22 November 1996

Why a Scots world champ

ploughs it in

Four new combines, two new tractors – and picking up the world reversible ploughing title, too. Scottish contractor D M Carnegie has certainly had an interesting year.

Andrew Faulkner reports

TO the victor the spoils. And so it was for Scottish contractor David Carnegie, returning from the Republic of Ireland last month as the newly crowned world reversible ploughing champion.

Putting one over the Auld Enemy, on this occasion Englishman Peter Waters and his Dowdeswell, is always an experience to be savoured but this victory was particularly sweet for Mr Carnegie. After making it to the most prestigious event in the ploughing match calendar on three previous occasions, he becomes the first Scotsman to bring home the coveted world title.

"I have to admit it was good to put one over on the English; even the Irish seemed to enjoy that," Mr Carnegie says wryly.

Six weeks on, it is back to arguably "more serious" business for the Scottish contributor to our Contractors Comment series. And business in Nov 96, now that the firms contracted 800ha (2000 acres) of winter cereals are safely tucked up, means buying combines. Not just the one this year – Mr Carnegie usually replaces one harvester each season – but four.

The multi-machine deal, which was completed within the past 10 days, sees two New Hollands and two Claas harvesters replacing three New Hollands and a John Deere to cut the firms 1600ha (4000-acre) annual workload: Out go a TX34, TX32, 8060 and JD1177, while two TX64s and two Lexion 410s join the fleet. For the full 1997 line-up, see box.

This is not the first time the Carnegie brothers – David runs the business along with younger brothers, Alan and Brian – have done such a deal; the last occasion was back in 1988. But over recent years they have developed a policy to chop in only one of the seven-strong line-up at the end of each campaign.

"It is a system that has worked well," David Carnegie explains. "Despite running the combines typically for seven seasons, we have been able to keep repair costs under control. Theres also been good second-hand demand for five-walker/15-17ft header harvesters of that age."

So why the change in policy now? After all, buying four rather than one represents a dramatic leap in annual investment.

The answer comes in several parts. First, the combine market is changing, Mr Carnegie says. "Although sales of new harvesters are up this year, overall, the market for new machines is in decline. Farmers who were buying new a few years ago are now looking for tidy, three- to four-year-old machines."

Hence, he reckons by running his harvesters for four seasons, rather than seven, he should be able to tap into this expanding market; the seven-year-old machines now seem be less appealing, with too many hours on the clock.

Also in Mr Carnegies favour is that his size of harvester – five-walker separation and 5.2m (17ft) header – is exactly what the second-hand market is crying out for. Anybody who has tried shifting a tired six-walker monster, complete with 6m (20ft+) header, will bear wallet-wincing testimony to that.

"We thought briefly about following the current trend to run a smaller number of higher capacity machines, but not for long. The six-walker harvesters just do not make sense for our type of workload, which covers a large geographical area with a wide variety of field sizes.

"The poor second-hand value of these machines is a very important factor, too."

Yet, all the above justification for running a newer fleet would have applied equally last year, and the year before that. So, again, why the policy change now?

The big difference this year, says Mr Carnegie, is all manufacturers seem extremely keen to move product, much more so than in recent history. Combine sales are up in 1996, and dealers pencils pin sharp.

In 1995, for example, the Carnegies seriously looked into changing their oldest harvester, an F-plate New Holland 8060, but eventually decided against it. One year on, they were offered exactly the same deal even though the combine had done another seasons work.

"In effect, that deal reduced the total life costs of the 8060 by about £1500 a year."

Similarly attractive quotes offered on the other three oldest harvesters eventually coaxed the Carnegies into taking this years sizeable step forward in investment: Running a newer fleet with a more regular replacement plan.

That was the decision to buy. Next came choice of colour. Not surprisingly, all makers were desperate for a slice of the Carnegie business, so, with little to choose between the harvesting hardware on offer, how was it that New Holland took the orders while Massey Ferguson and John Deere came away empty handed.

"In the end, it made sense to standardise on two brands, which makes things like parts stocking much simpler. We know and like New Holland and Claas machines, so decided to stick with them."

For now, though, it is back to more mundane matters such as analysing this seasons repair bills. A cooked chopper clutch on one of the New Holland TX32s has seen an invoice for £1300 land on Mr Carnegies desk – and that was for parts alone. Further investigations are in progress.

Two machines that wont be in the Carnegie line-up in 1997. Hired to pull the firms New Holland 4900 big baler, this Fiat G240 tractor is due back with local dealer Agricar at any time, while the TX34, along with three other combines, makes way for four new additions to the harvesting fleet. Two new New Holland tractors, a 160hp 8560 and 135hp 8360, are also set to join the machine line-up soon. Inset:David Carnegie.


BUSINESS DATA


&#8226 Farming area: Predominantly arable with a large area into ware and seed potatoes.

&#8226 Work undertaken: All arable and livestock operations.

&#8226 Machinery fleet: 30 tractors (80-160hp), seven combines, two forward-control MB-trac sprayers, a range of conventional sprayers mounted on MB-trac tractors, New Holland Ford S1900 self-propelled forage harvester and four self-propelled lime spreaders.

&#8226 Labour: 35 full-time.