Borders farmer Annabel Hamilton and the team at Bee Edge Farm are the latest to reveal their machinery hits and misses, including why they run running several older John Deere tractors and their penchant for second-hand kit.
Despite flirting with other brands over the years, we’ve always stuck with John Deere. Its tractors are easy to use, which helps as we employ five harvest casuals in the summer, and everyone enjoys driving them.
We can also repair and service the older models ourselves, though the newer tractors are cared for by our local dealer.
As for the other front-line kit, we like JCB telehandlers and Claas combines.
See also: Farm swaps new tractors for a fleet of Deutz Agrotrons
We farm in the Scottish Borders and are spoilt for choice when it comes to dealers.
Thomas Sherriff is our go-to for all the John Deere and Kuhn kit – the salesman, David Gallon, sold us our John Deere 6506 24 years ago and is still trying to sell us tractors to this day.
We deal with Scot JCB for the telehandlers, Rickerbys takes care of the combines, Merse Agriculture looks after the Bargam sprayer, and Lloyds (Vaderstad) and Paxtons (Kverneland) supply us with implements.
We have strong relationships with all the sales and service guys at each dealership and the back-up we get from them is essential.
We’ve got two DTX cultivators – Simba and Kverneland – that handle all the min-till work, and they’re brilliant. Having demonstrated many others over the years, we haven’t found anything that comes close to the job they do on our ground.
The newer Kverneland DTX has auto-reset legs, which have saved us the aggravation of constantly replacing shear-bolts when we encounter one of the many rocky outcrops on top of the cliffs.
Dad and I also really like the Bargam Grimpeur sprayer. We have some steep hills that it handles really easily and its amazingly stable and sure-footed, even with the 36m boom. It allows me to cover some serious acres in a day.
However, the guys that work for us are brilliant and more important than any piece of machinery we own. Stuart has been here for 14 years and Ian, who is self-employed, has been helping out for 11 years.
We have an old post knocker that has been lovingly nicknamed the toffee hammer. It is as useful as it sounds and rarely gets used, mainly because we can hire a newer machine when we we’ve got a lot of work to do, which makes the fencing jobs a bit more enjoyable.
Our JCB Loadall 538-60 arrived at the beginning of August from Scot JCB with only 450 hours on the clock. It was an ex-demo model – we like buying these where possible as there can be a significant saving compared with purchasing new.
We all thoroughly enjoy driving it as it has plenty of power, quick hydraulics and great visibility. It also has a newer cab than our old 536-60, which seems to have gone down well with all of the operators.
The 1997 John Deere 6506, which was bought new 24 years ago from Thomas Sheriff.
It is used daily on the Keenan mixer wagon and can still do a full shift on the hedgecutter trimming gateways and verges.
It also turns straw with the haybob when required and is currently on 16,000 hours.
We’ve got a pretty broad demographic in terms of machinery age and the policy is that if we’re happy with how it is running and it’s in good working order then it will stay.
The John Deere 6930 has clocked 10,500 hours and still runs as it did on the first day it arrived. We take great care of our equipment and all the staff treat the machines as if they were their own – everything is clean, runs smoothly and works when we need it.
We struggle for grain storage at harvest and consequently end up moving a lot of crops around to make it work.
A new grain store with added space for machinery is top of the list in the short-term.
This spring we changed our Horsch Pronto drill to a Vaderstad Spirit – the Horsch was good but had covered a lot of ground and was starting to show its age, so we felt it was time to try something new.
Last harvest we bought a second-hand Kockerling Precision Cultivator that was destined for working the oilseed rape stubbles.
We broke quite a few legs on our first outing and, from then on, it has constantly needed legs and springs replaced – in hindsight, it wasn’t our best buy.
Our JCB 536-60 had a bearing collapse in the gearbox at about 6,500 hours – luckily it happened in the yard and not on the road.
Kelso and Lothian Harvesters did the repair work, which took roughly a week, and lent us a demonstrator machine to cover the downtime. The bill came to £5,000.
We are lucky to have two local self-employed guys – Bill Bracken and Liam Hammond – who carry out the majority of our welding and repair work, so we don’t spend too much time in the workshop.
One of our best creations is an old cabbage planter that has been modified to work with pumpkins, which will hopefully speed up the sowing of 11,000 plants by hand.
Although we don’t spend a huge amount of time carrying out major repairs, our full-time chap, Stuart Murray, wouldn’t be without a big hammer, compressor, electric grease gun, impact gun and his Snap-On toolbox.
Our John Deere 6930, 7530 and 6250R are all second-hand and, as we have been dealing with the guys at Thomas Sherriff for a long time, we have complete trust when buying used machinery from them. Our combines and handlers tend to be bought new, though.
A few months ago we picked up an ex-demo Maschio Bufalo heavy-duty flail topper from Glendale Farm Services. It has proved to be a great investment already and annihilates everything in its path.
Both Stuart and Ian enjoy combining, particularly with the newer Claas Lexion 7500. However, Dad and I like spraying and crop walking to keep up to date with what is going on.
We have two vehicles – a 2020 Toyota Hilux and a 2009 Land Rover Defender.
The Defender will always outclass the Hilux for power, but it’s not the best for covering big road miles.
Sometimes, Dad travels eight hours to buy cattle from the north of Scotland and the Hilux is a lot more comfortable for the job.
We have had two John Deere 7530s over the years and our current one is 11 years old with 6,800 hours on the clock.
It does all the drilling, some ploughing, grain carting and general tractor work during the winter.
Everyone loves driving it and it has a lovely exhaust note when pulling up hills – for us, it’s old but it’s gold.
Two years ago, we brought a 16t Richard Western grain trailer from Lloyds.
It cost £16,500 – the deal was just too good to turn down – and has turned into a great all-rounder.
We don’t have any classics – the nearest we have is an Asa-Lift Eco weeder that we bought for the pumpkin patch.
The savings in labour requirements have been phenomenal, as it eliminates the tedium of hand hoeing.
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