench that’s fantastic for wheel nuts and the like – there’s nothing here that it’s failed to shift.
It would be nice to have a smaller, lighter one for everyday jobs, and we’ve got our eye on a cordless angle grinder.
We had a Massey Ferguson 3075 in the 1990s that was a brilliant tractor and well ahead of its time.
We particularly liked the Dynashift semi-powershift transmission, which was a big step up from the Speedshift gearboxes we had before.
It was also nice to drive and had a comfortable cab. That said, we wouldn’t want to go back from the Kubotas.
We change our tractors when they’re on relatively low hours, so we haven’t had any significant trouble for a long time.
The last major breakdown was a Massey Ferguson 590 Turbo, which had the engine seize in the field.
Charlie: My favourite is combining when the crop is standing tall, the weather is good, and the yields are decent. My least favourite is combining when the crop is flat and sprouting and there’s not much going in the tank.
Dave: You can’t beat spraying when you’re driving through a good crop in nice weather. Grain drying is firmly at the other end of the spectrum, particularly when I’m rushing to keep up with the combine.
A few years ago, we bought a reconditioned Bunning Lowlander muckspreader for £11,000 that was like new.
Bunning Lowlander muckspreader © James Andrews
It was a 2013 model, but had been fitted with new bed chains, oil seals, rotor tips, a wide-angle pto and even had a new hood for spreading chicken muck.
The dealer let us have it for a decent price as we’d done a deal to buy a part-exchange Samson spreader that they didn’t end up getting.
We’ve got a 2013 Ford Ranger Limited with a 3.2-litre, five-cylinder engine and six-speed manual gearbox.
We bought it when it was two-years-old on 20,000 miles and we paid £15,000, which didn’t seem too bad.
It goes well and glides along with our 12ft Gamic livestock trailer on the back. We’ve put another 37,000 miles on the clock without it giving any trouble.
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