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Hire Special

Hire offers advantages for expanding business

When a long-established Norfolk family farm added an agricultural contracting service to its activities, running reliable, modern machinery was a priority. David Williams reports.

Based at Crown farm, Great Ellingham HC Beales & Co is run by Charles Saffell and family. Charles is the fourth generation of his family running the business which farms approximately 800ha of its own land together with a nearby farm on a contract farming agreement. Cropping includes wheat, barley, oilseed rape, sugar beet and maize grown for a nearby anaerobic digester. 

Stubble to stubble contracting for other landowners within a 25–30 mile radius of the base, along with individual contracting operations, are also offered and the company looks after maize production from drilling to harvesting for two AD plants in the county belonging to Future Biogas Ltd and Egmere Energy Ltd.

Hire solution

“We started contracting approximately five years ago,” explained Charles. “It was an attractive area of diversification as it tied in well with our own farming activities. We bought a self-propelled forage harvester and needed tractors seasonally so hiring these assisted our cash flow while the business developed.”

Three John Deere tractors were hired from local main dealer Ben Burgess. “We have always had great confidence in Ben Burgess and we had to be seen to be running reliable, efficient machinery so customers knew we wouldn’t let them down. We did shop about including considering two other brands from the local dealers, but the offer for the John Deeres was competitively priced and we knew the back-up from the dealer would be unbeatable.”

Full-time machinery operators include Charles and two others, and two additional self-employed staff work nine months of the year. During the busy harvesting period additional temporary staff join the team. Charles said the John Deere tractors are popular with everyone using them and being able to swap two Starfire GPS receivers between several tractors is an advantage making precision RTK guidance available for a variety of tasks including drilling.


Long-term hire, until recently, included a 250hp (300hp max) 6250R; a 215hp (255hp max) 6215R and a 155hp (195hp max) 6155R. During busy periods two 6215Rs and a 6155R were also hired and three tractors of other brands are also owned.

“As well as allowing us to run a large, modern fleet cost effectively, advantages of hiring include not having to worry about depreciation and service costs, and if a tractor breaks down, then we know a replacement will be supplied almost immediately.

“There are few disadvantages although we have to watch the number of hours worked as additional charges are made for going over what has been agreed. This means that we sometimes shuffle tractors around to avoid putting too many on a particular machine. The only other issue is tyre wear, as on long-term hire tractors’ tyre condition on return is part of the agreement, so there is either a charge made for the wear or if it’s excessive then we have to replace them. It’s not a big issue as we would have to pay for tyre wear if we owned the tractors,” he added. 

Hire versus purchase

Successful business growth means Charles has recently replaced the two smaller long-term hire tractors with purchased machines, also supplied by Ben Burgess. “We are constantly gaining new customers and had seen working hours increasing as a result. Most of our tractors currently work 1,500 hours or more per year and changing to a purchase agreement means that as this figure increases it is less of a concern. We actually found the dealer extremely fair when tractors were returned with more than the agreed number of hours worked, but it’s something we wanted to avoid if possible.”

The 6250R is the main draft tractor and Charles opted to keep this on long-term hire. The agreement is for 3 years with up to 1,200 hours worked annually, which allows for future business growth as currently it averages just over 1,000 hours per year. “I like the flexibility of running a mix of owned and hired machines and, for the future, it suits me to keep the larger tractor on hire and bring in additional smaller tractors on short-term hire for the busy maize and wholecrop rye harvesting season,” he commented.

Apart from the John Deere tractors, almost everything is owned. “We now run two self-propelled forage harvesters and looked at hiring these, but purchase with a service agreement was considered a better option. We own some trailers and hire others in for the maize harvest which suits us too as these are needed for only a short period each year,” he explained.

“For the future, hiring a self-propelled sprayer is something which might also offer advantages.”

Successful strategy

Charles said that whether purchasing or hiring, back-up from Ben Burgess has been exceptional. “We deal with David English at the Norwich depot and he is always very helpful, understands how we work and is keen to help us find the most effective solutions. Hiring tractors proved successful while building our contracting business and to meet seasonal requirements it remains the best option. We are keen to attract more customers to both our contract farming service and for specific field contracting operations and we know we can only do that using modern, reliable machinery.”

Charles Saffell first hired John Deere tractors from local dealer Ben Burgess five years ago when starting his contracting business.

Loader ranges for all working conditions

Versatile, powerful, compact, innovative and durable machines appropriate for all working conditions are available for hire from Avant South East which specialises in loaders with operating weight under 2,000kg.

The Essex based company is dealer and hire partner of Avant products in the UK.

With over 200 attachments, the Avant is well-suited for many industries including farming, construction, stabling and landscaping.

Avant South East offers hire, sales, servicing and parts for the versatile Avant machines. It has six machines and over 30 different attachments to hire. Customers are welcome to view the different Avant models in the company’s showroom and its demo area in Great Dunmow.

Hiring makes business sense

Hiring agricultural machinery is one way to be able to weather uncertainty and gain access to machinery without the costs of storing and maintaining equipment.

Warwick-based Ellis Machinery says. “Hire also gives the flexibility to try new systems and machinery without the up-front investment, plus when you hire from Ellis Machinery you have the option to offset the hire cost should you decide to purchase the machine.”

This Vaderstad 650 Carrier was hired by a local farmer for first cultivation after harvest last year.

Hiring machinery is rapidly growing in popularity as more and more farmers include it in their business plan to reduce costs and improve effectiveness, to get the most out of shrinking farm incomes. While purchasing machinery is the best option in some situations, hiring can give the opportunity to try out a potential purchase and avoid expensive mistakes.

Ellis offers a range of equipment to hire including cultivators, ploughs and drills as well as tractors and trailers. The company’s website includes an online hire calculator so that customers can generate an estimate of the cost of hiring for a particular task by selecting the type of machine required and the acreage expected for an estimate. Timings, costings and transport would then need to be confirmed with a member of the sales team.

Flexibility and lower costs

When it comes to combine hire or sales choice has never been more important, says Cambridgeshire-based Agricultural Plant Hire.

APH offers a wide range of new and used combine harvesters for hire.

The company has combines available for both part or full season hire, from one year to five-year contracts, with a choice of models and accessories. “We offer New Holland and Claas machines from the newest and latest specification combines, right through to a selection of well maintained, used combines in a range of sizes,” says APH. “With expertise built up over four decades of operations, there is something to suit the needs and budgets of all farmers.”

APH is also an independent stockholder of parts for New Holland and Claas combine harvesters and carries stock worth in excess of £1 million including some 5,000 off-the-shelf items to cover a wide range of both current and established combine models.

APH offers comprehensive product knowledge, excellent customer service and next day delivery on items from stock.

  • Written by: Farmers Guide
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