Annual open days by Cousins of Emneth took place in early December and were attended by customers and dealers from across the UK
Annual open days, organised by Cambridgeshire-based Cousins of Emneth took place in early December and were attended by customers and dealers from across the UK. David Williams reports. The manufacturer’s open days are always popular with dealers, allowing them to visit and see the latest innovations and to discuss current trends with the team, and are also an opportunity to bring along existing and potential customers for the products to see how they are manufactured and to view the full range of machinery available. “I was pleased to see so many of our customers, old and new, at the open days,” said Cousins managing director, Laura Cousins. “There was lots of interest and several orders taken, with particular interest in rolls. Customers were able to take advantage of our special open day discounts and the ‘rolled back’ prices on our Contour range.”Dick Neale, Laura Cousins and retired managing director John Cousins are pictured (l-r) with the latest innovation to emerge as part of the i-Tillage programme.Cousins’ HD HZ Horizontal-folding rolls have been introduced in recent years and are in increasing demand as the range expands to include wider versions. A new 16m set was demonstrated and creating interest, the previous widest model having been 12m. Laura explained that the first two 16m sets were delivered to farms during September, and had performed well during the season, and that a set of even larger 18m rolls was currently in construction and would be shown at Lamma.At its open day two years ago, Cousins displayed its shallow Surface Cultivator for the first time. The result of collaboration between Hutchinsons and Cousins, the cultivator is designed for precise cultivations down to two inches, as a tool in the battle against black-grass.The Shallow Cultivator was the first major development resulting from the collaboration between Hutchinson and Cousins.”This autumn the cultivator has been out working every day when weather has allowed, all over the UK,” explained Hutchinson technical manager Dick Neale. “It has proved very universal, and is effective working on ploughed land to create a seedbed as well as on stubbles, extending its potential uses. There is also the option to lift the tines clear of the ground and run it on the packer rolls only, as a heavy roll or after strip-tillage drills as the new roller design will concentrate the pressure on just the tilled areas making it more effective than a Cambridge roll.”The machine is proving very versatile for primary and secondary cultivations in both the autumn and spring, effectively replacing a cultivator press, power harrow and disc harrow cultivators,” said Dick. Development of the Surface Cultivator is now complete after incorporation of the engineering adjustments resulting from user feedback in the field.”The design of the points is intended to lift soil for thorough mixing with the straw and to leave the surface level after cultivation and users have been very pleased with the results. Several farmers have crops in the ground currently, established this autumn following cultivations carried out with the machine, and results so far look good.The new twin-tine system for the V-Form is designed to create an ideal cone-shaped tillage profile for optimal sugar beet growth while minimising surface disturbance.Growers have to change their cultivation methods as a result of the increasing black-grass problem, but this is a major change, so it is understandable that they want to see results on their land before placing an order. We are learning about black-grass control all the time, and shallow cultivations have proved highly effective in many situations,” he added.He commented that another potential use for the cultivator is establishing cover crops, with a mounted seeder and that the concentrated pressure available from the rear packer’s rollers is very effective at crushing leaves and stems of cover crops pre-drilling. “It has plenty of uses beyond shallow tillage,” he said.A new double-leg version of the Cousins Micro wing was shown for the first time at the event. The latest product to emerge as a result of the development work carried out with Hutchinsons, the double leg is designed primarily for those growing sugar beet, but has additional applications. It uses the existing micro-tine to create tilth for the seed working in front of a second tine which operates deeper, loosening soil lower down and creating a cone-shaped profile for beet to develop. “It isn’t a subsoiler,” explained Dick, “as there shouldn’t be any compaction present before cultivations for seeding start anyway. Sugar beet needs a cone shaped zone in which to grow, to allow it to establish a good tap-root downwards and optimise extraction at harvesting, as lateral roots tend to be snapped off and lost when the beet are lifted from the ground. The double tine system will also suit maize, particularly when it is grown on lighter soils with a tendency to slump as it will lift and open them for better root growth.”Front and rear tines are mounted in pairs on the legs and, for oilseed rape establishment, the rear lower tine is removed and the micro-wing moved to the rear mounting point.”The design means there is no more surface disturbance than when the micro-wing is used on its own,” said Dick. “A further advantage is that it will give confidence to growers using the micro-wing where they feel extra depth of cultivation will be a benefit. The system proved very successful for sugar beet drilled during the spring, and yield assessments have shown a six per cent yield increase compared with a conventional plough-based establishment system, and we trialled it as a direct drill for maize too. It was successful, but we recommend that for best results, maize is precision-drilled as it benefits from precise and even planting depth.”The objective is to minimise the amount of surface soil disturbance giving weeds and volunteers less opportunity to grow,” he continued, “and with this technique we are moving only 20 per cent of the surface and are seeing success as part of a weed control programme. An indication of the success of the original micro-wing is that the farm where many