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Backup and features the key for West Yorkshire contractor, Ed Kilby

Ed Kilby and his father farm 300 acres of arable and grassland at Walton, West Yorkshire under the name WB and A Kilby & Son. As well as growing wheat, spring and winter barley, plus oilseed rape, the Kilbys handle a suckler herd enterprise and small contracting service.

A large part of this service, which includes potato planting, bale wrapping and buck raking as part of a local silage team, is hedgecutting. Running almost non-stop from August 1st through to March 1st, Mr Kilby is mostly hedge or verge cutting on local farms within an 8-10 mile radius of his base, although some farms are sited a few miles further afield. He started expanding the hedgecutting business in 2002, originally running another brand of machine, but as work grew he need more capacity and looked for alternatives.

Ed Kilby

Having seen Shelbourne’s relatively new range of trimmers at the Smithfield Show in December 2004, Mr Kilby liked what he saw and invested in a 6.7m ex-demo machine which managed to clock up some 4,000 hours. “The guys from Shelbourne brought the machine up for us to try, and it just stayed on the farm as it did a really good job,” he says. This machine was then replaced in July 2009 with the largest model from Shelbourne, the Powerblade HD70T with 7m reach and telescopic arm. Mr Kilby was pleased with some of the changes made to the latest design, which included a beefier frame construction.

Again, Shelbourne’s staff came out with the new machine to offer support during installation, and were also on hand to sort out a problem with the main lift ram which arose in the HD70T’s early life. “I called the factory when I discovered an internal oil leak in the ram, and the company sent a new one up in a service van the next day as it was too late for overnight delivery. The engineer fitted the ram and I was up and running straight away. That’s great service, and I find that Shelbourne are fantastic at helping with parts and backup, which is vital for a contractor, especially in the busiest August and September periods,” adds Mr Kilby.

Part of the plan when buying the larger machine was the extra reach it offered. “Sometimes, you just need that extra distance to reach across to a hedge or bank,” Mr Kilby points out. “It also means that the boom height can be kept lower, which makes working on top of banks safer and more stable.”

Also new on the HD70T, which has completed around 1,000 hours per year so far, was proportional joystick control. “I really like this, and it is much more precise than the more basic oil-over-oil low pressure system I had previously on other machines,” he comments. “It is just fantastic to use as you can tweak it just how you like it, and the armrest is very comfortable and easy to adjust.”

The trimmer is well matched to its power supply tractor, an 02-plate New Holland TM150 with 11,000 hours on the clock. As the dedicated hedgecutting tractor, and one which came from a drainage board and hence has wider tyres set to a 76 inch track and solid wheel centres, the outfit is ideal for aiding in stability.

Mr Kilby is mainly working on cutting hedges, and he generally reckons to re-edge his Shelbourne T flails twice a week on normal growth, but if in heavy two or three year growth material a new edge can be a daily requirement to keep a nice cut. With 1,900 hours clocked up already, the 1.2m head is still running on its original drive belts. “I was a keen direct drive user, but I have to say that the belt drive has given no problems,” he remarks. “And it rarely needs adjusting, which saves me time.” A spare set of belts plus oil pipes and, of course, extra flails are always in the tool box.

The roller system that Shelbourne has fitted to its Powerblade machines gains high praise too. “It is really beefed up compared to the previous one we had, and the single ram works really well saving flail wear on the grass we do cut on verges and banks,” Mr Kilby adds.

So what is the process for achieving a really neat hedge finish in West Yorkshire? “I personally start at the top, trimming off the bulk and leaving three or four inches, and then I use a shoulder cut which is reckoned to encourage birds into using hedges,” he remarks. “I then run a side cut and finish with a trim on top, reducing rotor speed for this final pass to create a neater finish.”

The tractor runs in 1,000rpm pto speed, but this means the 140hp New Holland is only really on tickover to achieve the required 540rpm shaft speed. Despite its engine size, Mr Kilby reckons to be able to use just 7.5 litres per hour across a whole day, including travel to and from sites.

It appears then that backup of parts and service from Shelbourne are high on the list of likes for Ed Kilby, along with a solid, reliable machine and an exceptional control system. As for when the next trimmer is to arrive, this will depend on cost to change but is likely given the experience so far that another Shelbourne machine will almost certainly be cutting many of West Yorkshire’s hedges for a while longer yet.

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