Machinery News

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New Scottish Borders branch opening

The opening of a new depot at Kelso, by Scottish Borders dealer Ancroft Tractors Ltd proved popular

The opening of a new depot at Kelso, by Scottish Borders dealer Ancroft Tractors Ltd, proved popular with farmers and contractors from throughout the dealer’s trading area. David Williams attended.

Replacing a previous depot in the centre of the town, the new premises is adjacent to an industrial estate on the outskirts, making it much easier to access and providing much-needed space for the successful dealer. “The previous site had been outgrown many years ago, and we badly needed extra space and modern facilities which reflect the quality brands we offer,” explained area sales manager based at the new depot, David Hamilton.
The main brands represented by the dealer include Massey Ferguson, Fendt and Challenger tractors as well as Merlo handlers, and implements from Sumo, Krone, Wrag, Larrington Trailers, Spearhead, Reco, NRH Engineering, NC and Teagle. Three depots serve the farming community, including Ancroft’s headquarters at Berwick-upon-Tweed, Kelso and Macmerry in East Lothian.

Held in late April, the open day was very well attended, despite ideal field working conditions, and visitors travelled from across the trading area and from both sides of the national border. Representatives from all Ancroft’s branches were on-site to deal with enquiries and they were well supported by representatives from all the main suppliers, all reporting a busy event resulting in many enquiries and requests for quotes and demonstrations.
“We were delighted by the large turnout of new and existing customers at the open day,” said Ancroft Tractors managing director Tom Brown. “The significant investment in our new depot shows our commitment to the Borders area and people, in the supply of quality products from our leading major brands. This combines with our on-going investment in manufacturer product training of our technicians, parts managers and sales staff to give customers the confidence they enjoy when dealing with us.”

The new building features a purpose-designed showroom stocking tools and sundries.

At the open day were some of the latest models in Challenger’s range, including the flagship 875E developing up to 640hp from its Sisu V12 power unit. Challenger area sales manager for Scotland and the north of England, Ben Bell (left) is pictured with Ancroft Tractors managing director Tom Brown, and was present to help deal with enquiries. “Most are sold from the Berwick branch,” he explained, “as that area has many large cereal growers. Most sales are of the 7-series but there are 8-series machines out working too. Most are used for cultivations and a lot of drilling with 6 or 8m drills is carried out, the tracks providing stability and a level finish. There are also quite a few machines used for winter ploughing, the reduced compaction reducing the tendency to create deep wheelings which would need pulling out later. With a decent guidance system they are ideal for ploughing on-land as the system makes the job much easier.”

Ancroft Tractors staff are pictured at the event. (l-r) managing director Tom Brown, sales executives David Hamilton, Alan Renton and Nick Douglas; group parts manager Martin Shaw; sales executive Colin Grigor; workshop technicians Norman Alan, Mark Kinghorn and Alan Ramsey; workshop manager Garry Henderson; lorry driver and demonstrator Keith Logan; workshop foreman Neil MacMillan and sales executive Grant Pyle. Missing from the picture are company secretary Yvonne Martin and workshop technician John Johnston who had remained at the Berwick branch to provide customer support.

Alex Hastie farms as Alex Hastie & Co, Tranent, East Lothian. As well as farming approximately 231ha (570 acres) of arable crops including wheat, barley and potatoes grown for the chip shop market, the business has recently diversified to supply wood pellets for biomass boilers. “We had biomass boilers on the farm, but we didn’t feel we were getting best value for money due to the high cost of the wood pellets from our supplier, so we decided to start supplying them in the area ourselves,” explained Alex. “Highest demand is in the winter when we are quieter on our farm activities so the additional enterprise fits in well.”
The farm operates two Massey Ferguson 6480 tractors and a larger 7618, all supplied from Ancroft’s Macmerry branch. “We deal with both the Macmerry and Kelso branches and receive fantastic service, from both. The staff are always happy to give advice over the phone first to try to solve problems as quickly as possible, but if they are needed then they come out quickly,” he said. “We deal with Colin Grigor for sales and Alan Ramsey for service and both are excellent.”
Alex said the farm has been using Massey Ferguson for several decades, since his grandfather requested demonstrations of two competitor tractors and only the Massey Ferguson dealer was willing to leave the tractor for an extended test. “The tractor was used for a few days and grandfather was very impressed, and we have been Massey Ferguson users ever since,” he said. The farm’s latest purchase is the 7618, which carries a 63-plate and was new in 2013. “It is used mainly for seeding, haulage and on the bed tiller and has just had its 500-hour service,” he added. “We are very impressed.”
Alex (centre) is pictured with Alan Ramsay (left) and Massey Ferguson area sales manager Joe Ford.

