Hedges trimmed to perfection during Northamptonshire open day

An open day by Attlefield Farm Machinery Ltd (AFM) at its Daventry base featured the latest Spearhead hedge cutters and attachments in action as well as static displays of rotary mowers and flails. David Williams attended the event.

Attlefield Farm Machinery on farm machinery article

The open day, on a Saturday in late November, attracted customers from across the UK. The AFM team specialises in Spearhead products and, as well as keeping a large stock of spare parts available for immediate dispatch, they offer advice to potential and existing customers based on years of experience handling the brand.

Relationships the priority

Attlefield Farm Machinery director, Henry White said he was very pleased with the attendance. “After a long period of wetter weather, we were lucky to have a mostly dry day for the event, during which people joined us from as far away as the Scottish Borders and Kent.

“For me, the priority was arranging a day for customers to meet other users and compare notes as to what works and what doesn’t, rather than being totally focused on sales. As well as local farmers and contractors, we have many customers a long distance from our base, so we rarely meet them in person and most of the contact is by phone. The relaxed open day and refreshments are just as much about thanking them for their business and spending time socialising as they are about selling the next machine.”

Henry said that the family’s background as farmers in the UK and Poland means that they are aware when parts and accessory prices might seem too high. “We do our best to keep prices reasonable, and if that means buying parts in bulk to achieve extra discount which we then pass on to customers, then that is what we do. Relationships with many customers elsewhere in the UK developed while we supplied them first just with parts. Then, because they trusted us to give honest advice and great back-up, they approached our team when new machines were needed too.”

Attendees at farm machinery open day on farming article
Members of the Spearhead and AFM teams at the open day: Spearhead field service manager, Ian Haines; Spearhead product support manager, Steven Nel; AFM mechanic, Andrius Raskevicius; AFM director, Henry White; Spearhead sales manager – GB East, Jack Norton; AFM mechanic, Alex Zajac; and Spearhead director of sales and marketing, Antony Prince.

Rotary cutting head demand growing

Henry said there was a lot of interest in rotary cutting heads at the event, as users consider replacing flails. “Wherever possible then I try to use a rotary head now,” he explained. “They will cope with a lot more growth and remain in balance better than a flail when working in tough conditions.”

Annual event

Henry confirmed that he intends the open day to be an annual event. “We are very lucky to receive such great support from our suppliers and customers,” he said. “Although we are in almost daily contact with several members of the Spearhead team, there are others who we meet more occasionally or only when we visit the factory. Because the open day was on a Saturday this year, many of the office and warehouse-based employees could attend too, and they enjoyed seeing the machines in action and meeting customers who value their excellent back-up.”

Heavy-duty mowers

Attlefield Farm Machinery hedge and verge cutters on farm machinery article

Spearhead director of sales and marketing, Antony Prince said that along with the hedge and verge cutter range, heavy-duty rotary mowers are in strong demand. “The latest Multicut mowers feature a revised flat top which has been a game changer for ease of use and customer satisfaction,” he explained. “Customers are selecting our mowers for cover crop and stubble management to help break down organic matter and improve soil regeneration, as well as for traditional grass mowing.

“There is growing interest in leaving stubbles longer behind the combine and putting less straw through the machine to increase working efficiency. Then the stubbles are cut very short using the rotary mower. This effectively destroys harmful insect habitats, and the chopped straw is spread far more evenly across the field than is possible behind a combine with a wide table.”

Drain clearing appeal

The Spearhead Evergreen LF Alpha self-propelled hedge and verge cutter range includes five base models and a choice of 13 arm sets, of which the 9.7m version is most popular, explained Spearhead director of sales and marketing, Antony Prince. The three-piece arm makes it especially suitable for contractors working for drainage boards as it includes an excavator operating mode which allows its use with a weed cutting basket.

Spearhead self-propelled hedge and verge cutter on farm machinery article

Kent-based contractor

Kent-based contractor, Will Clarke maintains verges, central reservations and hedges along many of Kent’s main roads, including the M25. Trading as Direct Enviro Services, he operates a fleet of four Spearhead Twiga hedge cutters, including a Twiga Orbital model mounted on a JCB Fastrac which can work either side of the tractor.

