Herefordshire (UK), turkey farmer, Clive Thomas, is aiming to make his farm totally energy-independent over the next five years . . . and he is using Massey Ferguson tractors to help him achieve his goal.
Growing around 80ha of wheat and grass with son, Kelvyn, within the E and GM Thomas & Son family partnership, Clive’s principal enterprise for the past 25 years has been turkey-rearing, an operation that sees 90,000 birds reared each year under contract to Cranberry Foods. All of the wheat harvested on the farm is fed to the turkeys with the straw being used as bedding litter for birds that grow from 2kg to 19kg over 12 weeks.
Fan ventilation of the seven turkey-rearing sheds is an essential part of the operation and had been costing the business around £5,000 a month in electricity bills. This figure has been steadily reducing since the installation of an 800-panel solar photovoltaic array in fields close to the farm buildings.
Capable of producing up to 200kW/hr in full midday summer sunlight, the investment is expected to pay for itself within seven years. “Any surplus electricity produced is being fed back into the grid,” explained Clive. “Although the money we receive per unit is falling, the cost savings being made plus the income we are generating should see our investment repaid before the end of the decade.”
An important requirement of solar panels is the control of surrounding vegetation to prevent shading of the photovoltaic cells while permitting easy inspection and cleaning of the installation, when necessary. Mowing of the solar avenues and of paddocks around the farmstead, as well as the movement of smaller loads and materials around the farm, has been entrusted to a 46hp MF 1547 compact tractor supplied, in common with Clive Thomas’s other Massey Ferguson equipment, by MF dealer, JJ Farm Services Ltd, based near Winchcombe, Gloucestershire.
“I asked dealer sales representative, Ben Johnson, if MF offered a small, manoeuvrable tractor capable of powering a flail mower and a rotary cultivator,” said Clive. “He proposed the MF 1547 with a 12 x 12 synchro-shuttle manual transmission. The tractor has proved a revelation, having ample power for cutting back quite lengthy grass between the solar panels and for cultivating areas of uneven or rutted ground prior to levelling and restoration.”
To complement the generation of solar power, Clive is now planning the installation of a twin bio-digester unit fuelled by a combination of turkey manure, grass silage and green-cut wheat. The methane gas produced by the bio-digester will power engine-driven generators capable of supplying the farm’s entire electricity demand, including the farmhouse, enabling all of the electricity produced by the solar panels to be fed back into the grid.
Clive plans also to utilise all of the waste material from the bio-digester, either spreading it onto land as fertiliser or compressing it into briquettes for sale as fuel. Coolant water heated by the engines will not be wasted either, being used to provide hot water for the workshop and other farm buildings.
“Both my grandfather and father used Ferguson and Massey Ferguson tractors successfully, starting way back in the early 1950s,” explained Clive. “I have maintained this long association, currently employing two MF 6480s and an MF 6290 for all primary and secondary field operations ranging from cultivations to fertiliser spreading and spraying to haulage. We also run an MF 7256 Cerea combine.”
The farm’s latest number one tractor is a 255hp MF 7626 with Dyna-6 transmission delivered by JJ Farm Services in February this year to replace a 215hp MF 6499. Bought primarily to operate a 3m combination drill and, eventually, the forage harvester supplying green matter to feed the bio-digester, the tractor was selected foremost with power in mind.
“When fully operational, our energy generation systems will demand a consistent and reliable supply of material to maintain maximum output,” explained Clive. “Having used Massey Ferguson tractors on the farm for almost 60 years, we have every confidence in their ability to deliver the necessary performance, backed by first-class and dependable dealer support.”
Massey Ferguson Children’s Character “Little Grey Fergie” Opens a Dedicated Attraction at Norway Theme Park
The Land of the Little Grey Fergie – Gråtassland – opened in grand style in Stavanger Norway on 4 June.
