Fraser Bain

“I value the honest and professional attitude of our agronomist and farm trader. It makes for an easy relationship.” So says Fraser Bain who farms near Haddington in East Lothian. With his father, he oversees 400 hectares of combinable crops including winter wheat, winter and spring barley and oilseed rape. He describes the soil as being ‘fairly decent’ with a range of clay to get the best possible results from the land. and sandy loams. He works closely with Peter Forster, his agronomist, to get the best possible results from the land.

“Peter has got a good understanding of what we are doing here. He understands how we like to work and knows exactly what we want to achieve,” says Fraser. From a personal point of view, as a young farmer working with his father and grandfather on the family farm, he enjoys being able to speak to someone closer to his own age, “He has the same enthusiasm I do and his knowledge is outstanding. We’ve got full faith in Peter.”

A sizable proportion of the farm’s crops is marketed through Frontier and Fraser also enjoys a close working relationship with Reuben Wilson, his local farm trader. He particularly likes having a local contact who regularly visits the farm and understands his business, but at the same time has access to the wide range of attractive contracts that Frontier, as a national company, is able to offer.

Fraser Bain

Fraser Bain

“So for example, we’re growing Eraton OSR on Frontier’s high erucic contract, which gives us a decent premium on our oilseed rape. From our point of view that’s a great combination; we get to deal with Reuben who we know and trust, but also have access to contracts that can make a pretty big difference to our profitability. It helps a lot.”

Another element that helps is the rapport that the three men share, “Working with Peter and Reuben is very easy and relaxed,” says Fraser.

The advice and assistance they provide is not confined just to the farm itself “The three of us will go down to the development and demonstration site at Coldstream together, which is great; you’ve got your agronomist and the person that is going to be marketing the end product with you at the same time.”

" And the fact that they get on so well too really helps. Even though you are dealing with different people, you know that they are singing from the same sheet and it all feels very joined up. " - Fraser Bain

Fraser finds visiting the site is always a useful experience and explains that the most important factor for him is that it is local. “If I went down to Lincolnshire to look at the trials there, it would be interesting, but it wouldn’t really mean a lot to me because the conditions and challenges are so different. With the site being nearby I can get a really good idea of how the crops are actually going to perform on my farm. We change varieties just about every year based on what we see at the trials, so it has a really big impact on what we do.”

As well as working closely with Fraser themselves, Peter and Reuben have also introduced him to colleagues who have been able to share their own expertise to boost the productivity of his farm. One such introduction was to Aidan Monaghan from SOYL, the precision crop production specialist.

For the past two years, Fraser has been trialling variable rate drilling on about 20% of his crops, and is pleased with the results. “Peter initially suggested that it might be a good idea because he knows that our soil types range quite a bit, not vastly, but in some fields we can have three or four different soil types, so it’s definitely worthwhile. Through the mapping that Aidan has done for us, it’s become real sense.”

“Without Aidan’s advice and support we would never have gone down the variable route, but now it is certainly something that we will do more of in future. In the next couple of years it makes sense to me to do the whole place variable rate,” says Fraser.

“Once you have had the farm mapped and you can clearly identify the places where you should be upping the seed rate, or indeed lowering it, it makes sense to use the available technology and do that automatically, rather than having somebody sitting in the seat doing it manually, which is harder work for a less accurate result.”

And in future Fraser also sees a role for variable rate application of fertiliser. “We’re certainly going that way” he states. “It’s hard enough to make money at the moment with low commodity prices, and to be honest I don’t know if they’re going to go up again, that’s a pretty big issue. So you might as well do everything that you can to be as efficient as possible.”

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