As well as growers, there is a whole team of people supporting harvest, from machinery technicians to grain traders to laboratory personnel as well as the Fire Service and insurance handlers when things go wrong. Marianne Curtis and Alice Dyer take a look at their contribution.
There are just short of 500 technicians in the field in the Claas dealer network – including 205 in the three large Claas UK-owned dealerships.
In the event of a serious problem with a combine which cannot be fixed in the field, dealerships have access to spare, often used combines, that can be brought in as reserves to keep customers operating.
Claas has just completed a new parts warehouse at Saxham, Suffolk, which operates 24 hours a day during harvest and is backed up by the Claas Worldwide Parts Centre in Germany. As long as the part is ordered before 6pm it can be delivered to the dealership overnight for the next morning.
Remote servicing is also increasingly being used by dealerships subject to customer approval.
As the UK’s leading farm insurer, NFU Mutual has a huge focus on harvest - from issuing safety advice, to ramping up capacity with its agricultural engineering team to support members.
Thefts of combines increase with, on average, one per month throughout the year, rising to between six and eight per month during harvest.
The organisation is acutely aware of the huge devastation caused by agricultural vehicle fires, which have long been a factor during harvest due to hot, dry conditions and increased activity putting strain on machines.
Last year agricultural vehicle and machinery fires accounted for claims worth £20m at NFU Mutual, of which half took place in July, August and September.
Rebecca Davidson, NFU Mutual
Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service works hard with the farming community throughout the year to try and help keep farms fire safe.
The summer months see our crews called to many farm related fires, often involving stacks and damaging hundreds of acres of land. This has a significant impact on those farmers, both with lost crops and potentially buildings and animals. These fires are often started deliberately and will keep crews away from other emergencies for many hours, sometimes days.
We also see fires involving farming machinery, like combines. These can quickly spread to nearby crops and get out of control fast, tying firefighters up for hours.
Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service, station commander Pete Jones
With a smaller crop there is not the pressure to move grain this year. Consumers are not hurrying to buy it and farmers are not hurrying to sell it. It is not the standard year where everyone goes mad at harvest.
We are still in discussions about how big the crop will be – it is still too early to tell. This year harvest has been stop and start. There is a lot less to harvest over a longer period which makes it easier in terms of haulage.
A lot of farms struggled with oilseed rape and are trying spring barley without a particular market. It may end up going as feed.
Cecilia Pryce and Richard Kaye, Openfield
For me, harvest is the busiest but most exciting time of year. I get to go onto farms and sample the grain allowing me to maximise the full potential of the grain to benefit both the consumers’ needs and the farmers’ profit.
There is no such thing as ’work hours’ as farmers may need to contact me any time or day. Establishing relationships with the farmers is very enjoyable, as is learning how a farm operates. As every harvest is different, the farmers’ requirements can change so I work closely with them to help deliver a positive end result for their months of hard work. To me, harvest is working together to achieve the best possible results.
Phoebe Jackson, grain buyer - Paul Toseland Grain
Harvest time means a busy time for Lancrop Laboratories. Cut fields provide the opportunity for soil sampling, and around 2,500 soil samples could be arriving at the laboratory each day.
It is also a time for grain sampling and we are seeing increasing numbers of this sample type year on year. Grain analysis is used to assess nutrient use efficiency, calculate offtakes and provides information as to which nutrients may have limited crop productivity.
Simon Pogson, business manager, analytical services, Lancrop Laboratories
Harvest time for me is always my favourite time of year. From an agronomist’s point of view, it is like waiting at the school gates to collect your exam results. You get to see the results of the hard work put in over the growing season.
This year, however, it’s more of a relief to get crops off and start again, completely different to last year where each day was exciting with reports of bountiful yields.
Even in my early 30s spotting that first combine at work is the green light that harvest has started, and the buzz of excitement and expectation.
Ben Boothman, B.M. Boothman Agronomy
Harvest is the time where everyone pulls together as a family. I don’t have a massive amount to do with the farming side of things but I spend time keeping the house together, baking and making up lunches and dinner.
This year has been one of my favourite harvests. The weather has been on our side which has meant we have got through it quickly. Our little boy has also understood farming life much more this year and his face lights up when he is watching all the work going on.
Farrah Troutt, Taunton, Somerset