Bumper sales at British machinery auctions

While secondhand machinery from UK farms is meeting a thriving world-wide demand – and finding its way to countries as far away as Brazil and Zimbabwe, as well as across mainland Europe – British farmers are turning to auction sales to snap up good-value deals on a wide range of well-maintained equipment.

At a recent sale held by auctioneers Brightwells at Madley in Herefordshire, there were more than 600 buyers competing for almost 1,000 lots. But the top price of £55,000 paid by a Warwickshire buyer for a three-year-old Grimme field loading station – about half the cost of a new machine – reflects the growing attraction among UK farmers for buying second-hand machinery under the hammer.

“The continuing strong export trade for UK farm machinery is certainly encouraging more farmers with kit to sell to use the auction system to achieve the best return, but strengthening sterling values – combined with the large selection of machines on offer at major sales – is making more home buyers aware of the opportunities to buy. And it’s the well-maintained, low-houred machines that are in big demand”, says Brightwells auctioneer Nick Gorst.

“Trends in what’s most wanted certainly change and reflect the way different countries respond to the varying needs of their home economies. But the growing market for a very wide range of all types of farm machinery, plant and equipment across the world is bringing big entries to our sales – and British buyers are benefiting from that,” added Mr Gorst.

Buying agents from African countries are regular purchasers of 1970s and 1980s tractors at the monthly sale at Madley and there’s currently a strong demand from the Lebanon for plant and equipment needed for the construction industry.

“We have regular buyers from Zimbabwe and the Middle East and a growing market for UK machinery from South America, particularly Brazil. A lot of machinery is still going to Germany and Holland, while the high tractor hire charges in France guarantees there’s always a good market from French buyers looking for good-quality secondhand machines.

“Demand is equally good from the Nordic countries and also from Poland. Excavators up to seven tonnes, including machines like the JCB 3CX, are always good sellers and can make from £6,000-£21,000. A 2006 PC 210 21t excavator recently sold for £41,000

“And there are some very specific requirements that bring buyers to the UK. We have buyers from Switzerland who always want the well-serviced secondhand “mountain” type tractors that we source from government departments, such as the Environment Agency,” said Mr Gorst. Brightwells has secured supply contracts with several government agencies that bring a good choice of well-maintained machinery and equipment “with provenance” to the sale.

“There are a lot of farmers running contracting businesses who are now diversifying into a wider market, including environmental work and grounds maintenance. They are always on the look out for specialist kit and equipment such as mowers, rollers, spikers and slitters that come to us from government agencies, as well as seven- and eight-year-old tractors with very low hours,” says Mr Gorst.

The secondhand tractor trade remains strong and, coupled with the changes in sterling, will certainly mean greater opportunities for UK buyers to compete with the export trade. Typical prices at the most recent sale at Madley saw £26,500 paid for a 2008 John Deere 6330, £12,500 for a New Holland TS100 and £12,500 for a 2008 Case Maxuum Multicontroller 130.

“Buying tractors and machinery from reliable sources is a big attraction, but we’re also now seeing more farmers turning to the secondhand market for all sizes of excavators and harvesting equipment.”

“While there’s been a resurgence in demand from Irish buyers, the home market for 90-120hp tractors remains very good indeed,” says Mr Gorst. The Madley sale is selling about 40 tractors a month.

The market for secondhand farm machinery looks set to remain strong for the foreseeable future, reflecting the tightening supply resulting from lower volume sales of new equipment into the farming sector and the building industry. While changes to the euro have created a slight reduction in demand from foreign buyers, there remains a healthy balance between supply and demand, which is working for both vendors and purchasers.

“There’s definitely a big increase in buyers looking for well-maintained and low-houred machinery and it continues to command a premium. There’s a shortage of younger, better-quality machinery coming on to the market and it’s readily selling for between £25,000-£50,000. So while the trend is for secondhand machinery to hold or probably increase its value, there are still some good opportunities for UK farmers, both as buyers and sellers.”

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