The last thing any workshop manager wants during the busy spring cultivation, drilling and spraying season is a backlog of machines waiting to be serviced or have worn parts replaced. Which is why Matthew Tong, machinery and workshop manager for JRO Griffiths and Sons near Shrewsbury, has upgraded both the farm’s ploughs with tungsten carbide toughened points – not only to maximise each plough’s productivity, but also to keep the ploughs off the yard so that Matthew and his team can focus on other, more pressing tasks.
JRO Griffiths & Sons farm 1700 acres of cereals and 1300 acres of potatoes from their Duncote Farm base near Shrewsbury. While the cereal crops are established via min-till, the potato ground still has to be ploughed, with two Kuhn ploughs – a 5-furrow Vari-Master 153 and a 7-furrow Vari-Master 183 – being used to turn soil to a depth of 14-16 inches.
“We’re working both ploughs fairly hard through a variety of sand and clay soils,” Matthew explains. “Our land isn’t excessively stony, but the depth we’re working to means we wear through shares and points pretty quickly.”
So quickly in fact that Kuhn’s standard ‘Olympic’ reversible points were only good for 70-80 acres before becoming excessively worn.
“With the 7-furrow plough capable of working 35-40 acres per day, and the 5-furrow machine able to turn 25 acres, we were changing points every couple of days,” Matthew continues. “And with each set of points taking up to an hour and a half to change, each plough was incurring a lot of downtime at one of the busiest times of the year when there’s a lot of other machinery coming in and out of the workshop.”
Having trialled several sets of non-genuine toughened points, Matthew has now equipped both ploughs with Kuhn’s ‘Super Marathon’ points.
“Each set of non-genuine points lasted for about 250 acres,” he explains. “They were cheaper than Kuhn’s own hardened points, but, as with the standard points, we were still changing them too often for our liking. They were also prone to chipping which increased their wear rate and meant we were changing individual points which increased each plough’s downtime.
“This spring we switched to Kuhn’s extra thick, carbide brazed ‘Super Marathon’ points which worked more than 320 acres before needing to be changed. That meant we were only changing points on a weekly basis and made it much easier for us to keep on top of our maintenance schedules for the rest of the farm’s fleet.”
This spring’s late start and ensuing catchy weather made it particularly tricky to complete the various cultivation, drilling, fertiliser and ploughing operations, and put undue pressure on Matthew and his team: “We normally finish our spring field work by mid-April, but this year, after making a good start in early March, we were rained off for the next four weeks. That meant there was a huge backlog of work to get through when the weather did finally break.
“The last thing we wanted or needed at that point was to have a backlog of machinery sitting idle while we were changing plough points. Thankfully, switching to the hardened Super Marathon points on the ploughs meant there was one less thing to worry about and allowed us to focus on keeping the drills and sprayers running at full capacity to catch up on lost time.”
As well as reducing the workshop’s work load, switching to longer-lasting points also reduces the labour costs associated with ploughing. “The ploughmen still need to be paid even if their ploughs are sitting on the yard having worn parts replaced,” Matthew adds.
“Admittedly, the tungsten carbide points are three times the price of the standard, non-hardened set, but they last four times as long and incur a lot less downtime. It’s doesn’t take a genius to work out that the extra cost per point is more than worth it, especially as it means we can concentrate on keeping the rest of the farm’s implements running.
“Switching to hardened points might seem like a fairly inconsequential decision, but it’s a small detail which allows us to keep everything else running smoothly so that the farm manager can make the most of favourable weather windows.”