trials were carried out has now purchased a machine as a part of its own fleet.”Laura and Dick are delighted with the progress made through the joint i-Tillage programme so far and are optimistic regarding the potential for further developments as a result of the collaboration.Graham and John drew of J Drew & Son; farmers from Horningtoft, Norfolk are pictured with their new Cousins combination harrow. The all-arable farm grows cereals and sugar beet and Graham (right) explained that the new 5m cultivator is an upgrade for a similar 3m machine which is almost 30 years old. “We were looking for something straightforward and at a reasonable cost which would get over our ground quickly and require minimal maintenance,” he said.”We looked at options available at the Normac autumn cultivations event and liked the look of this machine, and have since placed our order with our local dealer; Johnson Bros. “We will use it after a plough and as part of a min-till system behind a heavy cultivator on our oilseed rape stubbles, and it will be mounted on a 120hp John Deere tractor. We liked Cousins for the quality of build, the value for money and the simplicity. We could have bought cheaper alternatives but we hope that this will last us well for the next 30 years.”Graham said another benefit of dealing with Cousins was the flexibility. “We needed a few additional features and when we asked about them it seemed to be no trouble at all. The company was very obliging,” he added.One of many dealers attending the event was Tom Clark who is an area sales manager for G&J Peck Ltd, and is based at the dealer’s Ramsey, Cambs branch. “I cover the area west of Ramsey,” he explained, “and although we sell a lot of Cousins machinery, it is the first time I have seen around the factory so it has been an interesting day for me. It is great to see the manufacturer looking ahead with its new machinery coming through and its progress in terms of expanding the production capacity which will be good for our future business.”Tom said the new Cousins horizontal-folding rolls are attracting a lot of interest due to the advantages of the design for ease and safety of transport. “The stability is better than for vertical-folding rolls,” he said and the wider sizes available mean we have a greater range of options available for customers.”
Tom said recent weeks had seen a lot of enquiries from customers for new tractors, combines and tillage equipment, with black-grass control the priority for cultivations products. “The interest is from farmers looking ahead to spring cultivations and we are optimistic that 2015 could be a busy one for us,” he added.Nick and Geoff Wade; farmers from Sedgebrook near Grantham are pictured at the open day. Trading as JE Wade & Sons, almost 1,250ha (3,000 acres) is farmed, all of which is combinable crops. Nick (left), who runs the farm, explained that Cousins machinery has been used on the land for almost 50 years and that its attraction is the strength of build in all the critical areas. “We have approximately half a dozen Cousins implements including two sets of rolls; three- and five-gang, and several subosilers, one of which we have modified into an oilseed rape drill,” he said. “We purchased a second-hand seven-leg model and extended its working width to nine legs, and added fold-up wings for ease of transport. It has proved successful,” he said.The crop establishment regime is almost all min-till now, the farm having moved away from ploughing gradually approximately 40 years ago. “Black-grass is an issue, but we have systems in place to keep on top of it and they seem to be working. We use sprays were possible but with increasing resistance a combination of chemicals is needed. We do still plough a small amount of land, but only as a last resort,” he said. “We use stale seedbeds when possible including light cultivations after harvest and we spray off the weeds just before drilling. Then after drilling we roll the land and immediately apply a pre-emergence treatment to keep on top of the problem, and that gives us the control we need by tackling the black-grass when it is most susceptible. We are on heavy land and have to get on and drill it as soon as there is an opportunity as, once it turns wet, we won’t get another chance until spring. We were just in time this autumn and managed to get the drilling completed just before the rain came.”Nick said one of the most useful methods of research he has carried out in terms of making sure crops are established effectively while maximising black-grass control was a visit to Hutchinson’s black-grass research site near Huntingdon. “We went to see Dick Neale and learned a lot from him, but it encouraged us that we were already doing much of what he was recommending, so his advice helped us formalise and improve our techniques. It gave us a lot to consider; for example the last time our field drainage received major attention was approximately 50 years ago and by investing again in the drains and improving them recently we have already seen an improvement. Where we have mole-drained and dug out the ditches our ability to travel is much better and the black-grass population is smaller too. We keep our cultivations shallow to ensure black-grass seeds are kept near the surface and this helps our control.”We also realised that we have to understand more about our soil and its structure. By working shallow with our cultivations and mole draining to increase drainage ability the middle-depth tends to look after itself. I have had a dig in every field during the past year and this has meant I know what is needed in each area much better,” he added.Another benefit of the farm’s improvements has been a decrease in the amount of slug pellets needed. “Every season is different, but this year we haven’t applied any slug pellets and we are convinced this is, at least, partly due to the cultivations techniques,” said Geoff. “It has made a difference too improving the soil structure by applying sewage sludge. This has transformed the farm but we are only doing what a mixed farm would have done naturally in the past,” he said.”The mix of cultural and chemical weed control, including extended rotations and spring cropping is proving successful and the crops this year are looking well so far,” commented Nick.