Global Positioning Systems (GPS) have revolutionised fieldwork with increased precision, ensuring tractors and machines are at the right place at the right time to get the job done. Whether it is spreading fertiliser or minimising the passes of the plough, GPS offers the chance to save time and money.

Some systems can cost tens of thousands of pounds, but it does not have to be that way, as Russell Wilson of Bowtree Farm, near Airth, discovered when he bought the onTrak system. Russell was looking to invest in an auto-steer set-up for his three classic tractors but found the price simply too expensive when he was only farming 50 acres of grassland.

The Scottish Farmer: The lights on the box indicate if the tractor is on the right lineThe lights on the box indicate if the tractor is on the right line (Image: web)

As a result, he went for the onTrak system, which cost less than £600 two years ago.

The simple system from Agricision, which is a well-known UK-based business – is comprised of two parts: the onTrak combined receiver and lightbar, a robust, wireless, battery-powered, waterproof unit that mounts to the bonnet of the tractor with the lightbar clearly in the eyeline of the driver; and the iOS and Android smartphone/tablet app, which is how users interact with the system to control it and manage it.

The Scottish Farmer: Russell with his son CullenRussell with his son Cullen (Image: web)

Russell and his father, Jake, run a herd of 32 Simmental cross Limousin suckler cows on 50 acres split between Bowtree farm and let ground in the Falkirk and Stirling area.

Russell explained: “I have a full-time job as a health and safety trainer at Bo’ness and my dad works off the farm too. We tend to rent the fields which are too small for the bigger farmers to get their equipment into.”

The Scottish Farmer: The GPS box on the bonnetThe GPS box on the bonnet (Image: web)

The fields range from six to 14 acres, with grass ranging from seven years old to last being ploughed by a horse. The land is used to graze the cattle and calves, with the offspring sold at the Caledonian market in May.

The herd has been closed for decades with bloodlines running back to the 1970s. The bulls are in with the cows in the shed at the moment with calving usually happening over Christmas.

The cattle are wintered on hay made from 35 acres of rented pasture which is cut by Russell’s beloved 1996 6400 John Deere.

“This one is my baby,” explained Russell, who purchased the machine in 2001 for £18,000. “I fully restored it and do ploughing matches with a three-furrow KV plough.”

The Scottish Farmer: The GPS can hook up to an ipad or a smart phoneThe GPS can hook up to an ipad or a smart phone (Image: web)

The onTrak system works well with the John Deere and is easy to set up. The electronic box on the bonnet attaches with magnets and is linked to a smartphone or iPad through Bluetooth. Once a couple of measurements are plugged in, the box provides lights to ensure the machine is heading in a straight line at the correct spacing along the field.

Alongside the 6400, there is also a 1986 2040 which is being set up to take on the task of mowing this year. The GPS can easily be switched between machines and once fields have been identified in the software, it is just a case of watching the lights on the bonnet.

A classic tractor enthusiast, Russell rounds off his collection with a 1978 Ford 4600. He said: “We run old kit and I love it. I like to know when you pull a lever, you get a response. Despite having tractors up to 40 years old, the GPS is easy to install on them all.”

Russell also uses the GPS for spreading fertiliser and says that so far it has saved him around half a bag of manure by reducing the overlap. The system has also come in handy when rolling grass in the sun when finding which areas of the field have been covered can be tricky.

“We have used it for cutting hay and silage and it worked out with perfectly square bouts. My dad has been using it too with a 10-rotor tedder and it worked great.

“We have had a bit of interest from older farmers in the GPS and also from classic tractor enthusiasts. There is no reason why it can’t go onto even older machines from the 50s and 60s.”

To see Russell’s kit in action head over to his YouTube channel, WeeHerdScotland, which shows videos of classic machinery and the latest farming kit.