“Ancroft Tractors has represented Reco brands in the area for the past four to five years,” said Reco general sales and marketing manager Patrick Desmond. “The main product from the Sulky range sold by the dealer is the Xeos Pro drill and power-harrow combination, in both 3- and 4m working widths, but the full line-up of cultivation products is popular as well as our Strautmann mixer-wagons. The business is very successful and popular with farmers in the area, enjoying an excellent relationship. It is a traditional family firm,” he added.
Pictured (l-r) Ovlac area manager Felix Berera and Reco representatives Stuart Dickson, Patrick Desmond and product support manager John Herron.

Fendt user Neil Ramsey, foreman for Hamish Morison Farming Ltd, based at West Moriston, is pictured (centre) with his son Archie, Fendt area sales manager for the north and Scotland Alan Whitlow and Ancroft’s Alan Renton, based at Kelso. The farm is all-arable with most of the land owned although there is also some contract-farmed land included in the cropping. Winter barley, winter wheat and oilseed rape are the main crops and Neil commented that because all the cropping is winter cereals, the tractors have to work hard to get drilling completed in a short space of time. “The Fendts perform well and we have had no incidences where tractors have failed during the working season,” he said. “Our operators spend long hours in the cab and we have two different guidance systems in use; one tractor running Trimble and the other running Topcon, but both came through Ancroft. We have had guidance and auto-steer since 2008, having used it on a previous brand of tractor and we are convinced of the benefits offered. Running both systems currently is allowing us to compare performance.”
Neil said he deals mainly with Alan for his machine purchases from the Kelso ranch, but that the Macmerry depot tends to provide the after-sales service. “Back-up is excellent and Alan Ramsay at Macmerry is exceptional, always keen to ensure we get the best out of our tractors,” he said. “We run Fendts for the reliability and they have always been excellent.” The farm’s first Fendt was an 820, which was operated for five years, and which was changed for a new 722 in 2014. Also operated is a 2012-model 720, and an older 716 bought new in 2011. “The latest 700 Vario models are great machines and the comfort provided by the new design cabs is up another level altogether compared with our earlier 716,” he added.

Mertoun Estate Farms foreman Keith McDougall attended the open day and is pictured (right) with David Hamilton. Keith explained that the farm is all-arable; crops including wheat, oilseed rape, potatoes and oats. Ancroft Tractors supplies much of the estate’s machinery including a Challenger 865, Fendt 828 and 939 wheeled tractors and a Massey Ferguson 6490 and a 6180, and has already booked a demonstration of a Sumo cultivator for the coming season to subsoil and cultivate in one pass. “It is a large estate and we try to deal with a lot of local dealers but most of our tractors are from Agco. We deal with the Macmerry and Kelso branches and the back-up is good from the staff who are all well known to us. I have come along today to support the dealer and to see what is new. The telematics display is intriguing and I believe it will be something we will use in the future,” said Keith.

