Hiring tractors has always been a good way for small-to-medium-sized farms to have the horsepower they need without the cost and commitment of having that tractor on the books all year round.
But according to the hire companies, there’s increasing demand from big farmers for the sort of giant tracked machines that can really gobble the acres. In particular it’s Challengers and Deeres that are in demand, machines that otherwise come with a retail price-tag anywhere between £150,000 and £200,000.
Hawk Tractors, based at Shrewsbury, is a case in point. One of the largest tractor and telehandler hire companies in the UK, it hires out Deere, McCormick, New Holland and Case IH tractors across the UK.
The company started at the end of the 1970s, hiring out Ford and Deutz tractors in the 80-100hp power bracket, as well as big 4wd County tractors. The current agricultural tractor fleet runs to some 275 machines.
According to director John Smith, Hawk will offer 355hp Challenger MT765C tracked machines for the 2011 season. “We have noticed that bigger farmers are now getting into hiring tractors,” he says.
Often it’s because they’ve just bought a block of new land, have a lot of financial outlay and don’t want to buy more machinery.
As well as adding Challenger tracked machines to the fleet, Hawk also plans to offer JCB Fastrac 3230-65s and 2170s for 2011. Many of these will go out as tractor-and-trailer packages with Marston trailers equipped with full air-braking that meets the tougher braking laws now coming into force.
Knowing that you have a tractor and trailer that meets all the regulations is likely to have considerable appeal to any farmer who is uncertain about whether his current machines are fully legal and up to spec, he says.
Farmers who hire tractors typically do so for a six-week period in the spring and then for 12-16 weeks in the autumn, he says.
Ian Houlgrave of Lincolnshire, who has hired out Challenger tracked tractors for some years, has also seen a rise in interest among farmers for hiring really big machines. “We operate across the country and have noticed that we are increasingly hiring out tractors to farms that have never had them before. It’s definitely a growing market.”
Rob Jones Tractor Hire, a four-year-old hire business, is also boosting its presence on the track front. The Shrewsbury company has always hired out mid-sized Deere, Case IH and Deutz-Fahr tractors for things like corn-cart work but is specialising more and more in big-hp machines as time goes on.
It has a growing nationwide focus, too, hiring out machines to places as far afield as East Yorkshire, Dumfries, Kent, Lincolnshire and Essex.
The latest move has been to buy four of John Deere’s new 8345rt tractors with plans to buy another two for next year. It was the improvements over the previous models, especially in the track suspension department, that partly prompted him to opt for the Deere.
“The big farms who hire this size of machine know exactly how many hours they want them for,” says Rob Jones. “These are costly machines to buy – hiring them means no depreciation or servicing. They’ll have them for 12-16 weeks and then give them back – it’s a more professional way of doing it.”
He adds that farmers are increasingly keen to have the latest GPS technology (as well as plenty of hp) on their farms and that hiring is a good way to do that.
The 8345rt is the latest tracked Deere with 380hp under the bonnet and better comfort thanks to a new suspension system.