Having recently celebrated 60 years in business, Swain's Land Drainage is obviously adding value to its customers. Still, not everyone sees the hidden value of well-drained fields, says the company's current managing director.
Chris Swain took over running Swain's Land Drainage from his father in 2017, becoming the fifth generation of the Swain family to support Cheshire and Shropshire farmers.
Mr Swain’s great grandfather started drainage work many years ago and passed his knowledge on to Mr Swain’s father Roddy established his own drainage business in 1962.’ Chris took over the business in 2017.
Today, Chris is supported by his two sons (Josh and Jack ) and his wife, Fiona. Together, they continue to work with farmers within a 50-mile radius of their Whitchurch base.
"Ninety per cent of our work is agricultural drainage, with the other ten per cent made up of leisure and caravan site projects," says Chris. "Over the years, we have worked with hundreds of farmers, improving their fields and helping them to grow better quality crops and enjoy increased yields, but surprisingly, there are still farmers out there who don't see the value of drainage."
As the UK farming industry moves closer toward a no or low-till approach, Chris believes drainage will become even more important.
"Zero till cannot be achieved without good drainage," continues Chris. "Good drainage leads to less spraying as the crops' root structure is so much better on drained land. Drainage can lower the watercourse, which encourages the roots to go looking for the water. This, in turn, improves root establishment and improves the crops' resistance to heat stress.
"My dad installed a drainage scheme for my grandad, and we all saw the benefit first hand. That was 50 years ago. In some respects, things haven't moved much, and today, drainage is still a skeleton in the cupboard.
"Those that invest in drainage reap the benefits. Those that don't want to spend the money - and it can be a considerable amount - don't do it and don't get the yields.
"I guess some people don't like burying an investment. It is one thing to have a £150,000 tractor sat proudly in the yard, but it's another thing to have a £200,000 drainage scheme hidden from view underneath a field, even though it will pay for itself in a few years by improving the yield and quality of the crop."
When it comes to investing in the future, Chris and previous generations of the Swain family practice what they preach.
Compared to the 15/15, the 20/15 offers several improvements and allows Swain's Land Drainage to take on extra work.
The 20/15s greater horsepower (320 v 220 bhp) allows it to work much more quickly than the previous trencher, freeing up capacity to take on additional jobs.
By having a longer digging mechanism (2.0 meters compared to the 15/15's 1.8 m), the 20/15 reduces the need for Chris and his sons to remove topsoil to trench to the required level.
"We've only had the 20/15 for a couple of months, so it's too early to talk about its true impact on our business," says Chris. "But I do like having all of the controls operated by the joystick on this machine; it makes it a lot easier. We are also impressed with its speed, and the build quality is as good as ever."
Chris knows all about Mastenbroek's commitment to quality, having been one of the company's first customers – buying a 15/15 in 1978. Since then, he has owned six Mastenbroek trenchers, including his recent purchase and the smaller 10/12 D, which is used on projects with restricted access due to its smaller footprint.
"We've stayed loyal to Mastenbroek for several reasons. Firstly, there aren't that many companies in the UK making trenchers. Then there's the customer service we receive, and finally, just like you can't see from the surface what a good drainage scheme is delivering, there's everything that is going on inside the machine! Mastenbroek machines perform incredibly well and are ideal for dealing with the soil types we encounter."
To find out more about Swain's Land Drainage, have a look at its Facebook page.