Farm Ireland

Friday 21 October 2016

Horsch power delivers big results

A heavyweight Horsch 6m combi drill is delivering big results for Chambers Agri Contracts

Derek Casey

Published 12/10/2016 | 02:30

The 6m Horsch Focus TD combined grain and fert drill was bought from Kellys of Borris for €90,000 plus VAT. Photo: Seamus Farrelly
The 6m Horsch Focus TD combined grain and fert drill was bought from Kellys of Borris for €90,000 plus VAT. Photo: Seamus Farrelly
Ivan Chambers. Photo: Seamus Farrelly

Farmers have used the last couple of weeks to get through a backlog of autumn planting work and there is still quite a bit going on.

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This week I spoke to a Monaghan-based contractor who has been using an impressive new Horsch 6m combined grain and fertiliser drill as he attempts to keep up with farmer demand to get fields planted.

In business for over 100 years and based in Latton, Co Monaghan, Chambers Agri Contracts cover an extensive are comprising counties Cavan, Monaghan, Louth, Meath and north county Dublin. Ivan Chambers (pictured below) says the family-run contracting operation can employ anything from 10-15 staff depending on the time of the year.

Mr Chambers runs the business in conjunction with his father, Richard, and brother, Gary. The Chambers offer a big range of services, from silage work in the summer to hedge cutting in the down season.

In between they carry out a lot of lime spreading on contract for Roadstone and plant about 5,000 acres of crops each year. The majority of crops planted would be oilseed rape and barley.

With such large acreage in the "to do" list there is a requirement for serious machinery, and it doesn't come much bigger than the tractor and drill combination Mr Chambers was using when I spoke to him this week.

Earlier this year the team took delivery of a brand new 6m Horsch Focus 6TD combined grain and fertiliser drill purchased from Kellys of Borris in Carlow for €90,000 plus VAT.

Out front you'd expect a powerful unit for a drill of that size, and they don't come much more powerful than the massive Fendt 939 that the Chambers bought for tillage work last year from Flynns of Mullingar for €223,000 plus VAT. An impressive sight in action, Mr Chambers readily acknowledged the huge capital costs involved but said such outlays are necessary to be able to keep up with farmer demand in peak season.

"At this time of year I spend so much time in the Fendt that it is my office and my bed," he laughed. "People are amazed at the money involved but is as simple as this; when the customer comes calling our reputation is built on having the right gear ready to go for the job. They want you planting immediately, and you can't do that if you have inferior equipment."

So why Horsch, and why opt for a combined grain and fertiliser drill as opposed to a standard drill? Mr Chambers explained; "In the past few seasons a few of our bigger customers asked us if we could offer a combined grain and fert option. There are certain advantages to being able to offer such a service; fewer passes are required as you drop the grain and fert at the same time, meaning less compaction; faster uptake of nutrients by the plant; and the ability to sow in a narrower window of suitable weather as you get two jobs done in one pass."

Being careful to make the right choice for their particular contracting business, the Chambers took their time and had demonstrations of a few different drills including Lemken and Vaderstaad. In the case of the latter Mr Chambers felt the packer wheel wasn't big enough to cope with sticky planting conditions his team run into at this time of year.

He also preferred the plastic fertiliser bin offered on the Horsch (as opposed to the steel bin on the Vaderstaad), as there is less chance of the fertiliser reacting with a plastic bin over time. On the Lemken drill the Chambers felt blowing seed from the front unit to the back might lead to blockage problems in damper conditions. In the end the decision was made to opt for Horsch.

"I would say Lemken and Vaderstaad are very good machines but we felt that our particular needs were better suited to the Horsch," revealed Mr Chambers. "I was really sold on the 20 large packer wheels the Horsch drill has because it leaves a really well compacted bed, something that our customers want.

"The other thing I liked is its versatility; it can be used sowing direct into stubble in a min till format or it can be used in a conventional system, planting after the plough."

How it works

Horsch claims the Focus TD has been designed to be an option for strip and conventional drilling in one machine. Available in 4m, 6m and 8m working widths, the Focus TD features a 5000 litre grain and fertiliser hopper with a 60:40 split.

The tine system has been developed with release forces increased to up to 800kg, so the tines move smoothly in the ground even when loosening very deeply, and the tine spacing has been changed to 30cm. Fertiliser can still be placed shallow, deep or 50/50.

The tine cultivation frame can be quickly and simply released from the chassis at four mounting points.

Once taken from under the machine, it can easily be replaced with the Disc System to create a compact rotary disc harrow, increasing the flexibility of the machine and the sowing window.

In terms of progression, the Focus TD firstly loosens the soil in strips and then removes harvest residues from the seed and root area.

Next up it sets up a fertilizer deposit before the tyre packers prepare for subsequent sowing (which can be done at 15 or 30cm row spacing) with the seed coulters.

Summer work

October has so far been a busy month of contracting work for the Chambers, and it comes after a hectic summer of silage and grain harvesting. For the latter two Claas combines are called into action, one of which is a tracked Lexion 770T. The other combine is a 4WD Lexion 660. On the silage front the Chambers use a Claas Jaguar 870 self propelled harvester. The whole operation requires serious tractor power, 17 in total, including four Fendts, three John Deeres and no less than ten New Holland tractors.

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