Magazine Article 2018 – Busy but not too busy

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PROFILE

busy but not too busy
IS THE AIM OF SHEEP & BEEF SPECIALIST

HAWKE’S BAY CONTRACTOR ROGER HUNTER WANTS TO KEEP HIS BUSINESS SIMPLE AND HAS NO AMBITION TO GET TOO BIG FOR HIS BOOTS.

Roger and his wife Rebecca operate Hunter Ag Services Ltd from their home in Hastings, undertaking spraying, cultivation and direct drilling around the district.

Roger grew up on a farm at Porangahau, about an hour and-a-half south of Hastings and began working for contractors early on.

“l worked for an agricultural contractor when I first left school and then I went trucking for about eight years, before going to work for Steven Harper,” he says.

“l ended up buying a Duncan drill off Steven about five years ago and I leased a John Deere 7430 tractor off him for a year. I did all the direct drilling and Steven did the power harrowing.

“The year after that, I bought a 3m Maschio power harrow seeder. We had two power harrows going and then the direct drill and we have grown it from there.

“Steven got out of it more and more and we kept buying equipment and growing, but he still helps us a lot in the peak season when we need a hand. He has got combine harvesters now, so he works in the winter but he helps us out with his tractor and tows gear for us when we need it in our peak season.”

After purchasing the Maschio power harrow, Roger carried on direct drilling and running two power harrows, and he slowly accumulated gear.

“We bought a tractor-mounted sprayer because the spray contractors our clients were using sometimes got held up. That gave us a chance to speed our process up and get the drilling done.”

Today, Hunter Ag Services runs a large fleet of machinery, including

Photo captions –

LOADING UP THE ALLEN CD DRILL.

THE HUNTER FAMILY: (FROM LEFT) PAIGE, ROGER, PHOEBE, OSCAR, AND REBECCA.

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two direct drills: a 3m Allen custom CD contouring direct disc drill and a Taege direct drill. The Allen drill is going into its second season, while the Taege is about to start its third.

Roger moved away from running Duncan drills because he believed they were a little bit light for contracting.

“The Duncan DD30 was a good farmers’ drill but didn’t quite hack the pace for us. The Taege drill is lightweight but is strong and good for hill work,” he says.

“We also have Taege cultivators, a set of Aitchison rippers, Quivogne discs and a Quivogne roller drill. We have two sprayers, a Bargam tractor-mounted sprayer and a new Kverneland iXter B sprayer with a 15m Hosa aluminium boom. The iXter has made a huge difference to our spray operation this season.”

Roger purchased the iXter B sprayer at the end of 2017. It is the first Kverneland sprayer he has owned and he chose it after hearing its many benefits from his dealer at Power Farming.

He has used the new sprayer for general crop spraying, including pre-emergent sprays, Roundup, insecticides and herbicides.

“l really liked the look of the aluminium boom and the iXclean Comfort cleaning system. It does all of your flush out and wash out for you,” he says.

“You push a button and tell it how many litres of water you want in it. It will fill up the tank until that point and cut off automatically.

“The spray unit is all set up through GPS. You just tap in how many litres per hectare you want

to use and it will tell you what nozzles to use with the pressure you want. It’s just a press of a

button on the computer screen. It has three different nozzles which

Photo captions –

ROGER HUNTER SAYS THE IXTER SPRAYER IS STRONGLY BUILT AND IS DEFINITELY A CONTRACTOR’S MACHINE.

THE NEW KVERNELAND IXTER SPRAYER IS USED TO APPLY PRE-EMERGENT SPRAYS, ROUNDUP, INSECTICIDES AND HERBICIDES.

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PROFILE

just turn. You don’t have to take them out.”

Roger’s clients are extremely happy with the job the Kverneland iXter B is doing on their crops.

“Farmers have had a good result and we haven’t had a problem at all. The machine is quite strongly built and is definitely a contractor’s sprayer. It is built to last but it’s not extremely heavy either. It’s not a bulky sprayer on the tractor and it’s got a quick hitch on it so it’s easy to unhook.”

Roger is also pleased with the size and width of the Hosa boom, which can comfortably handle his hill work.

“It has made a big difference to our spray operation. It is easier to select different spray rates and has made life easy with the way it’s set up.”

Hunter Ag Services also operates several John Deere and Fendt tractors.

“We have an owner-driver, who runs a 720 Fendt. He sub-contracts to us. We also own our own 720 Fendt and we lease another one from Tractor Repairs and Spares.

