Clive Thomas flanked by his two newest MF tractors, the MF1547 compact and the MF7626, the latter purchased primarily for powering a combinationdrill unit and a forage harvester.
Herefordshireturkey farmer, Clive Thomas, is aiming to make his farm totallyenergy-independent within the next five years . . . and he is using MasseyFerguson tractors to help him achieve his goal.
Growing around 80ha of wheat and grass withson, Kelvyn, within the E&GM Thomas & Son family partnership, Clivesprincipal enterprise for the past 25 years has been turkey production, anoperation that sees 90,000 birds reared each year under contract to CranberryFoods. All of the wheat harvested on the farm is fed to the turkeys with thestraw being used as bedding litter for birds that grow from 2kg to 19kg over 12weeks.
Fan ventilation of the seven turkey-rearingsheds is an essential part of the operation and had been costing the businessaround 5,000 a month in electricity bills. This figure has been steadilyreducing since the installation of an 800-panel solar photovoltaic array in fields close to the farm buildings.
Capable of producingup to 200kW/hr in full midday summer sunlight, the investment is expected topay for itself within seven years. Any surplus electricity produced is beingfed back into the grid, explained Clive. Although the money we receive perunit is falling, the cost savings made plus the income generated should see ourinvestment repaid before the end of the decade.
An importantrequirement of solar panels is the control of surrounding vegetation to preventshading of the photovoltaic cells while permitting easy inspection and cleaningof the installation, when necessary. Mowing of the solar avenues and of paddocksaround the farmstead, as well as the movement of smaller loads and materialsaround the farm, has been entrusted to a 46hp MF1547 compact tractor supplied,in common with Clive Thomass other Massey Ferguson equipment, by MF dealer, JJFarm Services Ltd, based near Winchcombe, Gloucestershire.
I asked dealer representative, Ben Johnson,if MF offered a small, manoeuvrable tractor capable of powering a flail mowerand a rotary cultivator, said Clive. He proposed the MF 1547 with a 12 x 12synchro-shuttle manual transmission. The tractor has proved a revelation,having ample power for cutting back quite lengthy grass between the solarpanels and for cultivating areas of uneven or rutted ground prior to levellingand restoration.
To complement the generation of solar power,Clive is now planning the installation of a twin bio-digester unit fuelled by acombination of turkey manure, grass silage and green-cut wheat. The methane gasproduced by the bio-digester will power engine-driven generators capable ofsupplying the farms entire electricity demand, including the farmhouse,enabling all of the electricity produced by the solar panels to be fed into thegrid.
Clive plans also to utilise all of the wastematerial from the bio-digester, either spreading it onto land as fertiliser orcompressing it into briquettes for sale as fuel. Coolant water heated by theengines will not be wasted either, being used to provide hot water in theworkshop and other farm buildings.
Both my grandfatherand father used Ferguson and Massey Ferguson tractors successfully, startingway back in the early 1950s, explained Clive. I have maintained this longassociation, currently employing two MF6480s and an MF6290 for all primaryand secondary field operations ranging from cultivations to fertiliserspreading and spraying to haulage. We also run an MF7256 Cerea combine.
The farms latest number one tractor is a255hp MF7626 with Dyna-6 transmission delivered by JJ Farm Services inFebruary this year to replace a 215hp MF6499. Bought primarily to operate a 3mcombination drill and, eventually, the forage harvester supplying green matterto feed the bio-digester, the tractor was selected foremost with power in mind.
Whenfully operational, our energy generation systems will demand a consistent andreliable supply of material to maintain maximum output, explained Clive.Having used Massey Ferguson tractors on the farm for almost 60 years, we haveevery confidence in their ability to deliver the necessary performance, backedby first-class and dependable dealer support.