An Essex-based family farming and contracting business which specialises in spray applications and baling relies on a fleet of Massey Ferguson and Fendt tractors from RW Crawford, along with back-up provided by the dealer’s Chelmsford depot team.
Trading as Stud Farm Contracting, the operation is owned by the Kruse family, and it is managed by Charlie Kruse and his brother Alastair. Charlie started the contracting service in 2010, using machinery shared with the family’s small farm at Mundon, near Maldon, which remains the company’s base. Alastair worked on a nearby farm until 2015, then he joined the contracting operation when it had grown to a size where two people were needed to run it. The rapid expansion has continued along with an increased range of services offered.
Alastair Kruse (left) with his brother Charlie and one of three Fendt tractors owned by the
business and supplied by Crawfords, plus a Massey Ferguson 8S.265, which is one of three
similar tractors hired from the dealer for the busy harvest period.
Fence supply and installation
As well as agricultural contracting, there is also an equine livery business and a busy fencing sales and installation operation. A contract fencing service relied on materials which were bought in for several years before the Kruse family bought a majority shareholding in the supplier. There is now a retail sales operation based in the farmyard, trading as Farm & Country Supplies.
A stubble-to-stubble contract-farming service is provided for local farms, and all fieldwork operations are offered. Most work is within a 20-mile radius of the base. Alastair is a very experienced sprayer operator, and he provides a specialist spraying service for farms in the area and Charlie looks after a rapidly expanding baling operation – making 600ha of hay and haylage bales each year for livestock and equine use, as well as up to 54,000 straw bales – most of which are biomass for a power station.
Approximately 800ha of grass is cut for forage for a local beef enterprise, and the brothers work with another contractor who chops and loads the crop with a self-propelled forage harvester.
Six Massey Ferguson balers are operated – an elderly 190, three 2290s and two 2270XDs, as well as three bale chasers to quickly clear the fields. “We buy a lot of straw in the swath, and we know that the farmers want the bales removed from the fields as soon as possible after combining is finished, and we run Massey Ferguson balers because they are the most reliable. The chasers transport bales to strategically located stacks where they are stored ready for transport to the power station.”
Brands from Crawfords dominate fleet
The machinery fleet is impressive, and it includes a fleet of three Massey Ferguson tractors – a 7718S, a 7726S and an 8740S, and three Fendt’s – an elderly 716 which has worked 16,000 hours, a 724, which has clocked up 10,500 hours, and a recently acquired Fendt 939.
Three additional Massey Ferguson 8S-265 tractors have also been hired for the busy harvest period, mainly for operating the bale chasers. “We hired three competitor brand tractors a few years ago, but they were so uncomfortable that we worried that the drivers wouldn’t come back,” commented Charlie. “We changed to Massey Ferguson – the ride quality is far better, and the operators love them.”
“Crawfords is our ‘go-to’ dealer whenever we need additional machinery,” he continued. “We dealt with the team at the original South Woodham Ferrers depot, but we have seen the Crawfords business growing as ours has grown too. When we need help with a tractor, they never let us down, and we find it particularly helpful that the engineers will talk us through problem-solving on the phone. That can save a lot of time – especially if it avoids a technician visit.
Grass cutting is one of the main operations offered by Stud farm Contracting. A contract for
a local beef cattle enterprise involves mowing and preparing 800ha of grass silage in
partnership with another contractor who supplies the forage harvester.
“We all like Massey Ferguson tractors. They are extremely comfortable, efficient, and reliable, and any of our full-time or seasonal workers can get on them and use them. They are practical and user-friendly but still come with advanced features, including Isobus, which is needed for most of our larger implements, and CVT transmissions which improve efficiency but help reduce operator fatigue.
For mowing, baling, and pulling the bale chasers, CVT transmission is a big advantage allowing the ideal speed to be selected for the job and conditions. For baling – the ability to increase the working speed by just 0.5kph when conditions allow makes a big difference to our productivity over the course of a season.”
The Fendt tractors are also supplied by Crawfords, and Alastair says they are in a different league to anything else available. “They are very user-friendly, and we like them, but it wouldn’t be practical or cost-effective to use Fendt across the fleet.
