Massey Ferguson combines have been the harvest mainstay at the Ampton Hall Estate, near Bury St Edmunds, for the past 20 years.
Ed Turner, who looks after the estate's farming interests, along with his brother Ben, believes this is mainly due to Massey's constant quest for improvement.
“They have been good combines throughout that time,” he states. “Over the past six or seven years, however, we've used a pair of Betas, which have taken us a big step forward. They replaced Cerea combines, which were slightly larger.
“We've found that having two smaller combines suits us better, giving us more flexibility. And, if one is out of action for some reason, we can still keep the wheels moving. They are more economically viable, too.”
The Ampton Hall Estate extends to around 5,000 acres, of which about half is farmed in-hand, and is largely light-to-medium land. Barley, oilseed rape, wheat, rye and sugar beet form the basis of the rotation, while the remaining land is let out for potatoes and onions, together with two pig unit lets, and includes woodland and a long-term tenancy. The workforce comprises two full-time and one part-time staff, with Ed and Ben both very much hands-on.
One of the most noticeable improvements they've seen in the Beta, compared with its predecessors, is the cab. “This has been one of the biggest differences,” Ed states. “It's a lot more spacious and user-friendly generally. Being able to view the full width of the table is a major plus.
“The joystick is very easy to use and has everything within comfortable reach. The screen is excellent, well laid-out and very simple to change settings at the touch of a button. Having the camera on the back is a real boost, too, as it means you're not having to rely wing mirrors – which are often covered in dust anyway!”
Another area where significant strides have been made, Ed feels, is in the machine's daily maintenance requirement. “Years ago, you would have to spend a full morning greasing the machine,” he recalls, “but now the nipples are all on a few banks in set positions on the combine, which means that you know exactly what needs to be done each morning.
“Greater accessibility has led to down-time being halved, which, in turn, means you can start cutting earlier. We've found the fuel efficiency to be excellent, too, running at about 11 litres a hectare this year.” The greatly-improved, all-round lighting on the Beta is also appreciated, particularly, allowing safer, longer working when the nights begin to close in, Ed comments.
Pushed to identify any Beta feature that might be improved upon, he can only think of the in-cab fridge: “It's not very cold....and access to the door from the driver's seat is not great.” Message received!
Ed's nearest Massey Ferguson dealership is Thurlow Nunn Standen, at Hinderclay, about 15 miles distant. “We have a very good relationship with them and they are always on the end of the phone if we need them,” he says. “If it's ever required, they will have someone with us within the hour.
So, how is the estate's 2019 harvest progressing (in the second week of August)? “Well, it's looking a lot better than last year,” Ed reports, “and so far our yields have been encouraging. Long may it continue!”