Krone machinery displayed large square balers, round balers, mowers, rakes and tedders, and one of the round balers on show was equipped with the optional tandem axle upgrade. Pictured with the twin-axle baler are (l-r) Krone area sales manager Peter Halley and brothers Tom and David Neill of R Neill & Sons. Farming and providing a contracting service the brothers have 260 dairy cows, 1,500 breeding sheep and farm 400ha (1,000 acres) of arable crops. The machinery fleet includes six Massey Ferguson tractors supplied by Ancroft including a 7620, two 6480s, two 6290s and a 4355 as well as a Merlo 32.6 telescopic handler; the fourth bought through Ancroft by the company. The contracting service includes all grassland operations as well as a bale wrapping service, primarily for silage bales. Most of the grassland machinery is Krone; the fleet including two 3.2m mowers; one front-mounted and one rear, the rear being new and having replaced a mower of another brand. “We bought our first Krone front-mounted mower two years ago and got on well with it and it is easier to operate two mowers of the same brand for compatibility of parts and servicing so we moved to Krone for the rear too,” Tom explained. Tedders operated include a Krone 7.7m 6-rotor model and the rake is a Krone Swadro 900 with twin rotors. Two Comprima round balers including a fixed chamber F125 for straw and hay as well as a twin-axle variable chamber V150XE with a chopper for silage and straw are used. “We operate on a lot of steep ground and the ride with the twin-axle upgrade is much improved. There is no comparison with the single axle machines. We can turn across any slope and over tramlines and on the road at high travel speed the baler tows well with no bouncing. The difference in performance definitely justifies the extra cost and we will almost certainly opt for twin axles on the fixed chamber machine when we upgrade.”
“During the past six years or so we have seen Krone really up its game,” said David. “The quality of the kit has improved noticeably and the back-up is excellent. We know that if we have a problem we could always speak with the Krone representatives if necessary, although the service from Ancroft is excellent. Tom Brown looks after us very well. We had Krone balers originally 20 years ago, but moved away to another brand. That proved unsuccessful and we returned to Krone and believe the company to be unbeatable for grassland kit.”

Murray Potts of Messrs W Potts, based near Cornhill-on-Tweed is pictured (right) with branch sales manager Alan Renton. “We deal mainly with the Kelso depot, having bought our first machine from the dealer, a power-harrow drill combination, more than 20 years ago,” explained Murray. “During the past 8-10 years we have used the dealer more, and have purchased a Massey Ferguson 7626, used mainly for drilling with a 4m drill, and a 7618 used for spraying. Ancroft has also supplied our two telescopic handlers; both Merlo 32.6 models. We bought one, but kept the old trade in machine over harvest and we found it so handy having two available that we took the decision to buy the second Merlo. They suit us well.” Murray said the mixed farm has arable crops including wheat, barley, oilseed rape and beans and livestock including beef cattle and sheep. “We always look around at the options before making a purchase, and the final decision is dependent on price, the service available and the product,” he said. “We are not far from Ancroft’s Kelso and Berwick branches so the dealer is convenient for us, and the service we receive is good too.”

A range of products from Spearhead were displayed including a large Multicut topper. Area sales manager for the north of England and Scotland, Jim Campbell, said the Multicut models have proved particularly popular with Ancroft’s customers. “Most are sold through the Berwick depot, but all the branches are excellent. It is a good solid dealer and the staff are straightforward and easy to deal with. We know that whenever there is an issue the service team just couldn’t be more helpful and customers appreciate that. We have had a good year so far generally, and at the open day had lots of enquiries for hedgecutters including requests for quotes. It has been a good event.” Pictured; Ancroft area sales manager for north Northumberland, based at the Berwick Branch, Nick Douglas (left) with Jim Campbell.

Ian Fleming, pictured with Alan Renton, farms just outside Kelso and the family farming business trades as James Fleming & Sons. The land, totalling approximately 360ha (900 acres) is a mix of owned and contract-farmed and arable cropping includes barley, wheat, oilseed rape, potatoes and oats and there is a herd of fattening cattle, most of which are Continental. Two Massey Ferguson tractors are operated, including a 4-year-old 6480 and a 7618, which replaced another brand on the farm last year. “We didn’t run any Massey Fergusons until four years ago,” explained Ian, but we had heard that Ancroft was investing in larger premises in the town and that encouraged us, as it gave us confidence in the after-sales service which would be available. Alan looked after us and was easy to deal with so we bought our first Massey Ferguson. The back-up has been very good, and Neil McMillan’s attitude is that if an issue can’t be sorted over the phone then someone needs to be on site as soon as possible. We do still run other brands, as we tend to update the oldest tractor each time, but we will certainly consider Massey Ferguson again when we next change a machine, although it will all depend on the package offered.”