“Our Fendt 716 Vario has worked 16,000 hours, but it remains totally reliable. It performs as well as ever,” he explained. “It has a slightly easier life these days and spends most of its time with the fencing teams. Its other main job is hedge cutting -for which the Vario transmission is ideal, and it also does the grass raking when we are making hay. Apart from that, it’s a versatile tractor to have available as a back-up for the main farm tractor fleet too.”
Amazone sprayer and spreader
The Fendt 724 Vario does the spraying, pulling an Amazone 4,200-litre, 32m trailed sprayer, which was purchased from Crawfords two years ago. “We changed from a self-propelled sprayer of another brand”, explained Alastair. “We liked the look of the Amazone and spoke with existing users who all recommended it, and knowing that we could rely on the back-up from Crawfords was also a major factor.
“We couldn’t be happier with it. The boom suspension is by far the most effective I have ever seen, and although I have sprayed almost 10,000ha to date, the sprayer has never let me down. Despite that, it’s always reassuring knowing that we have such a capable sprayer specialist ready to help at the dealer. Being near the coast, our spraying windows are often limited by the weather, so we can’t afford downtime. It makes a great combination with the relatively light Fendt 724 Vario. We fit 800mm tyres for autumn spraying, and it barely leaves a mark on the heavy clay soils that dominate farms in this area.”
An Amazone fertiliser spreader is also used. Purchased six years ago from Crawfords, it replaced a competitor brand and, as well as applying fertiliser, it also spreads grass seed and slug pellets. “It’s extremely accurate and capable of variable rate applications,” said Alastair.
“It’s controlled through the same in-cab terminal as the Amazone sprayer, which is very convenient, and even on our relatively small farm, using variable-rate application maps this season saved us two tonnes of fertiliser – a significant saving at the current high prices.”
Crawfords precision farming
Almost all the tractors have GPS guidance and autosteer. “We use RTK for maximum accuracy and rely on the Crawfords team to set it up and licence it. If we ever have a problem, then it is quickly and easily sorted,” Alastair continued. “As well as seeding, spraying, and spreading, we rely on it for grass mowing too. We have some large and very long grass fields, and using GPS guidance makes it easier to maintain straight lines and keep the beds even. Our mowers have groupers, and it makes life much easier for the forage harvester operator if the swaths are even.”
Can’t fault Isuzu
Other machinery supplied by Crawfords includes an HM Trailer and seven Isuzu D-Max pick-ups. “I just can’t fault the D-Max – it’s a brilliant truck,” said Charlie. “We have two of the latest model which are even better than the earlier versions. One of our older trucks has travelled more than 100,000 miles – towing trailers for most of them, and apart from routine servicing, all it has needed is a new clutch.”
Stick to Crawfords
“Stick to Crawfords has become the rule,” confirmed Alastair. “The new depot is slightly further from us than before, but it’s better equipped and accommodates a larger team of specialists, so the after-sales service is better than ever. We deal mainly with Territory Sales Manager Tim Osborne and Sales Director Nunzio Rio when we need to buy or hire anything, and Service Manager Shaun Baker and Assistant Service Manager Neal Barber in the workshops – although it doesn’t really matter who we speak with as everyone on the team is so helpful.”
Operator Andrew Neary says that he very much likes operating the Massey Ferguson tractors. “Before joining the team at Stud Farm Contracting, I hadn’t used the later model Massey Fergusons, but as soon as I got in the cabs, I was very impressed. They are very well designed, extremely comfortable, and just good all-around tractors. I have spent a lot of time on the 8740S, and at 400hp, it is an absolute animal with phenomenal pulling power, but it’s also very easy to drive and compact, and I would have no objections to using it for jobs such as bale transport or corn carting if smaller tractors weren’t available.”
Andrew has also driven one of the hired-in 8S-series tractors. “It is great on the road, and it has plenty of power for the baler,” he continued. “It must be the most comfortable tractor I’ve ever driven, and the cab and seat suspension work well and ensure a superb ride. The visibility is very good too – I’m really impressed.”Massey