VFRT depended on to help meet new hedge regulations

Summer 2015’s change in hedge cutting regulations, delaying the task’s permissible start point by a month from its old date of August 1, looks likely to increase pressure on farmers and contractors this season. Being forced to pack more work into a shorter period, they may also need to find other ways to get at hedges that were formerly accessible by running on the stubble between the end of one crop and the beginning of another, but are now difficult to get at because the land may well have been cultivated and drilled.

 

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Systems which speed up tasks are a high priority for the Morris family when purchasing machinery, hence the adoption of VFRT technology.

 

One farming and contracting concern from Leicestershire which is putting its faith in the forward and telescopic reach capabilities of a Shelbourne Reynolds Powerblade VFRT to help out is that of Stephen and John Morris. From their base at Swinford in Leicestershire, the brothers run a 1000-acre (400ha) arable unit, as well as a 50-head suckler herd, 150 fattening cattle and 500 ewes, but also offer a number of contract services, among which is hedge cutting.

With the stock to look after, the cropping to manage and their own hedges to get round – in addition to other contract services including spraying and round and big square baling – systems which speed up a task are a high priority when purchasing machinery. That’s a key reason the business now runs a Shelbourne Reynolds Powerblade HD775 VFRT.

“We’ve offered contract services alongside our farming for a long time, and are lucky to have a good band of loyal customers,” says Stephen Morris.

 

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Bringing the head right alongside the tractor not only makes work easier, but keeps windows cleaner too, notes operator Ben Maskell.

 

“Hedge trimming keeps Ben, one of our drivers, busy for much of the time from the start through to the end of the season. This year, of course, he’ll be starting a month later than previously, but I’m hoping our Powerblade VFRT will help us handle the same amount of work as usual in the shorter time frame.” 

Aside from reliability, it’s hoped some of that will come from the ability the VFRT offers to make work easier on the operator by bringing the head alongside him, due to the cleverly-designed joint between the two boom sections. There’s also the fact that it offers telescopic reach, limiting any need to reposition the tractor when aiming for work that’s just out of reach with a conventional boom.

“Traditionally we ran Bomford hedge trimmers, but we went to a Shelbourne VFR last time we renewed our machine. Some of the new technology that was in the VFRT when it was launched made me take a look at a Shelbourne again when we made our most recent change, and although I considered both Spearhead and Bomford alternatives, they didn’t have the same sort of telescopic/forward reach combination.”

 

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With the 2015 hedgetrimming season opening a month later than previously, it's hoped the VFRT's key features will help handle the same amount of work in the shorter time frame

 

Fitted with T-flails, the workload for the VFRT and operator Ben Maskell is almost exclusively hedge-based – verge mowing isn’t called for. Having had a good few years’ experience hedge trimming, he is more than happy with the machine he now gets to work with.

“It’s a good combination with the New Holland T6080 I use it with. The tractor has just the right amount of power and weight to handle the machine, and the axle mounting makes for a very stable outfit.

“The ability to bring the head right alongside me without losing reach makes long days so much easier and less tiring, and as an added bonus it helps to keep the side door’s window glass clean.

“Having the telescopic boom is a bonus for reaching without having to move the tractor, while the speed of head rotation is particularly impressive with this machine.”

Stephen Morris says he’s impressed by the fact Shelbourne never take reliability for granted, and appear to have addressed the few odd glitches he had with his old model.

“I’d like to get 5-6 years from the VFRT without major repairs, and on the performance and appearance of the machine so far, it should easily be capable of that.”

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