SoilEssentials was at the event, demonstrating the latest Trimble precision farming technology, and promoting its RTK network. “We have seen significant interest in the technology from grassland farms during the past six months, including many who are moving to controlled-traffic farming,” explained area sales manager Ian Thomson. “Often users look at base mapping systems initially, but quickly see the potential of more advanced equipment. Grass is seen as a valuable crop and the benefits of managing field operations to maximise quality and yields are significant. Automatic steering systems make it possible to mow at night, to keep ahead of the forage harvesters, and using precise guidance fertilisers, sprays and slurry applications can all be made from machines operating on set tramlines. Other applications include travelling in deep snow, with local roads and tracks pre-programed into the system, making snow clearing operations easy.”
Ian said the increased legislation to accurately record slurry and fertiliser applications has meant use of the systems to produce field records is growing too, with Trimble’s Connected Farm allowing data to be transferred automatically by phone or by downloading to a USB for transfer to the farm office proving a popular investment and aiding efficiency of operations. “We work with all three of Ancroft’s branches, and whereas most of our business used to be with Fendt and Challenger customers we have seen many more systems fitted to Massey Fergusons in recent years,” he said. Ian is pictured (left) with David Hamilton.

NRH Engineering has been represented by Ancroft Tractors since approximately 2005. “The dealer supports us well and it is great to be here at this impressive new depot to support the dealer’s open day,” explained NRH Engineering managing director Neil Hopwood. “We’ve had a busy day dealing with enquiries from new and existing customers. Cambridge rolls are generating considerable interest, and the cultivator tines which mount on the paddle bars, providing extra tillage and levelling, are proving a popular option.”

Farming approximately 727ha (1,800 acres), and based at East Ancroft Farm, Berwick-upon-Tweed, Andrew Reed of RC Reed runs several Massey Ferguson tractors as well as Merlo loaders and other machinery supplied by the dealer. The family farm has a mix of owned and contract-farmed land, all of which is put down to arable crops and permanent grass. Crops include winter and spring barley, winter wheat, oilseed rape, spring beans and vining peas, and the Massey Ferguson fleet includes a 7626, a 6499, two 6480s and two elderly 698s. “I grew up with Massey Ferguson but although I have tried other makes, I find the brand very good. The machinery operators both really like them too, and that is important to us,” Andrew explained. The Merlo handlers operated are a 34.7 and a larger 40.7, both also supplied by the dealer. “We deal mainly with the Berwick depot and Grant Pyle looks after us very well. The after-sales is always good and the stores staff know the products and know what we run, making it easy to explain over the phone what is needed and resulting in us being supplied the correct parts. I’m delighted with the whole package from Ancroft. It makes it easy to do business and there is always a willingness to help. When we are considering buying a machine the company is always happy to lend us demonstrators to try.”
Other products purchased include a 12t NC grain trailer and an NC slurry tanker as well as grass toppers and a set of NRH rolls. Drilling is carried out using a 4m Sulky drill. “The drill was reasonably priced, but it performs well and we have never put a spanner on it,” added Andrew. “It is a simple design and its accuracy is superb. Our land isn’t that stony, ranging from sand to heavy loam, but it is easy to set up for all conditions and the depth control is foolproof – just one big ratchet with nothing fiddly. The power harrow design is effective too and a feature which appealed was the extra rotors over competitor machines of the same width. We see the difference in the level finish it leaves,” he said. Andrew is pictured (left) with sales representative Grant Pyle who looks after the farm’s account.

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