Magazine Article 2010 – Hill Country Duo

Page 40

PROFILE

Hill country duo

FOCUS ON BALEAGE, DIRECT DRILLING

KAWEKA CONTRACTING IS BASED AT WILLOWFORD [WAIWHARE], IN THE BACK BLOCKS OF HAWKE’S BAY, AND BEGAN LIFE AS A MACHINERY SYNDICATE.

David Ward had been contracting for 30 years. It was a familiar route – working the family farm, he liked fiddling with machinery, neighbours asking for their work to be done and hence David picked up extra income making conventional hay bales. It was also partly out of necessity as it was difficult getting contractors.

Things changed with round bales. David says, “l couldn’t afford a round baler and started losing work, so we formed a company about 1989 and bought a baler.”

Kaweka Contracting began with three farmers: David, Martin James [Jones], and Graeme Fountaine.

Martin grew up on a sheep and beef farm. His parents sold it during the forestry boom and Martin went fishing for five years. In the summers he was back contracting. He’s now full-time, leasing a farm and working on Kaweka Contracting.

Martin’s wife Shona is an integral part of the plan. She works the 271ha farm while Martin’s driving. If Martin needs to be home, say weighing lambs, then he and David work around it.

David’s daughter Suzanne ran their 350ha sheep and beef farm but is now occupied with a young son. Her husband Alistair [Campbell] does

Photo captions –

MARTIN JAMES AND DAVID WARD SAY THEIR VICON BALER IS THEIR MOST IMPORTANT PIECE OF MACHINERY – YOU CAN ALWAYS BORROW AN OTHER TRACTOR BUT NOT A BALER.

MOST OF THE TIME DAVID WARD AND MARTIN JAMES OPERATE KAWEKA CONTRACTING ON THEIR OWN BUT DURING VERY BUSY PERIODS THEY BRING IN A MATE OR A RELATIVE TO HELP THEM OUT.

Page 41

the stock work. David does the baleage and hay of course, but is otherwise free to work full-time on contracting.

David’s wife Linda is another key person. She runs the books, and, with Shona, moves gear around.

In the early days, in the mid-1990’s, the farms had some lean years. There was drought and prices were low. The contracting business was still only a small part of their time (David says 1500 to 2000 bales would have been a big season) but it provided a useful income stream.

The first baler was a John Deere 550, which they upgraded to a 590. Martin says they were designed for hay and didn’t cope well with baleage.

When they wanted to update it in 2007 they had problems with the agent not returning calls. When he finally did, they had already bought a Vicon 2160. It had a rotor feed with knives and made life easier. For the old balers 100 a day was good, and the Vicon did 300.

This early Vicon had problems with the netting, so David and Martin looked at getting a Welger. Once again they had problems with an uninterested agent, but Vicon sorted the net problem with the 2160 model, and they bought one. It’s now in its third season and has made 16,000 bales – half of those this year. Martin sees the potential to make 7,000 to 10,000 bales a season.

The next big investment after the first baler was a Duncan Renovator direct drill. Martin: “We’re on our third, as we wore out the first one.” It’s been a good drill, and was a good move to upgrade. “It’s a lot sturdier and has narrower row spacing at 120 down from 150.”

With a bigger drill, they needed a bigger tractor. They had been using Graeme’s, but splashed out and got a Case 1490.

In 1991 they bought their first new tractor, a Same 90.

David: “We’d been buying second-hand gear as there was a limit to what we could outlay. When we saw what we’d get for our money and how rough it was, we thought why not go new? The trade-off is repairs for interest. Since then we’ve bought new gear.”

The new Same had everything they needed: power-shift transmission, push button PTO, four-wheel drive, a front-end loader and an air-conditioned cab. Up until then they’d been contracting on a cab-less tractor with hay swirling around their heads

Photo caption – THE BALING OPERATION RUNS A 10-REEL PATON V RAKE AND A KUHN GRS25 3.0m TEDDER.

Page 42

PROFILE

all day. Martin says, “We were doing longer hours and working at night and without a cab it was fatiguing.”

It was also a good tractor for hill work, and they do a lot of it. Another key advantage of Same, was the agent, Stortford Machinery. “Machinery is only as good as the people backing it up,” says Martin.

In 1998 baleage came into the area. Martin says they didn’t have a wrapper and had to get another contractor to wrap. That didn’t always work out. “People wanted baleage, so we had to gear up if we were going to carry on contracting.”

Back then 90 percent of their work was hay and 10 percent baleage; it’s now the reverse.

Kaweka Contracting focuses on baleage and direct drilling, and they always look at a job before turning up with the gear.

Martin: “That’s a service we don’t charge for. People ring us to go look at hay and baleage paddocks. We spend a bit of time with them, and they can make up their minds from there.”

