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Massey Ferguson Tractors Support Farmer’s Bid for Energy Independence

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.

Clive Thomas 4Growing 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.”

MF Compacts Gain Approval from the Home of Golf

Two identical Massey Ferguson compact tractors are winning praise from course managers and staff at St Andrews Links for their gutsy performance, fuel economy and well-balanced configuration on tasks ranging from pallet handling to overseeding and deep tine aeration to trailer work.  Purchased in 2012 by St Andrews Links Trust from local Massey Ferguson dealer, Reekie Cupar, the two 46hp MF 1547 tractors replaced a pair of similarly-sized tractors that had reached retirement age, explained workshop manager, Willie Redpath.

St Andrews Links’ course managers, Gordon McKie (left) and Kevin Muir, with their MF 1547 compact tractors which are used primarily on the Old Course and the Eden, Strathtyrum and Balgove Courses respectively.

St Andrews Links’ course managers, Gordon McKie (left) and Kevin Muir, with their MF 1547 compact tractors which are used primarily on the Old Course and the Eden, Strathtyrum and Balgove Courses respectively.

“Having drawn up a shortlist and arranged comparative demonstrations, we settled on the Masseys due to their impressive operating environment, sound build quality and ease of use. The proximity of MF dealer, Reekie Cupar, just 15 minutes away was also a relevant factor in selecting a tractor model that is new to St Andrews Links.”

Willie pointed out that although the Links Trust has owned larger MF tractors previously, the two MF 1547s are the first Massey Ferguson compacts to have worked on any of St Andrews’ seven public golf courses.

One of the new MF 1547 tractors joined the machinery fleet on the famed Old Course, managed by Gordon McKie, while the other is working primarily on the Eden, Strathtyrum and Balgove Courses, where Kevin Muir heads the greenkeeping teams.

In addition to everyday turf maintenance tasks, either tractor may be called on to help out on the practice range or any of the other three courses managed by St Andrews Links Trust.

Gordon McKie commented that the MF 1547 tractor is proving a hit with staff on the Old Course. “You can tell that by the fact that everyone gathers around the Massey first thing in the morning, hoping they will be allocated the tractor for the day’s work,” he said. “To be frank, it’s a very good tractor that does everything asked of it without complaint. A particularly good feature is its long nose which ensures good balance when operating heavy rear-mounted equipment, in particular pallet forks fully laden with rolls of turf.”

Fellow course manager, Kevin Muir, echoed Gordon’s sentiments, adding that the spacious air-conditioned cab makes the tractor a pleasure to drive, enhanced by excellent all-round visibility and low sound levels.

“Both tractors have MF’s DynaQPS transmission which combines forward/reverse power shuttle with push button change-on-the-move across all four gears in each of the three main ranges,” said Kevin. “This feature makes driving the tractor a doddle and is ideal for turf aeration when looking to maintain accurate holes spacing across greens.

“All in all, the tractor is an invaluable member of our machinery fleet, equally happy working at creep speeds on turf as it is hauling loads at road speed up to three miles from the turf nursery. Everyone likes driving it.”