Kleber Contractor of the Year Finalist – Star farming partners Steven and Sarah Suggitt

Kleber Contractor of the Year


Steven and Sarah Suggitt


Diss, Norfolk


* It’s got to be the youngest-ever business to make it through to the finals of the Farmers Weekly Awards.


Suggitt Farm Services was started just four years ago by Steven and Sarah Suggitt. With just one customer on their books, the couple started out muckspreading.


In that first year, turnover reached £28,000. In 2006 it totalled over £250,000 – nearly a tenfold increase.


Such rapid growth is difficult to manage. “We’ve made plenty of mistakes along the way but always make sure we learn from them,” says Steven.


“One thing we’ve concentrated on is ensuring our margins have grown at the same rate as turnover although, with a young business, you tend to plough a lot of the profits back in.”


By the time he’d finished mucking out the sheds and spreading the muck for his sole customer in that first year, Steven found himself kicking his heels.


He quickly set to work knocking on the doors of local farmers and managed to persuade a number that he could make their lives easier by handling their muck for them.


The couple took an interesting decision at this point and made it a principle that, wherever possible, they would grow their business by taking on work that would usually have been performed by the farmer, rather than muscling in on other contractors’ rounds.


“We’ve always sold our services on the basis that we can take the hassle out of the job for the customer,” points out Sarah.


“Our staff are fully NPTC-trained, our machinery is all up-to-date, reliable kit and, most importantly, we’re incredibly hot on health and safety, so the farmer doesn’t have to worry.”


In the firm’s second year the couple were offered the opportunity to take on another contractor’s round to bale and stack 10,000 big square bales a year.


This new enterprise grew quickly and soon required the purchase of a further two balers.


“With so many bales out on stubbles it is important to get the fields cleared,” comments Steven.


“Last year we trialled a bale chaser which proved an incredibly valuable asset, ensuring fields were cleared as quickly as possible.


“That all helps to take the headache out of harvest for our customers. We want them to view us as partners in their operations.”


To improve the efficiency of the rapidly growing muck enterprise, a 23t wide-bodied Bunning spreader was purchased – the largest of its type in the country. Running on tandem axles and flotation tyres, it can accurately apply lime sludge and compost as well as everyday manure at wide working widths.


To promote this service customers were offered the chance of a free trial with the big spreader.


“By sending the 23-tonner out on trial we were able to demonstrate its extra output. Customers rapidly saw the value of getting their muck and sludge spread quicker and were able to get fields cultivated sooner.”


All this investment has required some careful consideration and the pair have been wise to employ an independent advisor to assist with money matters.


“We’re inexperienced in running the financial side of things so we thought it prudent to get some extra advice,” says Sarah.


FW judges“One of his best tips has been to buy top quality new equipment because it gives us that all important 40% capital allowance, provides good trade-in values, improves the image of the business and gives some guarantee of reliability – very important when your tractors are clocking more than 2000 hours a year.”


“Because of all the muck and straw we handle, we’re very interested in the prospects of biogas – so that’s definitely on the horizon.”


“But we’ve got a more pressing concern. We’ve just sold the farm where we keep our kit so we’ve got to find them a new home before we do anything else!”


Category Judges


Daniel James  Richard Minton  Peter Debenham  Nick Fone


Above: Daniel James, 2006 Contractor of the Year Richard Minton, NAAC Chairman. Below: Peter Debenham, Kleber and Nick Fone, Farmers Weekly








Farm Facts

Suggitt Farm Services, Diss, Norfolk


WORK UNDERTAKEN Big square baling – 30,000 bales/yr Muckspreading 120,000t/yr Mowing – 800ha/yr (2000 acres)


MACHINERY FLEET Tractors – MF 6499, 2 x JD 6920-S, JD 6910 Loaders – JCB 541-70


LABOUR Seven full-time staff, plus three part-time in busy spells








WHAT THE JUDGES LIKED


  • Building a reputation for quality service
  • Uses specialist advice and computerised records
  • Costs now accurately recorded for equipment and machines are helping with financial decisions for replacements
  • H&S, training and staff motivation considered a priority
  • Last four years a steep learning curve. Have made use of NFU and machinery ring
  • New baling and foraging contracts, has taken over an existing round keen to explore energy crops, compost and bio-gas opportunities