When the business made the leap into baleage, David and Martin had been doing all the driving while Graeme stayed the silent partner. It was becoming bigger than he’d anticipated and the other two bought him out.

Business has kept growing through word of mouth and is now at a comfortable level for David and Martin. They’re both fulltime with the odd day out to help on the farms. They have a few people they call on if it gets busy but usually do it all themselves. They seem to have a good balance – enough work to pay themselves an hourly rate and to keep updating machinery but not so much they can’t give great service or have to constantly look for more work. Not employing staff also decreases stress.

Because they own what they drive, they are careful with it. They suspect that’s why the first Same is still on the original clutch and still in great condition.

They work within a 30km radius of home as another way of keeping business under control and minimising stress. It’s paid off in loyal customers. David says, “Some people chase work all over Hawke’s Bay and then have a big year and can’t do it all. That’s a good way to lose customers.”

Another way of keeping customers is to ensure that they don’t cut more grass than they can handle.

Martin: “We pride ourselves on not losing a crop – it can happen, but not often.” He says not only is unexpected rain a problem that could lower quality but also the westerly could come up and they’d have hay by the afternoon.

They’re great fans of baleage. They use a mower conditioner and that takes a day off the process. Martin says when a westerly comes up, they can cut in the morning and bale in the afternoon. Baleage also needs a smaller weather window.

This year many farmers made autumn baleage for the first time. They shut paddocks up in January and some of them six-layer wrapped it so it would last three to four years. “You’ve got to use it when it’s available.”

David says the last few years there was a one-way flow into Hawke’s Bay as farmers bought feed to get them through the drought. This year he thinks it will be the reverse as surplus is sold to Waikato or Northland farmers.

The pair keep away from pit silage and big square bales. The paddocks are too small for the bigger gear and if they geared up to do it, they’d have to chase work to justify it.

They’re in sheep and beef country, with only one dairy client. Most jobs are 10 to 15ha. They have about 60 clients and 500ha would be a big farm.

Kaweka Contracting start in September with direct drilling spring crops. They didn’t do any cultivation this season.

DAVID WARD AND MARTIN JAMES ARE CAREFUL NOT TO GET OVER-COMMITTED FINANCIALLY.

This was a good year for them but they’ve been through too many years of drought to take anything for granted. Nevertheless, Martin is keen to keep updating gear. “If you leave it too long, you end up with three old tractors all needing replacing at once.”

This season was a big one. Farmers had destocked after many summers of drought, so there were fewer mouths to feed but there was a lot of grass growth over summer. David says, “We made 8000 bales. That’s not much for some contractors, but it was huge for the two of us.”

Last year they typically made 10 to 15 bales per ha. “At that yield it’s not economic to make them. The farmer is better off grazing it and buying baleage.” This year yields are 25 to 40.

On one of his own paddocks David got 120 bales/ha. It had been intended as a hay paddock but couldn’t be cut in January. When it finally stopped raining he made it into baleage. “The quality’s not as as if it were cut earlier but it will be okay. There’s lots of red clover.” RC

Photo caption – FOR REACH MOWING KAWEKA CONTRACTING HAS A TEAGLE DW HEDGE TRIMMER.

Page 44

PROFILE

Baleage begins in October. There’s usually a bit of over-lap between baleage and crops, and that’s when relatives or a local farmer is called in to assist.

In December and January they’re making hay and still doing baleage. In February they’re putting in winter crops and paddocks back into grass. It usually finishes about March. But this year they went longer and were making baleage in autumn.

They keep themselves occupied over winter with post ramming and reach mowing. That’s trimming back branches from the side of forestry roads. They have a Teagle DW Hedge trimmer, which is a flail-head mower, with chains on it. That was one of their few second-hand items, as they don’t do enough to justify a new one.

They also have a mole-plough – a type of ripper with an attachment to put polythene pipes in the ground. They say it’s faster than a trencher to put in farm water supplies.

This year David and Martin bought a Taupo hand, which is a handy gadget for scooping up cut branches and pulling out stumps. Martin says they have their own work lined up for it and clients will start to realise what it can do.

The first Same, a Silver 90, worked out so well that they got another in 2004 – a Same Rubin 135. The 90 had been struggling with the bigger drill and when they bought a heavier Vicon baler, the 90 needed duals and was underpowered.

Stortford Machinery made it easy by offering a lease tractor for a year. Martin: “Once it came here it was never going back. We got to see if it was going to suit us, and we did need another.” He says it’s a good hill country tractor with a low centre of gravity and safe in steep places.

Their only mistake was not getting a 160hp, which is the same size tractor but with a bigger engine.

In 2008 they bought a Same 110, to replace the 90, however they kept finding work and all three tractors remain in the workforce.

