Since starting trading in 2015, Suffolk Farm Machinery Ltd has built a successful business importing and distributing a selection of leading and innovative brands. David Williams attended its first open day.
The late January open days provided an opportunity for new and existing customers to find out about the wide range of products offered, many of which were available to test drive.
Among the established brands were Hawe Wester field transfer trailers for which Suffolk Farm Machinery is the sole UK importer and Laumetris high capacity bulk produce and flat trailers, also solely represented in the UK by the company.
Other brands include Reiter grass and forage pick-ups; Saphir loader attachments, silage clamp rollers and grabs, and Fransgard mowers, rakes and tedders.
New to the dealer is the Armatrac tractor franchise for Suffolk, Essex, Herts, Cambs and south Norfolk and the Bobcat loader and handler franchise for Suffolk and Norfolk.
Completely new products to the UK include JMac wheeled loader back-hoes, available with conventional or equal-sized front and rear wheels, which were demonstrated at the event.
“We have built up a great selection of carefully chosen franchises and products to offer customers,” explained managing director Richard Carr. “As the sole importer for several brands, we can supply these throughout the UK, including through our appointed sub-dealers of which the number is increasing.”
The Bobcat franchise was taken on by Richard with the purchase of long-established dealer RG Amies. “Richard Amies knows everything there is to know about Bobcat products with an excellent reputation throughout the region,” explained Richard. “We purchased the business including the site and workshops at Brundish, and Richard Amies will remain involved sharing his expertise and carrying out servicing and repairs. Acquiring the business and the Bobcat franchise opens up a whole new market for us across Norfolk and Suffolk.”
Plant and industrial
With the Bobcat and JMac ranges appealing to industrial and construction users, Richard Carr has set up a separate division; Suffolk Plant Machinery to cater for their needs. “We all operate as one business from the same location but Suffolk Farm Machinery will focus mainly on agricultural users and products whereas Suffolk Plant Machinery will look after construction equipment and the hire fleet.”
Additions to the team
Sales and range growth has required investment in additional team members and a new sales and operations manager, Jason Garrard has joined from a background operating plant for a drainage and groundwork contractor. He will also help establish the Armatrac brand in the region.
An additional service engineer will start with the company in early March, having previously been employed by a local main dealer. The new appointment will also include responsibility as a product specialist and demonstrator.
“Almost everything we offer is specialist machinery requiring specialist back-up and we are ensuring we can provide that service 24 hours per day,” explained Richard. “We are building an excellent reputation and sales are resulting from recommendation by existing users which is encouraging.”
For many open day visitors it was the first opportunity to find out about Armatrac tractors having seen the range only at national shows in the past. “It offers a good, sensible package and when potential users start looking closely at the specification including Perkins engines, ZF transmission and Bosch electronics along with a two-year standard warranty which is extendable, they quickly recognise that these tractors will perform well, prove reliable and provide a cost-effective solution for smaller arable, livestock and mixed farms.
“A brand new Armatrac with a manufacturer’s full warranty is available for a similar cost to a six or seven year-old premium brand machine with an unknown history. Within a few years these tractors will be a common sight across the UK.”
Richard said smaller Armatrac tractors will also appeal for golf courses, grounds-care and equestrian applications and are a great alternative to unknown second-hand machines.”
Laumetris trailers have proved a success for the dealer and Richard commented that he has sold 15 of the high specification products so far in the UK. “We have a silage contractor running 3; having bought one to try and then adding another 2 as the first so impressed him.
Hawe Wester field transport trailers have also been supplied, mainly for silage, grain and sugar beet transport. “It’s great quality German engineering and a respected brand,” said Richard. “We have more than 20 out working now. Premium components ensure reliability and performance. Resale values are superb too, so the cost of ownership remains low.”
Saphir attachments are another quality German brand explained Richard, adding that the tractor-mounted silage clamp rollers have proved particularly popular.
Maxam mowers, from New Zealand, are available in 2.5 or 3.3m working widths and can cut, swath or spread reducing the need for a separate tedding operation. “They were designed as a field topper and spreading the grass relieves bunched material which can decay and kill vegetation underneath,” explained Richard. It takes just 5 minutes to swap from spreading to swathing and the cutting angle ensures that 95 per cent of the grass driven over by the tractor wheels is lifted and cut, even in wet conditions.”
