26 March 1999

Award winners complete service offers real value

Efficiency, professionalism and a thirst for growing the

business are attributes which led to Welsh contractor

Graham Parkes picking up the 1998 contractor of the year

award. Geoff Ashcroft reports

WINNING the accolade of Contractor of the Year for 1998, Graham Parkes realised a personal ambition.

"Its a good feeling to gain industry recognition for the many years of hard work spent developing our general contracting business," says Mr Parkes. "But it has not changed the way we operate."

For the last 24 years Mr Parkes and his wife Angela have built up a considerable contracting business trading as G & A Parkes at Alltyddol, Eglwyswrw, Pembroke-shire. And the Parkes reckon with continued professionalism and efficiency, their business will continue well into the next millennium.

In a predominantly livestock-oriented part of the country, it is perhaps predictable that grass silage and umbilical slurry spreading now form the lions share of the business – a far cry from 1974 when Mr Parkes started contracting with only a tractor, muck spreader and digger.

Additionally, G & A Parkes offers maize drilling and harvesting, muck spreading, digger hire, plough, power harrow and drill services, and contract maintenance and repair work through the firms comprehensively equipped workshop.

Currently employing a staff of six full-time with a further eight brought in to help with peak workloads, Mr Parkes is in no doubt where his business is going.

"Despite todays difficult climate, we have been able to offer our customers a reliable and timely service which has been rewarded with a steady increase in our workloads," he explains.

"There are many farmers in this region who have decided to get out of livestock. But those who remain committed to milk production are re-investing and increasing their herd sizes and this has balanced out those who have packed up," he says.

For Mr Parkes, the grass silage workload adds up to about 2832ha (7000 acres), taken over two or three cuts. But the weathers influential role has altered the financial structure of his silage making business.

"In a wet season, we can actually chop fewer acres, but still fill the clamps because first cut crops can be very heavy. In drier seasons with lighter crops, we often have to cover more ground to harvest the same quantity of grass," he says.

For this reason, Mr Parkes has structured his contract charges on a pay-for-what-is-harvested basis.

"For rowing up, chopping, hauling and clamping, we charge £26/acre and this is based on an average crop density of 8-tonnes/acre," he explains. "Lighter crops are compensated with a lower rate, while heavier crops demand a higher price."

"All trailers are weighed and counted at the clamp so we and our customers know exactly how much grass is clamped. It seems to be a fair system which suits both parties."

Two self-propelled harvesting teams comprising 340hp New Holland 2205s with a full complement of trailers and clamp equipment work throughout the Pem-brokeshire landscape, achieving outputs of up to 40ha/day (100 acres).

Mr Parkes reckons many customers still like to help with mowing and tedding, and this is an area which he views as one with potential.

"We charge separately for tedding and mowing because there are still a large number of customers who prefer to do their own, if only to utilise existing machinery," he says.

Like many contractors looking to maintain their current level of business, Mr Parkes recognises the need to provide an added value service to customers, putting himself out on a limb when a comfortable bed and a warm bath are the preferred options.

"Theres no room for complacency when doing a job because there are no guarantees the business will be available next year," he says. "It is in our own interest not to over-commit ourselves, so we ensure our customers continue to get the service they need, when they need it." &#42