The 110 is used for wrapping

NEARLY ALL OF THE CROP ESTABLISHMENT KAWEKA CONTRACTING DOES IN THE HAWKES BAY HILL COUNTRY IS DIRECT DRILLING.

“You’ve got to be careful cultivating around here, as it’s very light, volcanic soil and easy to overwork. It goes like talcum powder.”

It’s also a windy area and the finely cultivated soils quickly erode. They’ve learnt to sow deeper than recommended to get below the thatch layer and ensure the seed strikes in soil, not thatch.

There are downsides to direct drilling. David says the results can be variable and cultivation gets rid o fa lot of insects so direct drilling may require an extra pass to spray for slugs or springtails.

David and Martin cultivate if the paddock’s too rough or clients ask for it but they don’t do a lot and have basic gear – a set of Hooper heavy discs and a Howard rotary hoe. RC

Photo caption – KAWEKA CONTRACTING FOCUSES ON BALEAGE AND DIRECT DRILLING.

Page 45

bales and stacking. David says, “They’re a nice, compact tractor and easy to manoeuvre.”

All three tractors arrived with electronic problems. Martin: “You used to buy a tractor and away you went, now there are hiccups to sort out. But it’s all under warranty and they’re there in an hour to sort it out.”

Stortford Machinery regularly services the tractors. Martin says the mechanics know what to look for and know about preventative maintenance. “Say a fanbelt goes at 3000 hours, if they do the service, they will know to look for it as they’ve done 50 others.”

Farmers ask contractors about their tractors and why they like them. About three years ago a lot of farmers were trading in their old low-powered tractors, as they needed about 75hp to feed out. There are now another six Sames in the area, and David thinks they’ve given the brand a higher profile in the area.

The Vicon baler is the most important piece of machinery. If a tractor breaks down they can borrow another, but agents don’t normally have spare balers. For this reason they will look at updating it in another two seasons.

They use a McHale 991BE wrapper. A Fusion or some other combined baler and wrapper is no use to them, as they like to wrap the bales where they will be stored. Not many farmers have the gear to move wrapped bales, and also it’s easier for the contractors. With so many hill paddocks, they don’t need extra weight and it’s already a challenge to find a safe place to release the bale. Martin: “You can lose bales down gullies and one went through a fence and onto the road. Fortunately no cars were coming.”

David: “Sometimes you have to drive 100m to find a safe place to let out the bale. Or you think you know where the bale is going and it’s slightly conical and shoots out the side.”

David says the baler is only as good as the mower and rake in front of it. They’re onto their second Kuhn FC313 mower conditioner. The first one was robust and did four seasons on some rough ground, and also a good job on the windrow.

They have two rakes. A Paton V rake with 10 reels and a 6.0m pull. It’s very stable and they can tow it behind the ute.

The Kuhn GRS25 is a 3.0m tedder rake to spread out hay for better drying.

Their direct drill is a Duncan Renovator Mach 4. This is the third Duncan they’ve had and say it will sow anything, and has a variable speed gearbox and is easy to adjust. It also broadcasts seed.

It can put fertiliser with seed, though David and Martin aren’t convinced that does any better than fertilizing with a truck.

The Duncan is good for their light soil types in that it doesn’t flick soil around.

Where to from here? They’re both farmers and have been through droughts; it’s enough to keep them cautious. They’ll see what next season brings and up-date gear as they need to. On their wish list is a Same 185 and no doubt they’ll have one in a year or two. The other plan is to build a shed for their gear and maybe get a rubber-tyred roller. They’ve heard it kneads the ground rather than squashes it and draws moisture up around the seed. It’s also something they can hire out to farmers and there’s little that can go wrong. RC

Photo captions –

KAWEKA USES A MOLE-PLOUGH TO PUT IN FARM WATER SUPPLIES.

THE OPERATION RUNS THREE SAME TRACTORS – A RUBIN 135 (PICTURED HERE), A SILVER 110, AND AN OLD SILVER 90.

Original digital file

MA201008RC_Hill.pdf

Non-commercial use

Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 New Zealand (CC BY-NC 3.0 NZ)

This work is licensed under a Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 New Zealand (CC BY-NC 3.0 NZ).

 

Commercial Use

Please contact us for information about using this material commercially.

Date published

August 2018

Format of the original

Magazine article

Publisher

NZ Rural Contractor and Large Scale Farmer

People

  • Campbell Bremner
  • Suzanne Bremner
  • Graeme Fountaine
  • Martin Jones
  • Shona Jones
  • David Ward
  • Linda Ward

Accession number

508847

Do you know something about this record?

Please note we cannot verify the accuracy of any information posted by the community.

Supporters and sponsors

We sincerely thank the following businesses and organisations for their support.