Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Philip Langton & Son: Winning formula delivers top quality grass

December 23, 2019 by  
Filed under Profiles

Former junior show-jumping champion Philip Langton knows the importance of getting grass off to a good start – and delivering for customers. Simon Wragg reports.

With two decades of experience and a discerning customer base, Philip Langton supplies high quality forage to equine customers across the Midlands.

Based at Holbrook, near Derby, the former show-jumping champion supplies small and big bale haylage, conventional bale hay and straw from a farmed area of about 400ha. And he knows how to kick-on in any season.

“We’ve equipment normally suited to a contractor as we need to take crops quickly to preserve quality,” says Mr Langton.

To put the business into perspective, over the past two seasons 150,000 conventional sized bales have been handled by a small, elite team delivering to around 100 customers.

Centre stage is dominated by a manageable 30kg 3ft bale of top quality wrapped haylage sold out at £8 apiece which has revolutionised the market, he adds. “The bales are uniform, easy to move individually with a sack truck, pull apart in thin wads and produce very little waste.”

Personal service

Delivered by pick-up, trailer or tractor trailer loads depending on the customer’s requirements, each forage season is founded on having grass in good condition at the start. “I couldn’t run this business without the 1000 ewes which are our grass keepers rather than grass eaters,” he says.

The flock – which includes pure-bred Texel and Beltex used to breed replacement shearling tups for sale to commercial flocks – is used to stagger harvesting dates for each area of grass.

Having eaten off over winter, fresh re-growth ensures the first cut of grass in late spring produces a high energy/high protein forage. This is made into big bale haylage (around 6000 bales annually) and is typically suited to the sporting horse market.

This is then followed by a second cut eight weeks later in early summer providing conventional hay typically suited to the racehorse sector. A third cut is taken in September as a good general feed as small bale haylage. “It’s the beauty of ryegrass – it dries quickly even late in the season.

“But not every customer requires a high energy/high protein forage; there’s still a place for what’s traditionally seen as meadow hay which is why we can supply a range of different baled forage,” he explains.

Grassland management

A reseeding policy sees 60-120ha (150-300ac) put down to new seed each year. The focus is on ryegrass and white clover using seed mixes from supplier Cotswold.

Grass covers are brought on with regular applications of fertiliser – typically 20-10-10 – to compensate for the phosphate and potash removed from the soil with each cut of forage.

The fleet of machinery used within the operation is impressive. A Kuhn FC1360 centre pivot mower precedes a Kuhn GF13012 trailed tedder – the latter supplied from RVT and with a working width of around 13m. “It’s folds up narrower than a conventional tedder for the road and yet hugs the contours when folded out,” explains Mr Langton.

This sets up a crop for Simon Downing of Eaton Agri to come in with a Kuhn big baler for first cut which is joined by a fleet of Massey Ferguson 1840 in-line balers for later cuts processed into small bales.

“Simon also supplies wrappers for the big bales. It’s not uncommon to see two working in a field at any one time helping ensure we preserve the quality of the forage.”

For second and third cuts of conventional hay and straw a Canadian-manufactured Bale Baron 4245P follows to produce self-assembled wrapped blocks of 21 conventional-sized bales for ease of handling. “Having its own hydraulic oil supply it can handle 1000 bales/hour. It’s quite capable of keeping up with the three in-line balers in straw,” explains Mr Langton.

Critical job

Later third cut small bale haylage is wrapped using a new Ingra wrapper manufactured in Italy. “The beauty of this machine is it can handle bales from 3ft to 4ft and turn out 100 an hour.

“Local contractor James Slack and my nephew, Ben, do the bulk of the bale transport using three high capacity Stewart trailers with load sensors and air brakes,” Mr Langton adds.

“Ben also takes control of stacking bales at our base at Moor Pool Farm which is a critical job in this size of operation. It’s also why each of the New Holland T6.175 four cylinder Dynamic Demand and T6.180 six cylinder tractors we’ve had from local dealer Hallmark have loaders fitted.

“This year we were very fortunate another talented tractor driver and operator came out of nowhere – Jake Adderson – putting in long hours and being very attentive.”

With the bulk of customers within a 20 mile radius, the business has forged links much further afield. “Last year a consignment of almost 2000 conventional hay bales went to a horse breeder in Sweden as the country was suffering a shortage.

“And again the beauty of the Bale Baron packs meant the courier’s curtain-sider lorries more suited to handling pallets were loaded and gone within the hour.”

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