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Public perception “We are keen to work with the public to increase understanding of what farms are about,” he said. “We took part in Open Farm Sunday last year and were delighted to attract approximately 250 people on the day, including 60–70 from the local village. I will be working with local schools during this year, engaging with younger children to help them feel involved in what we do. I think getting school and college children on the farm when we can is very important and Cathrina feels the same and supports our efforts. Having had a successful 2016 event, we aim to build on its popularity this year.”

Claas products ideal During the months following the Claas purchase of the Stanton farm, the new ownership was kept under wraps but when the new Xerion and Axion started field work, rumours regarding the Claas link were all but confirmed. “Obviously if I hadn’t opted for Claas tractors and the combine, this might have raised a few eyebrows with the owners,” said Edward, “but my previous experience of Claas products had always been positive and those

we operated performed well and were reliable. I saw the company link as a big benefit, with models like the Xerion offering potential advantages for field performance and transport.” Edward stressed that good dealer back-up is essential. “We operated Claas combines in my previous management position and their reliability was good, but if there was a breakdown it was attended to promptly by the dealer. Wherever I have farmed, I have only ever heard good reports of excellent after-sales service from the Claas network. So far, my experience at Troston has been just as positive and I know I’m treated no differently to any other farm manager by the team at J Mann & Sons. There is certainly no TrostonSaxham hotline,” he laughed. While deciding on the farm fleet Edward visited Agritechnica to look at various options. “I met Helmut Claas there and he said not to compromise on power, and I didn’t. Having said that, I have to buy all my Claas equipment through my local dealer Manns, negotiating the deal with the area salesman like every other farmer. I get no special favours although I am sure local farmers would imagine I receive everything on free loan. It’s important the farm is treated like any

the fight against blackgrass is complex, but it should start with simple techniques and good practise. other similar enterprise otherwise comparing our performance against industry standards would be difficult. However, if an opportunity arises to have any new machinery or technology to test here I would be keen to get involved. It’s a commercial unit, producing crops for a profit while respecting the environment and using good farming practises,” he added. While the farm is treated like any other Claas customer, Edward said the direct link to the brand adds pressure. “People in the area are aware of the farms’ ownership and we know everything we do reflects directly on the Claas reputation,” he explained. “All the farm staff feel the same, knowing things have to be done properly, within industry guidelines and regulations. For example, I have just taken a course and exam so I can transport diesel out to the fields. Most farms transport fuel to machines in the field from time to time, but if the

bowser holds more than 1,000 litres and is towed by anything other than a tractor then the driver should be appropriately trained and licenced. For many though, this probably isn’t top of their ‘to do’ list.”

Priorities for investment Having inherited a group of farms, Edward said he had to decide how to make the most of the new machinery fleet’s performance. The Xerion has GPS steering through an Egnos/ Glonass signal and the Axion, which tends to carry out precision tasks such as drilling cereals and sugar beet, has RTK. The sprayer has section control using Egnos guidance and Edward says he will monitor performance this year and is prepared to invest in RTK for all machines if the cost is justified. None of the machines has telematics currently but this might be an area for future investment. “There are lots of ways we might improve farm performance and efficiency, but starting with the basics is the best way forward,” he emphasised. “First we need to address soil issues and optimise conditions for yields and quality. This will contribute the greatest profitability improvements, then we can look at fine-tuning the operation.”

Practical experience essential, explains the Claas family Cathrina and Helmut Claas are pictured checking out a demonstration Horsch drill during a visit to the family’s Troston Farms Ltd in Suffolk in late February.

figures don’t alter and accurate data allows fact-based decision making. Data from our farms helps me understand issues facing other farm managers.”

On-farm experience

David Williams caught up with Cathrina and Helmut Claas at Troston Farms Ltd in late February, to find out more about how the family farm ties in with the family machinery business. Cathrina was asked if the farm experience influences decision making for the machinery business. She explained that having studied

economics she is drawn to data rather than trends when analysing performance. “Opinions change with cropping and the weather,

and no two years are the same,” she observed. “When we look back at a particular year we might forget what influenced events, but the

Helmut added that his hundreds of hours spent operating combine harvesters during their development on UK farms provided an understanding of what was needed – far more useful than anything that could be gained in research and development simulations. “There is no substitute for practical experience and testing in real working situations,” he said. “We try hard to recruit people with agricultural experience into all company positions, including accounts,” explained Cathrina. “Depending on the role it might not be the main requirement, but if we take on new staff without an understanding of farming, then we often include some practical tractor operation on a farm so they gain an appreciation of what we and our customers are about.”

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