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A move to de-risk a large arable business has resulted in a reduction in contract farmed land and a machinery fleet than now offers flexibility and a reduced long term cost of ownership
EW Davies in Thaxted, England - Fendt 700, 800 and 900
A move to de-risk a large arable business has resulted in a reduction in contract farmed land and a machinery fleet than now offers flexibility and a reduced long term cost of ownership

Reducing machinery risks justify long term Fendt investment

The 800ha enterprise of E W Davies in Thaxted, Essex runs a streamlined machinery policy that has been adapted to fit the farm’s needs as the cropped area has changed in line with the business’s priorities. Farm manager Jeremy Durrant has run a mix of machines on both hired and owned agreements, but has found that his most recent approach on long term warranties backed up by the reliability of the Fendt tractors he runs, allows a low cost per hour return than some of his previous arrangements. His fleet includes three Fendt machines, a 2014 Fendt 828 that came to the farm as an ex-demo machine, a 2018 Fendt 724 bought to run a trailed sprayer, and the most recent acquisition, a 2019 Fendt 942, that replaced a Case-IH Quadtrac.

Costs per hour

His aim is to fix the farm’s machinery costs over a longer period, avoiding any surprises with repairs and servicing. The 724 model has an 8-year, 8,000-hour warranty agreement, which Mr Durrant says affords him the opportunity to know his costs for that machine across a longer period. “I believe that Fendt tractors are the cheapest tractor you’ll ever run, but to fully appreciate this, it means considering everything that is associated with running and owning a tractor to work out the cost of ownership. If you look at purchasing a tractor in isolation then it may look more attractive to run other brands, but this doesn’t consider the full ownership cost.” Fuel, insurance, labour, depreciation, along with servicing and repairs are factored into Mr Durrant’s costings to give him an accurate figure. His current 724 costs £37/hr to run, whereas the 828 is £50/hr. The largest 942 is £84/hr, but he is keen to stress that these figures have been severely impacted by economic pressures. “The rise in fuel and labour has pushed these costs up. Five years ago, when we were running a Case Quadtrac, it was costing us £55/ha. This is because it was pulling wider machinery but used more fuel to do so. Since then fuel has doubled and labour is more expensive, so it isn’t a fair comparison. “Looking at the reduced risk we now have as a business, all three machines can operate virtually every implement, whereas when we ran one large tractor and a 12m drill, nothing else could pull the drill or cultivators, so we were heavily reliant on one machine. When it was a wet autumn in 2019, we realised this approach didn’t spread our risk wide enough.” The change to the 942 also coincided with the Quadtrac reaching five years old and gave Mr Durrant the chance to alter his implements to benefit the wider fleet. “Our farm is predominately heavy clay and we have operated a 12m CTF policy for many years, however we now run two 6m drills to offer flexibility both in machinery and operation.

Buy rather than hire

A big change to the business came in 2018 when the farm added an extra tractor to the owned fleet to offset the fluctuations that can be experienced when hiring machines. Historically, the farm hired in two tractors for 20 weeks to cover harvest and drilling. “One variable cost I wanted to reduce was the tractor hire cost in the summer. As a business we needed to offset the inflation in the industry and that meant being able to fix all the costs within our control.” The change also coincided with the switch to a trailed sprayer from a self-propelled, which meant an increased workload for the tractors and further justification of the purchase. With the steep increases in fuel and labour experienced recently, the decision to fix the costs of the 724 over an eight-year period are more than stacking up across the tractor’s 1,200 hours per year mainly spraying workload. “The hire cost for a 20-week period is now more than the cost of running the 724 for a whole year, which is quite staggering, and total justification of our decision. Our dealer Crawfords tailored the package to meet our needs and fix the costs for a longer period. It also allows us to have another tractor around the farm for jobs throughout the year.”

Beyond warranty

Of the three Fendt machines, the longest servicing is the 828, which arrived on the farm in 2014 and has now clocked just shy of 8,500 hours. It is out of warranty, but still an essential part of the fleet, clocking around 1,000 hours per year on a variety of task from drilling to muck spreading. A key factor for running it longer was the reliability it has offered over its lifetime and Mr Durrant hinted that he could count the number of times a service van has been out to his fleet on both hands. “Our replacement policy is a flexible one and when the 828-warranty expired, we had just purchased the 942, which took a bit of pressure off the 828 as the frontline wheeled machine. This is the only tractor we don’t have fixed costs for now, but it doesn’t owe us anything, so we view the risk as a manageable one and I’m confident to run it for another season before changing.” Running Fendt equipment has allowed the farm to reduce the risk of machinery ownership and operate at lower costs. Mr Durrant says that although other brands may be able to offer similar, it is the reliability and low cost of ownership that will keep him running Fendt tractors