A new Fransgard rotary chain flail has been added to the range and Richard said he expects it to be popular. “With our northern area distributer we imported and supplied almost 200 Fransgard products last year. It’s a real success.”
In the past the main Bobcat products supplied through RG Amies have been tracked excavators and skid-steer loaders, but with Richard Carr’s focus on agriculture it is expected that telescopic handlers will feature more heavily. “The latest models are superb,” he explained, “with features which appeal strongly to agricultural users. We believe that being able to offer these through our farm machinery division will prove very successful.”
The new JMac range – manufactured in Turkey – includes wheeled back-hoe loaders and 360-degree tracked excavators. “It’s a perfect fit for us with the Bobcat line-up,” explained Richard. “There is strong demand for tracked excavators and we offer Bobcat up to 8.5t then JMac from 14t upward. The back-hoe loaders with equal sized front and rear wheels have immediately intrigued potential users and we have requests for demonstrations from contractors specialising in drainage where operating in muddy conditions is a frequent requirement.”
RG Amies operated a large fleet of hire machines across East Anglia and Richard intends to continue this popular service, and add JMac machines too, providing a greater range of handling solutions for customers.
“We had a very successful first open day and received enquiries and orders for products across the range, and requests for demonstrations including grassland machinery as soon as the weather allows.
“The Armatrac tractors proved a highlight and several potential users came especially to view them resulting in a confirmed sale on the day of one of the tractors on show. We enjoyed great support from our suppliers and customers and we are especially grateful to James Forrest who allowed us to stage the event on his farm.”
Compact high-capacity handler
The latest Bobcat 43-80 telescopic handler was at the event. “It’s compact but has huge capacity,” explained Bobcat of London sales engineer Phil Stoneham (left) who is pictured with Richard Carr. “Like our other machines it has a reassuring 3-year, 3,000-hour warranty and this is the first of this model in the UK. It’s been an immediate success and the first person who tried it ordered immediately after the demonstration. We are offering an attractive zero per cent finance deal over 3 years on all telehandlers and excavators currently which is proving popular.”
Airless skid-steer loader tyres on display
Michelin displayed a selection of tyres, including its new X Tweel SSL (Skid Steer Loader), air-less radial tyre. High strength, poly resin spokes carry the load and absorb impacts, providing support, cushioning and advantages over a solid alternative. It includes reduced weight on the skid steer’s drivetrain, provides the comfort of a radial pneumatic tyre and the ability to travel up to 16kph carrying 2t per unit.
“They are a straight swap for classic 12×16.5 or 10×16.5 skid-steer loader tyres,” explained Michelin’s Tom Saunders. “The X Tweel product is also available for fitting to zero-turn mowers, as its ability to withstand frequent travel over kerbs, and punctures from glass bottles and other debris encountered on a typical grass verge is a major advantage.”
The cost of a 12×16.5 X Tweel SSL in the All Terrain (AT) pattern is approximately £990/corner. The X Tweel SSL can be re-treaded when the original tread is worn, extending the working life and reducing costs.
Tom is pictured (right) with the X Tweel SSL, and with local tyre supplier K&M Tyres director, Mark Bond.
“We have been trading for approximately 15 years and our company is the Michelin Exelagri distributor for Suffolk and south Norfolk, with full access to Michelin, Kleber and Taurus tyre ranges,” explained Mark. “We have demand for all three brands and tend to supply Michelin to those needing premium performance, Kleber is our mid-range tyre and Taurus provides a cost-effective solution for less demanding applications but with the full back-up of Michelin.
“As a Michelin Exelagri dealer we have access to exclusive offers, including the end user cash back offer that is running until 30th April and the zero per cent finance offer that is in place all year round on Kleber and Michelin agricultural tyres. The latest VF and IF high-performance tyres are in growing demand from arable farms and contractors. The Michelin XMCL 460/70R24 telehandler tyre is our fastest-selling tyre currently, and we provide a supply, fitting and repair service across Norfolk, Suffolk and north Essex using a fleet of eight fully-equipped vans.”
Attractive spec for local contractor
Contract hay producer Oliver Styles (left) is pictured with Richard Carr at the event. “I operate within a 20 mile radius of Debenham, mid-Suffolk,” explained Oliver, “producing hay for land owners, mainly for equestrian use, and making and selling conventional straw bales. My growing business means I need to upgrade my current mower and the Fransgard looks well made and is competitively priced making it an attractive option. I already run a Fransgard hay-bob which performs well.”