Chalke Valley Farmers

Farming 2000 hectares in central southern England, Chalke Valley Farmers are a joint venture farming company growing spring barley, oilseed rape and winter wheat in rotation.

The business is based near the city of Salisbury. The topography of this area is extensive open, rolling chalk down land, with areas of clay cap and is commonly regarded as one of the best areas for growing malting quality barley in the UK.

With an average annual rain fall of about 800mm to 900mm the generally freely draining soils must be managed to protect against drought in the summer and the loss of nutrients in the winter. With its close proximity to the South West of England (an area of predominantly grass) there has been a previously high demand for straw, however in recent times a significant increase in fertiliser costs, and the lands inherent demand for organic matter this trend has begun to change.

The company is made up of five farmers and is managed on a day to day basis by Steve Hockley. Chalke Valley Farmers was set up buy three neighbouring farmers with a combined area of just over 500 ha. The farm partners wanted to take advantage of the economies achieved when reducing the number of tractors and implements, many of which were duplicated when each business was running its own operations. A company was formed, whereby each farm sold its current fleet enabling the farm owner to release the capital tied up in their own business. The new company was then able to purchase new, generally larger machinery.

The crop establishment equipment was initially made up of a HORSCH Terrano 4 FX and a HORSCH Sprinter 4 ST. The following season, following an increase in area farmed, came the purchase of a Terrano 6 FX and the replacement of the Sprinter 4 ST with a Sprinter 6 ST so that even greater savings could be made to the cost of production. Steve, who is very focused on the costs of production as well as his attention to detail and demand for output comments “ The savings made under this new system are at least 27% reduction in cost per tonne with no yield penalty”

In 2009 and with even more land coming under the responsibility of Chalke Valley the decision was made to increase the drilling capacity by replacing the Sprinter 6 ST with a Sprinter 8 ST harnessed to a Claas Xerion tractor. Steve believes “The partnership between the Terrano and Sprinter ensures an evenly cultivated soil, prepared perfectly for the Sprinter.” He adds “The introduction of the full width Packer on the front of the Sprinter has further improved our seedbeds and the finish post drilling. In fact acreage between replacing wearing parts could be further increased, reducing down time and cost”

The Sprinter 8 ST can easily achieve daily outputs in excess of 60 ha/day. In the more open fields a spot rate of 12 ha/hr can be achieved.” Having tried some other competitive machines in order to keep up to date Steve concludes “We are happy that the combination of the Terrano, for evenness of cultivation, and Sprinter for crop establishment is still definitely the right choice”.