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Farm reinforces Claas relationship with UK agriculture The Claas family’s special relationship with UK agriculture goes beyond the range of high performance machinery it supplies to the country’s farmers. David Williams reports. the adverts. “I grew up on a 40ha (100 acre) family farm at Kersey,” he explained. “I was keen to go into farming and my parents sold the Suffolk farm, intending to purchase a much larger farm in Scotland using the proceeds, allowing me to remain involved. However, the Scottish farm purchase didn’t proceed, and I joined Velcourt; managing progressively more complex farms for 14 years including units in Cambridgeshire, Kent, Lincs, then returning to Kent and Lincs to run larger farms.” Edward completed his BASIS and FACTS qualifications and successfully applied for a Nuffield Scholarship to study precision farming including study tours of North America and Added complexity Australia. “I learned a lot, seeing the Adding Hengrave and Stanton challenges facing other farmers changed the farm’s dynamics, as the during the visits, including ryegrass cropped area increased to 1,200ha resistance far worse than anything we (2,965 acres), including significant have seen here yet,” he explained. heavy clay. The decision was made to Edward left Velcourt to run a bring management of the farm’s five complex farming operation across four blocks in-house and advertisements estates; two in the Gloucestershire were placed for a farm manager. Cotswolds and two in Scotland, A Suffolk farmer’s son, Edward with additional responsibility for Vipond, was one of many who noticed commercial sporting enterprises and a 2MW AD plant. “I enjoyed my time at Velcourt and left on good terms but the position I took included additional challenges with the complex operation over a large area,” he said. “However, early in 2015 I noticed a farm manager position advertised which intrigued me, so decided to find out more,” he added. The advertisement gave no clue to the farm’s ownership, or its precise location, Farm manager Edward Vipond with his dog Purdey simply describing it as inspects a crop of winter wheat in mid-December. In 1946 the first Claas combines were exported from Germany to the UK and in 1980, the company established its official UK head office at Saxham, Suffolk. But between those key dates a farm 9 miles from Saxham, at Troston, was bought by the Claas family in 1961. With 400ha (1,000 acres) of Breckland light soils, it was farmed in-hand, but later managed by Sentry with a similar farm nearby. More recently, other farms in the area were added including at Hengrave, just a few miles from Saxham, plus smaller parcels of land at Langham and Conyers Green and, in 2015, Park Farm at Stanton.

The machinery fleet includes Claas Axion and Xerion tractors, a Scorpion handler and a Lexion combine harvester.

an East Anglian farming business. “I applied and was selected for interview at which I met Cathrina Claas, Claas Group supervisory board chairman, who was to become my boss,” he explained. Edward started in June 2015, and was immediately impressed by Cathrina’s attitude to the farm and her obvious interest and enthusiasm in its operation. “I was told to manage the enterprise as if it is my own and, although we hold regular farm meetings at Troston and I refer to Cathrina regarding major investment or strategy, I am trusted and left to get on with everything day-to-day,” he said. “The key requirement is that everything is done properly, but that is how I like to farm anyway.”

Management plan The land is in 5 blocks, just 15 miles from end to end, and Edward’s first task was to review the whole operation, identify priorities for improvement and put together a plan for the future. As for most eastern-county arable farms, black-grass was an increasing concern and other key areas for consideration included the rotation, the mix of soil types, farm infrastructure and land rented out for

vegetable production. Major capital expenditure within months of Edward starting included new machinery. “We needed equipment capable of carrying out field operations at optimum times, allowing for weed control and the various soil types,” he explained. “We purchased a Claas Xerion 4000, a Claas Axion 950 and a Lemken Europal 7f on-land/in-furrow plough, and traded in 2 smaller tractors for the Axion. We bought an Agrifac 36m, 5,000-litre, self-propelled sprayer through the company’s approved used scheme replacing 2 trailed sprayers, and are moving to liquid fertiliser for all applications replacing granules through a disc applicator. Harvesting is by a Lexion 760TT tracked combine with a 35ft header.” Asked about the purchase of the 400hp Xerion, Edward explained that its power rating is similar to the Axion’s, but the two tractors complement each other with very different operating characteristics. “They perform differently in the field,” he said. “The Xerion’s weight distribution - especially with the wheels in crab mode for top work, is superb and the difference this makes to the finish has to be seen to continued over...

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