New NAAC chairman aims to improve farm contractor funding

Martin Hays is the new man at the helm of the NAAC. Jill Hewitt finds out why he took the role and what makes him tick.

Well-respected Derbyshire contractor Martin Hays has been elected as the new chairman of the National Association of Agricultural Contractors (NAAC).

His business began in 1992 and he now farms 100ha, offering an extensive range of contracting services with the help of one full-time member of staff.

Taking careful financial decisions has been key to the business and Mr Hays has preferred to be risk averse, rather than rapidly expanding his business, because it helps him maintain top customer service and satisfaction.

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Now 24 years later, he remains fully hands-on doing the job he loves.

“I still get a buzz getting up at the crack of dawn and tackling the challenges that contracting brings. Every day is different with the weather and pressure of the seasons, but no matter how tough or long the job has been it’s all worth it if the farmer is pleased.”

Mr Hays has focused on repeat business and some loyal customers have remained with him throughout his career.

The business also tries not to chase work as this puts more pressure on pricing. As the dairy sector feels the strain of low milk prices the competition for umbilical work has tightened, but Mr Hays still refuses to undercut his rivals.

‘It’s the road to nowhere,” he says.

“Contractors must cost jobs properly and do the work on time. In Cheshire there are some out there doing basic umbilical work for £50/hour – I charge £80/hour.”

“Customers looking at figures alone may opt for the cheaper price but they need to talk to the contractor and think the job through. I have spent thousands kitting out my machine with a flowmeter, dribble bar and high-tech computer. This means I can be certain that the slurry tank can be accurately emptied at the correct rates on the land available, making my work efficient and, in many cases, more cost-effective on an hourly basis.”

NAAC chairman

In his new role as chairman of the NAAC, Mr Hays is already getting involved in Defra meetings to discuss funding available for contractors – something he has experience of having secured a substantial grant five years ago to purchase a new slurry tanker with injector.

He’s keen to ensure that contractors have access to many of the agricultural opportunities available to land owners.

“Contractors are effectively farmers without land and we play a key role in food production. As a professional industry it’s vital we all stand together to protect the future of our sector,” he says.

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