Framlingham: Farmers’ co-operative helps large estate to achieve big savings

A switch to a new machinery fleet on a large estate was achieved with big savings through a leading East Anglia buying group.

The Sennowe estate, near Fakenham, bought the machinery – including tractors and combine – through the AtlasFram Group, which is based in Framlingham.

It was able to benefit from the bulk-buying of machinery provided by the Suffolk-based co-operative, which has about 1,250 members.

“We use the AtlasFram machinery scheme to obtain additional volume-related rebates on all our Case IH purchases,” said Adrian Howes, who manages the ‘in-hand’ section of Tom Cook’s Sennowe Park estate at Guist, near Fakenham.

The 8,000-acre estate was bought by the founder of the Thomas Cook travel business in 1904, the year in which he sold the famous travel company.

Today it is run by his great, great grandson, also Thomas Cook. While 3,500 acres is tenanted or let for pig/carrot production, the balance is farmed in-hand.

It has 400 acres of grass, 600 acres of woodland and 1,000 acres of sand land, which cannot be irrigated and is in stewardship, plus a further 2,500 acres of arable crops. It currently produces 1,000 acres of feed wheat, 600 of oilseed rape, 200 of winter malting barley and 200 of vining peas for Aylsham Growers.

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Born into a farming family at Bassingbourn, near Cambridge, Mr Howes spent five years working for a major farm management company before joining the business in 1999. When he came to Sennowe, it operated John Deere and Ford/New Holland tractors. But eight years ago, Ernest Doe Power took on the Case IH agency at Fakenham and Mr Howes decided to switch to a single make.

“In my experience Case IH tractors are very reliable and cheaper to operate than the John Deere or New Holland we operated previously. Initially we bought a Case IH MX 130 to replace a New Holland 7840 and as tractors have come up for replacement Case IH have taken their place,” he said. “We have made full use of our investment allowances recently and now operate three Case IH tractors, including a Magnum 310 and Maxxum 140 Multi-Controller.”

The estate has a 30ft CaseIH 9120 Axial Flow combine. This former demonstrator had replaced the previous 9120 model in 2009, which had completed two seasons after taking over from a Claas Lexion 480.

“A key reason for choosing the Axial Flow was the performance of its 120-blade straw chopper, which has vastly improved residue management, while the Variocut header does a very good job, particularly in oilseed rape.

“In addition to our own 1,800 acres of combining we also harvest 300 acres for a neighbour, but as the Axial Flow will handle 100 acres a day and more, depending on field conditions, that’s not a problem.

“As farming businesses become larger and operate with fewer staff, the level of service provided by suppliers becomes ever more important. Both AtlasFram and Ernest Dow Power do exactly what they say they will, provide fantastic support and are good at communicating.

“The added benefit is that we have enjoyed significant financial savings by purchasing Case IH equipment through the AtlasFram Machinery Scheme, which allows us, as individual members, to benefit from the volume-related rebates.”

This has helped with acquisition of the farm’s largest tractor, a Magnum 310, which in 2008 replaced two tractors, a Case IH MX200 used for drilling and a John Deere 8410 which took care of cultivations.

More recently, the original Case IH MX 130 has been replaced by a Maxxum 140. It powers a three-metre Maschio power harrow-Kverneland drill combination used for any late drilling after root crops and establishing 70 acres of wild bird mix.

“Typically, our tractors complete around 1000 hours per year and are replaced after 7,000 hours,” said Mr Howes.

“The MX 200 was superb and in five years we never put a spanner on it. We have had the odd little problem with our Magnum 310, but Ernest Doe Power has sorted it out quickly – I can’t fault them.

“The fact that we don’t plough, except for spring crops, saves around 500 hours a year on the larger tractor and makes a big difference to our overall production costs,” he said.