Real results 50 profile - David Fuller-Shapcott

Name: David Fuller-Shapcott

Occupation: Farmer

Farm: J.N. Fuller-Shapcott & Co, Sweethope Farm

Cropping: Winter wheat, winter and spring barley, oilseed rape, and spring oats.

Farm machinery:

Main tractor is an MF 6480, also a JD 6330 and JD 6200. Establishment based around a Weaving Subdisc and combination power harrow/drill. The JD T560 combine is fitted with a 20ft header to reduce weight and minimise downtime when moving between fields.

About the farmer:

David was not raised on a farm, but having spent considerable time on his grandfather’s farm in Wiltshire he knew from a young age that he wanted to go into agriculture.

After gaining a HND in agriculture at Shuttleworth College around 30 years ago, he travelled and worked on farms in New Zealand and Australia for 12 months before returning just before the family moved to Sweethope Farm.

He confesses to having a competitive streak (as evidenced by the desire for a Gold YEN Award after winning bronze and silver in the past two years) and is someone that copes well under pressure.

Attention to detail is something David seems to do well, whether that is in terms of scrutinising costs across the business or finding the small incremental gains that will push yields further.

“If you don’t measure it, you can’t manage it”, he says.

He is open to sharing ideas and implementing changes, but is keen to ensure they are right for the farm before rolling out on a wider scale. He is a good communicator, has chaired two local Monitor Farm Groups and is currently a member of an AHDB business benchmarking group.

About the farm:

Sweethope Farm (see also http://www.sweethope-farm.co.uk/) is a mixed family farm situated in the Scottish Borders on predominantly heavy clay loam soils. It was taken on by the family in 1988 when they moved from Wiltshire.

The farm is mostly arable, growing cereals and oilseed rape in a six-year rotation roughly split between two-thirds winter cropping and one-third spring.

Oilseed rape is the main break crop, while autumn-sown Group 3 soft biscuit-making wheat is seen as a low-risk premium product. Barley is a key crop, with spring varieties aimed at the local malt distilling market and winter barley for brewing and pearling.

One of the biggest changes recently has been a shift from a predominantly plough-based system to minimum tillage, based around a single pass with the Weaving Subdisc before a power harrow-drill combination. The system allows for more timely establishment on what can be tricky clay soils, reduces establishment costs and allows better seedbed creation in autumn and spring, he says.

Farming philosophy:

David’s philosophy mirrors that of the family farming company, which is to “aim to produce a consistent, high quality product for a known market, while continuing to look at further opportunities for improvement”. This means producing what the market wants, when it wants it.

This “growing for the market” ethos is in addition to managing the land to encourage and preserve wildlife habitats.

Precision farming plays a big part in his strategy, with GPS guidance and yield mapping used for key operations.

David is keen to learn new ideas and find new ways to drive yields in an economically viable way by thinking “outside the box”. He is a member of the ADAS Yield Enhancement Network (YEN), winning a silver award in 2016 for a crop of Zulu winter wheat that yielded 63.5% of its “biophysical potential” at 11.89t/ha. This followed a bronze award in the same category in 2015, with another crop of Zulu that hit 14.2t/ha.

Cost management is close to his heart and he is adamant that while yield is king, it must not be at any cost. The greatest scope for savings is in depreciation and other overheads rather than in cutting inputs, so he supports the view that “variable costs are fixed and fixed costs are variable.”

Hopes for Real Results participation:

For David, Real Results is all about testing whether products are as good as manufacturers claim and proving if the investment is worthwhile for the farm business (or indeed if a competitor product is a better option).

He says trial results from the south of England are meaningless in the conditions found in the Scottish Borders, so there is no more realistic trial than to test products on the home farm.

He is also very interested in the impact of fungicide performance on crop quality aspects such as fusarium incidence and grain protein. The Real Results trial is deliberately in a crop of biscuit wheat so these aspects can be examined.

Ultimately, David is keen to take what he learns from the initiative to drive changes across the whole farm, but will only do so if it is right and economical for the business.