Home' Smart Farmer : April 2013 Contents By MAX OPRAY
THE only kind of small area farmer
who does not use agricultural
contractors is an overcapitalised
producer, says South Australian Farmers'
Federation president Roger Farley.
"The contractor's equipment is that
far ahead of what you've got, and -- in
the time you've spent mucking
around -- it just isn't worth it," he said.
"Working on farm all day to do
what a contractor could do in an
hour, it's just not good economy."
Although SAFF does not offer an
official position on the issue, Mr
Farley is a passionate advocate of con-
tracting work out in the name of effi-
"I mean the number of small farm-
ers through the hills I see who use a
classic sickle mower that doesn't have
conditioner on it -- well your hay
takes three times longer to dry and
you end up with an inferior product,"
Mr Farley grows wheat and runs
Merino and crossbreed ewes on his
Strathalbyn property, and frequently
outsources work when appropriate,
such as with mowing and clover har-
"When you look at the price of agri-
cultural machinery today, you really
need to do your homework and see
whether tying up your capital in some
machine is better than investing your
money -- conservatively let's say at a
five per cent interest rate -- and
employing a contractor," he said.
"Even if you already own a tractor,
you still have to put fuel in, you still
have to drive it which means it depre-
ciates and will require maintenance.
"It's all about working smarter and
Balhannah-based Tom Ayers agrees,
hardly surprising given that he is an
The managing director of In-Field
Ag has been involved in business con-
tract services, vineyard management
and poultry shed cleaning for 25
He concedes that many farmers run
a big-enough operation to justify
much of their own machinery but
maintains that small area farmers
need to focus on their own skill set.
"A good contractor provides a ser-
vice that is their core business, and
can leave the farmer to focus on their
core business," he said.
"There are a thousand things farm-
ers take care of themselves -- animal
husbandry, pasture management, the
production cycle is what they live and
breathe and the farmer should con-
centrate on that.
"Contractors have the biggest and
best machinery, especially in terms of
the latest technology.
"With grape harvesting, for
instance, we can harvest twice as fast
and using half the fuel, relative to
That's because of our technology and
Mr Ayres says another advantage of
using contractors is that they take on
responsibility for regulatory require-
ments, such as spray licencing and
occupational health and safety training.
But not all is positive.
One downside to relying on con-
tractors is their availability, particu-
larly during busy times of the year.
Mr Ayres admits it is an issue but is
confident it can be mitigated by
forming a close working relationship
with a contractor, which will ensure
better appreciation of each other's
Anama Morris, Bald Hills Olive
Grove, uses contractors on a regular
basis but says it is sometimes difficult
to find them when you need them.
Along with partner Robert Reeve,
she manages 700 trees on a three
hectare plot in Nairne, and says tim-
ing is critical in the olive business.
While the time pressures magnify
the importance of having equipment
available when required, it also
makes olive harvesting contractors all
the more necessary.
"With olives you need to get them
into the press within 36 hours to get
extra virgin oil quality -- if left any
longer the oil deteriorates," she said.
"To make the press process viable
we need a certain quantity, and we
simply can't harvest the number of
olives we need alone."
Another concern she has with out-
sourcing work is the danger of cross-
contamination from diseases
prevalent on other groves.
"If they haven't cleaned their equip-
ment properly, there's a real risk of
cross contamination," she said, citing
black sooty mould as a particular
"When establishing the grove, it
was a real learning and development
exercise to weigh up the cost of pur-
chasing equipment versus hiring peo-
ple and the risks involved.
"When it comes down to it though,
doing it yourself you have both capi-
tal expenditure and the time invested
in skill development, while contrac-
tors have a technical speciality
they've developed across different
groves and terrains.
"In many cases we couldn't ignore
the economic sense it made."
• Need to know more?
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Bald Hills Olive Grove 08 8388 6142 or
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Down the road
Contractors help cut down on
buying costs, maintenance, fuel
Access to specialised skills
Regulatory requirements taken
Contractors not always available
when you need them
Risk of cross-contamination from
equipment used on other
For frequent jobs, this can be an
Contractors make sense
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