3 May 1996

Flexibility is key to success in changing UKconditions

FLEXIBILITY is an essential part of any contractors policy, especially when investing in machinery.

Work can vary from year-to-year and month-to-month, with pressure often coming from farmer and weather alike.

Littlecote Farm Partners, based near Hungerford, Berkshire, has employed a flexible finance scheme from New Holland Finance to fund its latest investment in six new Holland combine harvesters – an investment in excess of £1m.

Farming more than 4451ha (11,000 acres) in total, the partnership has 1450ha (3600 acres) in hand with the remainder contract farmed for eight different landowners located in Hampshire, Wiltshire and Berkshire.

The majority of the land farmed is down to arable with sizeable areas of winter wheat, winter barley, oilseed rape, winter oats, winter beans, spring barley, beans and linseed.

Livestock enterprises extend to 750 pigs, 200 Holstein Friesian cows and some 250 beef cattle. Maize and grass silage form the mainstay of the herds rations.

A high degree of mechanisation has meant that staff can be kept to a minimum with only one man/1000 acres being employed.

"With such a large acreage to work, spread across eight different farms, reliable and efficient machinery is essential," says manager, Alan Holland. "The previous replacement policy was to replace two combines every year which meant the entire fleet was replaced every three years.

"But this year, the business is purchasing six new combines in one hit – funds being provided by New Holland Finance – and we shall be replacing them all again next year."

Mr Holland believes such a policy gives the business the greater flexibility it requires.

"The next five or 10 years are likely to bring changes to UK agriculture, with inevitable changes occurring to the contracting business. By replacing the combines on a yearly basis, the number purchased each year can be increased or decreased," he explains.

Commenting on the finance scheme – a deferred plan with payments geared to meet next years expected income – Mr Holland believes it reflects Littlecote Farm Partners policy of flexibility.

"We have used New Holland Finance for many years," he says. "With the deals currently available, I would expect the vast majority of farmers to opt for finance if they had the choice.

"Littlecote Farm Partners was never expected to exceed 10,000 acres but the right financial and management techniques could now see it reach 20,000 acres," says Mr Holland.n

Littlecote Farm Partners will take delivery of six New Holland combine harvesters in the next month. Inset: Managing partner Alan Holland.