This fantastic brand-new attraction area at the Kongeparken in Stavanger is a celebration of the children’s character ‘Little Grey Fergie’ (Gråtass) which is based on an original Ferguson TE 20 tractor. Over the last 20 years the original story of his adventures, written by Morten Myklebust, has grown into two feature film hits, a TV series, several stage shows and DVDs, plus a brand-new production filmed in England which is available on the itnernet and features a full-size live-action tractor.
Ultra-modern technology has been employed at Kongeparken, one of Scandinavia’s foremost theme parks, to ensure Little Grey Fergie comes to life for visitors. “It’s like walking into the movie!” says Håkon Lund, CEO of Kongeparken.
Visitors will be welcomed by the character himself and will also be able to meet the animals on the farm at the petting zoo. An exciting tractor ride takes visitors through the captivating story of Little Grey Fergie and his friends. There are also play tractors and an old country store. Bringing things right up to date, there is the chance to experience one of the very latest Massey Ferguson tractors especially adjusted for kids.
Massey Ferguson Norwegian dealer – Eiksenteret – and the dealership chain are key partners in this exciting new project along with Fantasifabrikken A/S, the production company behind Gråtass.
With the opening of Gråtassland in Stavanger, the Ferguson TE 20 is effectively returning to its origins in Norway. More than 60 years ago not far from the town, Christian Eik started to import the tractor into the country from England. His pioneering work played an important part in laying the foundations for mechanised agriculture in Norway.
“As importers of Massey Ferguson today, we want to make sure that the history of the Little Grey Fergie is embraced, along with the Massey Ferguson brand name,” says Trond Kjempekjenn, General Sales Manager, AGCO Norway/ Eikmaskin a/s. “We have a very good partnership with Kongeparken – Fergie is in the best hands. Gråtassland will be a great place for the whole family to enjoy. Fergie has many fans both in Norway and abroad. Children and grown-ups alike can now share their fun with him as he returns ‘home’ to Stavanger.”
What might the European parliamentary elections mean for farming? In this month’s regular column from CEJA (European Council of Young Farmers), Massey Ferguson speaks to President, Matteo Bartolini about the possible outcomes and finds out more about CEJA’s latest campaign to target the new parliament.
MF: The European elections are just around the corner (22-25 May). Can you tell us a little more about them and why they are important?
MB: If you are a citizen of the European Union, then you are eligible to vote for one of your MEP candidates. 751 MEPs will then be elected to represent you and your region in the European Parliament for the next five years. They will have the power to amend, approve or reject a majority of EU legislation. The number of MEPs is in fact decreasing this year from the current number of 766 to 751 (750 MEPs and a President). Although you may still think 750 is a high number, it is not a lot to represent over 500 million citizens! We are yet to get a clear idea of the anticipated results of the elections but it seems there may be a move to the right this time. Although this should not pose much of a risk to agricultural support, it may mean a more conservative approach to a number of upcoming free trade agreement negotiations between the EU and other regions which could have an impact on European farmers.
MF: The European Parliament is made up of a number of different Committees, which is the most relevant for CEJA?
MB: This is the Committee for Agriculture and Rural Development (COMAGRI). COMAGRI’s current members have had a significant impact on the shape of the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and, therefore, can influence EU policy and decision-making which have a direct and important impact on European farmers. This is particularly the case since the structural changes to the EU decision-making processes made in 2009 which strengthened the Parliament’s powers, notably in agriculture.
While European agriculture continues to invest in large, capital intensive, fully specialised industrial farms, many young farmers cannot and do not want to build their future on this model. Currently more than 55% of European farmers are over the age of 55 and want to retire within the next ten years. Yet, only 7% of the conventional and 10% of the organic farmers in Europe are under the age of 35.*
There is a growing crisis in farming, as a generation of farmers grows older, with no one to take over from them when they retire. Many farming families find that their children don’t want to follow in their footsteps, so when ageing farmers stop farming, farms often cease to be used for agriculture. But as farms and farmers disappear, our food security is increasingly threatened. Fewer people have the critical skills to produce food, farmland goes out of production and countries become over-dependent on imports. The statistics above illustrate a pressing need, both to draw young people back into farming and to provide them with access to land they can farm.