Direct Enviro Services on farm machinery article

“The Spearhead Orbital ticks the health and safety boxes in terms of avoiding dazzling motorists with the tractor headlights when cutting central reservations at night,” explained Will. “We have been dealing with AFM since meeting Henry for the first time at his open day last year. I can’t fault the service when it comes to parts availability and pricing.”

Two of the hedge cutters are on Valtra tractors and the fourth machine is a smaller model mounted on a Kubota.

Direct Enviro Services contractor on farm machinery article

Three of Will’s machines were in action at the open day, two of which were on his own tractors and the other was on a Fendt borrowed for the occasion. Will has invested in Spearhead’s Autopilot and Autolevel functions for his machines.

The tractors usually work with a front-mounted verge mower in conjunction with the Spearhead hedge cutter at the rear, and users can pay extra attention to the front mowing operation while Autopilot maintains the correct hedge cutter working angle.

“Once set up then we can rely on it to adjust the angle as conditions alter,” he explained. “We have a new 7.2m Twiga Pro purchased this year, and when it is fully extended then any minor undulations affecting the tractor’s rear wheels create much greater movement at the cutting head.

“I estimate that Autopilot helps us achieve at least 30% more output and our daily work rate has increased from an average of 12km to 17–20km per day.”

Cuts both sides

The Spearhead Twiga Orbital belongs to Kent-based Direct Enviro Services, and it can cut on either side of the tractor making it ideal for trimming central reservations on main roads.

Spearhead Twiga Orbital on farm machinery article

Rotary head preferred

JH Kirkham & Sons on farm machinery article

Trading as JH Kirkham & Sons, Matthew Kirkham offers a contract hedge and verge cutting service from his Southam, Warks base.

“I changed from another brand to the Spearhead machine two years ago,” he explained. “My hedge cutter was due for updating and I was worried about the extra cutting workload as customers chaange from annual trimming to heavier pruning every two years, so I invested in a 5ft rotary cutting head instead of the flail.

JH Kirkham & Sons hedge and verge cutting machinery on farming article

“It performs well and is much faster than the flail especially when there is a lot of material to cut back. This season, I replaced the blade bearings as a precaution, although even after a full year’s work; the originals still seemed fine, and we refitted the existing blades as they were barely worn.”

Matthew also has the Autolevel head function, and he said it is an advantage when operating on undulating ground. “I’m quite traditional in that usually I prefer manual control, but if I’m working where the ground is very uneven then I use it to make the job easier. The rotary head helps too, as it rides over undulations including hidden gulleys where a flail would drop in. My workload has reduced slightly as farmers change to a two-year cutting regime, but when I need anything I know I can rely on the back up from Henry and the AFM team.”

Big advantage

Direct Enviro Services machinery on farming article
Direct Enviro Services Spearhead operator on farm machinery article

The Spearhead Twiga Pro VFR65 belonging to Direct Enviro Services was fitted to a Fendt tractor for the event. Operator, Lee Hollands commented that the Autolevel function is a big advantage.“I used another brand of hedge cutter previously, and it’s much easier to obtain a good finish with the Spearhead machine. It’s extremely reliable and when we need any parts then the AFM team sends them quickly.”

Seeing what is available

AF Alcock and Son on farm machinery article

Contractor Michael Alcock trades as AF Alcock & Son, based at Scaldwell, and although he currently uses a competitor brand machine to provide a hedge cutting service to his regular customers, he visited the open day to see the range of Spearhead products in action. “My own machine is a 6.5m model with a 1.5m flail,” he said. “I was nearby and took advantage of the opportunity to keep an eye on what else is available.”

Visitors at Attlefield Farm Machinery event on farm machinery article

Good back-up

Open day visitors included John Russell and his friend Nick Dilks. “We know Henry and his family well,” said John. “We bought a Spearhead topper from them last year and already used a 6.2m flex-wing mower. The range is known for being strong and reliable and back-up from AFM is always very good.”

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