Faith in brand after half a million bales Staffordshire farmer Richard Tebbett, of RA & DM Tebbett, with his two New Holland balers.
When Richard Tebbett decided to replace his 32-year old baler last year, he was fairly confident that it would be with another of the same make. After all, the current machine had suffered no serious breakdowns since it was new, despite producing well over half a million bales. David Williams visited the farm. The Tebbett family has farmed in Staffordshire since the 1960s, when Richard’s grandfather, Richard Howdle, grew vegetables on rented land, selling them locally. The whole family was involved in the enterprise and, in the 1960s, 40ha (100 acres) was purchased in the village of Chasetown, near Burntwood. An additional 80ha (200 acres) was rented nearby and, with a second farm in Wales, enterprises included dairy and beef cattle, pigs and arable cropping comprising wheat, barley, potatoes and later, oilseed rape. A family split in 1979 saw Richard’s mother farming the Staffordshire land with help from her sons. Potatoes were picked by hand and bagged for sale at the farm gate and Christmas turkeys and geese became additional enterprises. Hay and straw bales were produced for the family’s own use and to meet demand from farms across Staffordshire and into Wales. Having started with almost no machinery at all everything had been sourced second hand, but the first new purchase was a New Holland baler, bought in 1983 from local Ford dealer Hallmark Tractors.
Forced changes Since that time, the family farm has faced many challenges, most the result of new road construction. “We had the M6-Toll road built right across our land, then a new motorway junction and an access road connecting the town to the motorway,” explains Richard. “It left us with less than 20ha (50 acres), and completely changed the way we farmed.”
Today, rented grassland supplements our land which is mainly equestrian grazing and some old farm buildings have been converted to stables. The rented grassland is used for hay, although beef cattle are kept when land owners allow. “A consequence of the surrounding area changing was increased demand for hay and straw for horses, and this became our speciality,” he adds. “We produce grass for hay and buy straw in the swath during harvest, taking a second cut of hay later when conditions allow. We have built a reputation for quality, with regular customers across Staffordshire and the West Midlands, and we do some contract baling too.”
The right investment “My late mother chose the New Holland 370 baler, and it was a very important purchase to get right at that time, costing £4,027, which was a big investment. It replaced an Allis Chalmers bought second-hand in 1979, but she felt the New Holland was well made, saw one working, and placed the order with salesman Eddie Nash at Hallmark. I remember it arriving on the lorry, then it produced 6,696 bales during its first working season,” recalls Richard. Demand for bales grew over the next decade, with 31,417 made by the baler in 1990, every one loaded on to trailers by hand. For the 1992 and 1993 harvests, a tractor loader was borrowed from a neighbouring farmer. “It made such a difference,”
says Richard, “so we invested in one of our own, which we have used since 1994.” Richard cuts, turns and rows his own hay, but a consequence of buying straw behind the combine is that as harvesters have become larger, swath size has grown, to the extent that sometimes the 32-year old New Holland baler had to make two passes taking half the swath width at a time. “It has been amazing,” says Richard, “and has never really let us down. Our baler is as important to us as a combine is during harvest on most other farms, and it was checked daily, serviced regularly and kept under cover. Before each season it was fully serviced by the supplying dealer, or a local engineer who used to work for a New Holland dealer, and it has only ever had wearing parts replaced including needles, tine bars, chains and a new pair of tyres. I blew it out every year after harvest rather than washing it, as I didn’t want it put away wet, which is partly why all the major components are original.” Over the 32 years, 538,320 bales were produced by the machine, including 48,000 re-baled in the barn from round and large square bales, to meet demand.
Big combines After the 2015 harvest Richard decided a baler with a wider pick-up was needed to cope with the bigger swaths, and looked at what was available, although he admits it would have taken a lot to persuade him to move from a New Holland supported by his excellent local dealer.
Hallmark Tractors area sales manager Jim Nash, son of Eddie who supplied the farm’s original baler, was delighted to agree a deal for its replacement on the New Holland stand at Lamma early this year. “My only decision really was whether to go for the New Holland BC5070 or the smaller BC5060,” comments Richard. “I still use a haybob to row up the hay as I haven’t found anything that dries grass more quickly, but it leaves very small rows which I thought might cause the baler problems. However, it handles any size swath easily and I am delighted with my decision to go for the bigger baler.” Improvements over the older model include a higher work rate, behind the same 105hp tractor, twine capacity for approximately 1,500 bales; (500 more than the old machine), a central knotter oiler, fewer daily grease points, hydraulic chamber pressure adjustment, a hydraulic swinging drawbar and stronger pick-up reel tines. “We were able to produce up to 2,000 bales per day when conditions were perfect this year,” says Richard. “Supplying the equestrian market, straw and hay quality is critical and I need to bale when conditions are right, fast enough to give us time to cart them from the field, before they get wet if the weather breaks. This baler helps me achieve this.”
The new BC5070 baling straw in late August.
Dealer service continues to be excellent; “When the baler arrived, engineers re-aligned the prop shaft to suit my tractor and adapted the hitch assembly for my flat-eight bale sledge,” said Richard. “They were very obliging, and the customer care is as good as ever.” The new baler worked flawlessly this harvest; the knotters were perfect and no new parts were needed. However, if there had been any problems it wouldn’t have held up baling for long because in the back of Richard’s shed is his 33-year old New Holland 370 which, he says, has plenty more working life in it yet. ■
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