1 September 1995

Coupon system pays dividends

USING a system when filling in a farmers weekly competition coupon, as opposed to "finger in the wind" guesswork, can pay off, it seems.

Herts farmer Ian Davis would be the first to admit his system is far from scientific, but then his record of winning one competition from eight attempts must be better than most. And what a win. At Smithfield 92 the Princess Royal presented Mr Davis with the keys to a new 90hp 4WD John Deere 6300 tractor, worth about £33,000.

So what is Mr Daviss system for putting a list of machine features into the correct order of priority? "When there is a major competition running in the magazine, I tend to cut out the entry forms each week and put them to one side," Mr Davis says.

"Next step is to group the features into three categories – obvious top priorities, less significant and the least important. Then I just juggle the priorities within each category on the different forms before sending them in."

Mr Davis says he didnt believe his parents when they first rang to tell him he had won a new 6000-series JD tractor. The irony was the farm had been looking for a mid-spec second-hand 4WD tractor to upgrade their existing main workhorse, a 2WD John Deere 3040. They had specifically wanted to avoid moving to the electronic technology fitted to new tractors. Now they had won one, whether they liked it or not.

After Smithfield the debating started. Mr Davis asked his local John Deere dealer, J E Buckle at Stevenage, to keep the prize in his yard while he decided whether to keep the tractor or sell it on; as long as the tractor stayed in the dealers yard it was still a new tractor and would fetch a new price.

"The first decision was whether to keep the tractor. I could have reverted to the original plan to carry on looking for a second-hand 4WD and then used the extra cash to invest in stock or buildings," Mr Davis explains. "By 1994 the farm had recovered from the worst effects of BSE and there were no buildings planned, so I decided to keep the tractor. Even then there were still things to discuss. As the tractor was my personal prize, should it appear on the farms books, should I lease it to the farm to gain some income from the prize, and what, if any, were the tax implications?"

The final decision was for Mr Davis to keep the tractor in his own name, he makes no charge to the business for its use, but he will keep the cash when the tractor is eventually sold. The John Deere has now done about 1100 hours and, barring any financial crisis, the plan is to keep the tractor for at least another five years.