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Soil mapping is a big benefit

Lying around the perimiter of Shotton and Brenkley, the two largest open-cast coal mines in the UK, is Blagdon Estate, just north of Newcastle. Blagdon’s farming business agreed a joint, share farming arrangement with Hartley Main Farms some 15 years ago and today the enterprise totals no less than 5200 acres. Of this 3750 acres is down to arable crops consisting of winter barley (550 acres), oil seed rape (600 acres), winter wheat (1525 acres), spring barley (600 acres), oats (150 acres) and spring beans. There is also a 350 head beef herd, 120 unit dairy and a small herd of Belted Galloways and English White Park cattle.The farming business is managed by Sentry Ltd - Farm and Estate Management, and Farm Manager, Andrew Crewdson has been a keen advocate of the latest precision farming techniques to help the business maintain operate at maximum efficiency.

“Because of the heavy loam over clay at Blagdon, we very much run on a knife-edge with regards to weather and soil conditions, commented Andrew. “to make money, in the busy periods we work a twenty-four hour shift plan just so we can get everything harvested, cleared and re-planted before the bad weather sets-in.” Most of the autumn planting is min-til but by having spring barley and spring beans in the rotation, allows for a good amount of winter ploughing. Mixing the rotation with grass leys enables good control of black-grass - proof being that very little of it exists on the Estate.

“Most of our tractors are John Deere’s and we run GreenStar precision-farming on all tractors and combine and John Deere Self-Propelled Sprayer, taking advantage of the AutoSteer capability, said Andrew. “you get so much more output from equipment, allowing the operator to multi-task and watch the following implement to make sure everything is doing what it should do. It takes the pressure off. We’ve had soil mapping for at least eight years and variable P and K for the past five years. It’s been a major benefit to the crop management profile and I wouldn’t be without it.”

As part of his management plan, to forecast costs and stick to a robust business and production plan, Andrew uses PowerGard extended warranty plans on all his prime-movers because “I know from day one,exactly what it is going to cost me. Fuel, labour, machinery, maintenance - to the penny. PowerGard is the thing of the future, like it or not, it’s coming and everyone should have it on their tractors and combines. We have our own mechanics on the farm and they do a great job, but machinery is becoming far more technical now and if I can hand that side all over to my local dealer at Ripon Farm Services, then I don’t need to worry, I just call them out and the job’s done.”

Ripon Farm Services at Stockton have been supporting Blagdon Estate since the days of EA Clayton. Most of the same staff still work at the facility that is now part of Ripon Farm Services. Part of the GreenStar technology on Blagdon’s tractors includes a facility called JD Link, which sends data directly from the tractor to the farm office so remote monitoring and security checking can be done at arms length - valuable to the manager on an enterprise of this size. With Blagdon’s approval, Ripon Farm Services service department are advised automatically on upcoming services or any error codes. “It’s quite amazing, said Andrew, just the other week, I had a call from George Jordan at Ripon Farm Services to let me know that there was a service schedule coming due on one of my tractors and they wanted to set-up a visit when convenient. This is what makes PowerGard and GreenStar so beneficial! The dealer takes care of everything and I don’t have to worry about any unexpected breakdowns because it’s all covered by the extended warranty.”

Two months ago, Blagdon Estate took delivery of another new John Deere, a 6210R tractor, ready for work on the autumn cultivations. “That really is some bit of kit, enthused Andrew. “It has a Direct Drive gearbox, TLS, Cab Suspension, full Auto-Steer, Air Con, Radio, GreenStar - the works and it means that my operators are happy and get more work done when it needs to be done. We also took PowerGard on this tractor and I can honestly tell you that it gives complete peace of mind in our investment for the long term.”