Not too far east of Bury St Edmunds lie the 2500 acres of farmland that form the basis for Barton Place Farms, an owned and contracted arable operation growing cereals and vegetables – potatoes and onions, in particular.
The business is owned and run by Peter Hay and his daughter Ellie, together with five full-time staff.
Efficiency is the name of the game at Barton Place, the clearest evidence of which is the low average age of the tractor fleet. A Challenger 775E has the responsibility for most primary and some secondary cultivations, the latter of which is shared with a one-year-old Massey Ferguson 7726. This machine divides the rest of its work schedule drilling and is first choice when grain needs carting.
Then, in May this year, three new arrivals – MF 7716's – began working on a comprehensive list of tasks that includes de-stoning, carting potatoes and grain, meadow topping, hedge cutting and light cultivations.
Ellie Hay explains the philosophy behind the investment in – and requirements of – the Barton Place tractor fleet. “All the tractors have exclusive and individual specifications,” she says. “This allows the operators to set up the machinery to optimum output with ease, and with maximum comfort for the user.'
Examples of the benefits derived from this approach include the external spool vale control. “This saves a lot of time when irrigating,” says Ellie, “and reduces the time getting in and out of the cab when setting machines in place. Also, the pressure lever on spools is great when uncoupling and re-coupling machines and saves the spool probe ends from being damaged.”
Similar enthusiasm to that expressed for the machines is prompted by the level and quality of dealer support provided by Thurlow Nunn Standen. “First class,” is Ellie's initial comment. “The service manager at Hinderclay is always accommodating, fitting in service work around us, and attentive to requests, with a speedy response time.
“The parts department, too, is very knowledgeable and capable of sourcing what's needed quickly and efficiently.” Praise extends to the setting up of tractors for specific requirements, such as hydraulic fittings for power-on-demand and individually-specified electrics for various machines.
'We have a good and long-standing relationship with TNS,” says Ellie. “Their specific understanding of our business always ensures that we get the best machines and deals to suit our needs.”
So, how does TNS react to such a positive assessment of their approach?
Chris Tew, the company's sales director, says: “TNS is a family business and, as such, we can relate to our customers also running family businesses, and the flexibility that's needed for them to run smoothly. There is no 'one-size-fits-all' approach – we understand the importance of being as flexible as possible in our approach, as our customers need to be in the running of their farming operations.
“That starts by working with our customers to identify the right tractor and specification for their needs. Our workshops, too, are similarly flexible when it comes to machine maintenance and minimising downtime, together with our parts department sourcing what's required as speedily as possible.”