Of the 750ha farmed by Rauceby Farms, 95 per cent is owned and the rest is rented. The land is mostly within one block and includes three farms and a range of soil types.
Heavy-land crops usually include wheat, beans and canary seed, while oilseed rape is under constant review but not in this year’s rotation. Maize is grown for an AD plant on land rented by a local farmer. Lighter soil cropping includes forage rye, grass seed, winter barley, spring barley and a small amount of wheat. Most straw is sold to a merchant but some is kept for the farm’s 1,100-head flock of Mule breeding ewes.
Higher work rates
Most of the 350ha of combinable crops are grown for premium markets. Winter wheat is for milling, spring barley is for malting, and winter barley and rye are both for seed. “Making the most of harvesting opportunities when the crop is at its best is essential, and although we need high work rates these can’t be at the expense of crop quality or losses,” explained farm manager Richard Ward. “Our 2010-model straw-walker combine performed well when conditions were good, but in a wet harvest or difficult crops the only way to achieve a satisfactory sample with minimal losses was to drive very slowly. This put us under considerable pressure, so when the time came to replace it increased capacity was the priority.”
Several makes and models were tried during the 2017 harvest, including a Massey Ferguson Delta. “We needed gentle but effective threshing, separation and cleaning, but we also had to look after the straw which brings in extra revenue,” explained Richard. “We already enjoyed an excellent relationship with our local Massey Ferguson dealer - Chandlers (Farm Equipment) Ltd, and especially the Area Sales Representative Shane Lowe who also recently sold us a new 8730S tractor. He told us about the new Ideal combines and I attended the launch at the German Agritechnica show later that year. We had it on demonstration in 2019 and, despite very difficult working conditions including grass with a lot of green regrowth, it performed exceptionally well.”
An Ideal 7 with a 9.2m SuperFlow header and a grass seed kit for the grain tank was ordered and delivered for the 2020 harvest. Like most other farms, the wet winter followed by the late spring drought meant crops were thinner than usual and straw was very brittle, but the new combine still impressed with its performance. Milling wheat and seed barley met the high standards for their intended markets. Straw was left in good condition and the baling contractor was happy with the quality.
The grain tank grass seed kit proved a worthwhile investment, allowing the tank to be filled without the risk of the crop bridging during unloading.
“It handled our forage rye very well,” commented Richard. “It’s tricky to harvest and last year it was vulnerable to shelling. However, the SuperFlow header with side knives at both ends fed so well that the reel wasn’t needed, and we lifted it above the crop to avoid shaking the heads and losing seed.” The sample achieved harvesting canary seed was a harvest highlight. “It was the first time we have produced a sample clean enough for end users, and not having to pay merchant cleaning costs saved us approximately seven pounds per tonne,” he added.
The Ideal 7’s operator, Chris Beard, said gentle crop handling and the range of adjustments makes it easy to obtain a good result in all crops. “I just select the crop type, allow the combine to apply the recommended settings, then make minor changes to optimise performance,” he explained. “I never struggled to achieve a good sample.”
The Ideal 7 proved reliable with no operating time lost through breakdowns. Minor teething issues were promptly rectified by Chandlers’ service team. “I couldn’t fault the back-up,” commented Chris. “Massey Ferguson Sales Support Specialist David Chell assisted the dealer team with the installation, and Chandlers’ Combine Specialist Sean Stanfield checked our progress as harvest progressed. Whether I needed mechanical or technical help there was always someone available.”
Having operated combines for 40 years, Chris rates the Ideal as excellent. “As soon as I tried the demonstrator I liked it, and especially the superb Vision cab. It’s quiet and comfortable, visibility is very good, and the user-friendly controls took only a few hours to get used to. The Auto-Guide steering is accurate and reliable, and even after working some 12-hour days during unsettled weather last year I never felt tired. Average work rates of 30ha per day were achieved in challenging conditions, including time spent travelling between fields. The SuperFlow header feeds the crop in smoothly, heads first - and I never worried about the combine blocking. It’s enjoyable and rewarding to operate.”
Rauceby Farms experienced combine operator Chris Beard is very impressed with the farm’s Ideal 7, and said the Vision cab is superb.
Less fuel, more performance
Fuel use isn’t precisely monitored, but the Ideal 7 works twice as long as the previous combine without refuelling, although the tank is only slightly bigger. The AdBlue tank was filled just twice during harvest.
“It gives us at least 15–20 per cent higher work rates than our previous combine, so we can be more selective about when we harvest crops to ensure peak condition,” Richard continued. “However, if we do have to work in wetter conditions then we can still achieve a good sample with low grain losses which wasn’t possible previously.”
The combine was purchased using Massey Ferguson’s attractive finance scheme and with an extended factory warranty and service plan, allowing harvesting costs to be fixed for the next five years. “We are pleased with our decision, and already looking forward to the 2021 harvest and better crops to fully test the Ideal 7’s capabilities,” he concluded.
(l-r) Rauceby Farms farm manager Richard Ward; Chandlers (Agricultural Equipment) Ltd Area Sales Representative, Shane Lowe and Rauceby Farms Ideal 7 operator Chris Beard.