“This year we are deciding whether to buy a John Deere 6230R or whether we are going to lease it. We also temporarily lease a John Deere 190M just on an hourly basis when we need it.”

Originally, the bulk of Hunter Ag Services’ work involved direct drilling, although these days Roger’s workload is fairly evenly split between drilling, cultivation and spray work.

“Our spraying has come a long way from where we started. We bought our first sprayer just to do the odd job but it’s really grown. The new Kverneland has made life a lot easier,” he says.

“With our cultivation work the seasons have got so much longer. When I started out we weren’t beginning any cultivation work until late September and now it’s any time from late August. In early September we do regrassing in the higher country.

“The direct drilling starts a bit later, in mid-to-late September. Every year is different, but it seems to get earlier and earlier.”

Last year, Roger and his team continued their cultivation and direct drilling work right up until Christmas, with the peak season taking place from the middle of September through until the middle of November.

“Then we down-staff and our owner-driver goes and helps a hay contractor and another staff member can go off and do other work. This year at around Christmas-New Year we did a bit of spraying and then we were drilling by the end of January and into February. By the time I got a bit of maintenance done, we were into it again and the guys came back.”

Hunter Ag Services starts out drilling new annual grasses in

Photo caption – THE BUSINESS RUNS FENDT AND JOHN DEERE TRACTORS.

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the autumn, as well as a few oats and other crops. In spring they drill a lot of brassicas and regrass in the higher country.

“We are winding down at the end of April or start of May. Over the winter we do maintenance and quite a bit of spraying thistles, although it depends on the winter. Generally, in the winter we have got the same farms that we spray thistle on. We spray crops as well as a lot of spraying out with Roundup before the drills go in. Then we spray crops for insects. Autumn is the same with a lot of spraying out.”

While Roger used to work quite locally to home, he and his team now travel about two hours by tractor north up the Napier-Taupo Road, and an hour-and-half south to Tikokino.

“Our client base has grown a lot and 100 percent of them are sheep and beef farmers,” he says.

“There are quite a few dairy farms around but there is another contractor in the main dairy area and it just hasn’t worked out that way for me. We are happy with our sheep and beef clients and pleased with the size of our business.

“We haven’t chased a lot of our work and most of it has come through word of mouth. We are just taking each year as it comes. If we are busy and making money we will carry on.”

Roger has been lucky with his staff to date. The team usually includes him, two others, their subcontractor and Steven Harper when he can help.

“We have had the same crew for a while. We have had one guy from the start pretty much and another from the second year. Our subcontractor goes and helps a hay contractor in the summer and in the winter helps a few others out.

“l don’t have any staff who stay on fulltime in the winter, but if things go quiet and they can’t find any work, I will try and find them something. However, they often like to take a break from tractors.”

Roger and Rebecca juggle their busy working lives with three young children, aged seven, five and two. Rebecca does all the invoicing for the contracting business, as well as running around doing pickups and deliveries for the team. She also works two days a week in a local retail business.

The Hunters have no big plan to expand their contracting services but are constantly looking to improve their fleet of machinery and efficiencies.

“We just recently purchased another Taege drill which is slightly wider than the one we traded,” says Roger.

“We also lease a Gaspardo direct drill from Power Farming in the autumn to help with the overflow, and we are hoping to do that again this year.

“We are happy with the three services we offer and with the seasons being so long now, if we tried to go down any other avenues it would be too busy.

“Five or six years ago, we could have hay and cultivation together and it would have worked, but now the cross-over period would be too tricky with staff and gear.

“We want to focus on our main services and do them well. We are happy with what we are doing and we want to keep it like this.”

Roger loves the work and machinery and enjoys the challenge and flexibility the job offers.

“We get a bit of downtime around Christmas and have some time with the family. – It is the same during the winter.”   RC

Photo captions –

IN ADDITION TO DIRECT DRILLING ROGER AND REBECCA HUNTER OFFER SEEDING WITH THEIR 3M MASCHIO POWER HARROW.

MANY OF HUNTER AG SERVICES’ CLIENTS ARE IN THE HAWKES BAY HILL COUNTRY.

THE 3M ALLEN DIRECT DRILL IS IN ITS SECOND SEASON WITH HUNTER AG SERVICES.

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Date published

2018

Format of the original

Magazine article

Publisher

NZ Rural Contractor and Large Scale Farmer

Accession number

508660

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