Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Farm contractor committed to principles

May 31, 2018 by  
Filed under Profiles

Farming and agricultural contracting in the UK face change with Brexit but food security needs to be a focus, believes contractor Nigel Davies.

Nigel Davies remains committed to principles which have served his customers well for more than 37 years trading as N P Davies Agricultural Contractors based near Claverley, Bridgnorth.

The contracting business covers Shropshire, Staffordshire, Worcestershire and West Midlands areas, where the number one consideration is always the quality of the completed job.

N P Davies harvests a significant acreage of grass, wholecrop and maize servicing farms and anaerobic digesters using a Claas Jaguar 900.

Over recent years, the wholecrop acreage has increased mainly due to an exceptional sample from a specially imported corn cracker with many dairy and beef customers noting an increase in their profit after adding to the feed ration.

The business runs with Bailey 16 tonne trailers with huge 650 flotation tyres to reduce ground compaction and fitted with ABS load sensing for increased safety in field and on the road.

The silage clamp is an important part of the job when NP Davies is involved. Therefore a new investment in a heavier and more powerful JCB 416S loading shovel and heavy duty buckrake has been made to ensure maximum compaction in the silage pit for a high quality feed.

Nigel also runs a mix of grassland equipment, including Claas reverse drive triple mowers, tedders, twin and four rotor rakes, six Massey Ferguson balers and several McHale square bale wrappers.

“The ability to mow grass at the right time of the day for the quality to be at its highest and get the correct dry matter before foraging is a key area of our grass operation,” he says.

The business is run with wife Julie at the administrative helm, and it remains focused on delivering a first rate job for customers for a fair price. There’s no desire to be the cheapest operation as contractors’ costs for labour, servicing, insurance, machinery and fuel all have to be met and depreciation accounted for. Therefore it is a necessity to constantly upgrade equipment to provide a good quality operation to all their customers.

Since 1981, Nigel has seen many contractors come and go, the majority because they have been oblivious to their costings. Cutting corners and dropping their rates significantly to get the work to keep staff busy and meet machinery payments makes the contracting operation unprofitable. For example calculating the extra cost it takes to chop and process maize correctly for bio gas plants requirements means some have no money left in the job.

Having a thorough knowledge of machinery and undertaking a comprehensive in-house maintenance programme helps provide a good service reducing in-season breakdowns. Many £1000s of parts are held in stock to make sure any down time is kept to an absolute minimum.

In addition to silage work, a large proportion of the company’s income is from making and selling a substantial quantity of haylage bales each year, distributing to local and nationwide equestrian yards.

Crops are baled with one of Nigel’s six Massey Ferguson large square balers, depending on the size required, all are fitted with moisture meters to ensure that each bale is the same consistent quality.

Trained operators are supplied with handheld moisture meters. “We are very pleased with the Hesston baler as it continually provides a good quality dense bale in all crop conditions for our customers,” adds Nigel.

A vast amount of hay and straw is baled for customers and Nigel is always looking for straw to purchase in the swath. This season sees the introduction of a Heath QM bale chaser to enable bales to be collected and stacked quickly and efficiently, reducing ground compaction and leaving fields clear for the next cultivation.

Nigel comments: “We already have a lot of interest in this service from current and new customers as it differentiates us from our competitors in the area.”

Julie adds: “To handle the workload, we’re fortunate to have a regular team of six self-employed drivers, most have been with us for many years, and the good communication between the team is key to a successful job.”

Tractor power is supplied by four Fendt Tractors: a 930, an 820 and two 818s. To complement the services offered, Nigel also has manure spreaders, cultivation and drilling equipment including ploughs, power harrows up to 6m wide, combination and maize drills with optional granular and micro granular fertiliser application. There is also the expanding topping, mulching, wood chipping, ground clearance services and road and track restoration.

“I believe Brexit will bring more opportunities to invest in the future of further contracting services. These are being investigated at the time of this feature in conjunction with forward thinking farmers. Being in control of costs will be a defining factor in working with those businesses under the new regime.”

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