Are you concerned about where the farmers of the future are going to come from? Do you feel the industry needs to do more to attract young students? Are your own children aiming for a life in the city, rather than one in the country?
If so, come to the Inspire Pavilion at Cereals 2014 and support the event’s aim to put careers in agriculture firmly on the map.
The Arable Event, Cereals 2014 takes place on 11-12 June in Cambridgeshire, UK. This year, the Inspire Pavilion is sponsored by Massey Ferguson as well as De Lacy Executive and McDonald’s. Its aim is to provide an opportunity to showcase the vast number of great career opportunities available across the industry.
Massey Ferguson’s very own Campbell Scott, Director, Sales Engineering and MF Brand Development, will be there to speak frankly and passionately about the future of farming and the support that Massey Ferguson hopes to provide for the next generation.
Not only that, Massey Ferguson will also be talking about future careers within the industry. Ben Agar, Manager, Marketing Services UK & EIRE, will be there to offer guidance and to talk about the opportunities in global careers within the agricultural sector.
There will be a full programme of seminars and workshops and some practical sessions where help will be offered with preparing CVs, preparing for a job interview, and using social media to find that all- elusive job.
Over lunchtime there will be a panel of young farmers who will tell stories to inspire new entrants, and there’s a #studentfarmer session too. This area – 4th Avenue – has a good selection of agricultural colleges promoting the courses they have on offer, and details of available apprenticeship schemes, so make sure you find your way to this part of the event.
Another first for Cereals is the new CPD trail, a great opportunity for visitors to gain up to 12 BASIS or 8 NRoSO points in a single day’s visit.
Find out more about Cereals 2014 on their website www.cerealsevent.co.uk.
*Information sourced from The Sustainable Food Trust
Massey Ferguson speaks to Matteo Bartolini, President of the European Council of Young Farmers (CEJA), about the links between nutrition, eating habits and the food chain.
MF: Is EU food legislation to blame for higher food prices?
MB: All of us, as European consumers want high-quality and safe food. The EU plays a vital role in that. The European Commission oversees the necessary level of law harmonization thereby avoiding distortion of competition among Member States. A set of common rules for all 28 Member States is less burdensome and expensive than 28 entirely different sets of rules and regulations.
MF: Would you agree that consumers consider the cost of food – as opposed to its quality and dietary issues – as the determining factor when shopping for food? What can we do to change people’s eating habits?
MB: Cheaper food does not always translate into unhealthy food, and we also need to keep in mind that eating habits often depend on different cultures across the Union. EU citizens must be aware of the fact that meeting the most rigorous requirements – like EU farmers do – can, indeed, contribute to higher prices since the production cost for European farmers increases in direct proportion. Europeans are demanding good quality food – in other words, they want to know what they eat and how their food was produced.
MF: What is your opinion as regards the claim that small farms are less sustainable than their bigger counterparts?
MB: Although this can sometimes be the case, it does not mean that it is the rule. Small farms can be modern and sustainable too. The EU supports small farms by providing funds for modernization and investments in order to ensure that they not polluters and that they are also economically viable. Our view on the issue is that irrespective of their size, both big and small farms should aim to produce sustainably. The reality nowadays is that increasingly scarce natural resources do not leave farmers with much of a choice. European agriculture does not consist of only small farms or only big farms. It is essential to have a mix of the two as this is part of the culture of European farming.
MF: Do you believe that European farmers’ bargaining power has decreased over the years? What do you think are the reasons behind this and what can they do to gain more control?
MB: European farmers exercise rather little control over the final cost of their products. Past practices have fallen short of providing producers with decent prices at farm gate level, with farmers often getting a fraction of what the consumer pays. However, young farmers in particular are attempting to shorten this chain and find innovative solutions to the lack of bargaining power. Young farmers employ methods such as direct selling in order to improve the functioning of the food chain, while, at the same time, bringing consumers closer to producers and giving them more understanding of where and how their food was produced.