What’s in your shed? Northumberland contractor shows us around

The latest in our series snooping around readers’ farm machinery sheds takes us to Northumberland. Oliver Mark visits Paul Frater (pictured front, centre), who farms with his father Stoker (back, left) and uncle William.

How loyal are you to individual brands?

We’ve run New Holland tractors for a few years now and, because not many people around here run blue tractors, people recognise us when we’re driving about. Sometimes I think we’re too loyal, but it’s better the devil you know.

See also: Read more What’s In Your Shed?

Who is your favourite dealer and why?

Lloyd and Rickerby get most of our custom, partly because they’re quite nearby in Alnwick. All of the tractors are bought through Lloyd, and we appreciate the backup from Steve and his workshop team. Rickerby sorts our grassland machinery – Claas has the job sewn up and we’re looked after well.

Farm facts – D&S Frater, Abberwick Farm, Alnwick, 

What farming/contracting do you do?

Farming 810ha across three farms – 730ha grassland and 
80ha arable

Contracting 1,000ha silage, 500ha stubble-to-stubble arable, muckspreading over 15 different farms and slurry spreading over six, another 60ha baling and wrapping

Livestock 1,800 Whitefaced sheep, 300 Limousin-cross cows put to Angus bulls

Cropping 80ha barley and 

Staff Five full-time, 
10 at peak

Favourite piece of kit?

Paul: Our New Holland T7.220 – it had a few faults to begin with, but I get on with it well now.

Stoker: It is the John Deere 2258 combine for me because it has been very reliable. If we do have any trouble, we have got John Manners combine breakers just down the road.

Least favourite piece of kit?

Our remote-control Parmiter TR34 bale wrapper. It is pretty temperamental – just like the chap who operates it.

Latest purchase? What do you think of it?

A 50th anniversary New Holland T7.200, which looks a nice tractor. We have also just bought a Claas Liner 2900 rake, which has been busy on the grass this summer.

Oldest piece of machinery still at work?

We’ve got a few old International tractors. The 275 is about 50 years old and works on yard-scraping in the winter and making small square hay bales in the summer.

How long do you keep your machines?

The main tractors stay for about five years. We usually keep them for one year after the warranty finishes and do all of the servicing ourselves. Other machines are shifted if they become unreliable or expensive to keep going.

What is next on your wishlist?

A new combine – either another Deere or a New Holland. But we’d also like to add some more cows to the suckler herd, so a few extra sheds would be nice, too.

Most embarrassing machinery mistake?

Paul: Tipping a load of straw on to a parked car in Alnwick. Regrettably the owner of the car also worked with my wife, so it was fairly embarrassing.

Kit list

Tractors 5x New Holland T7.200, 2x New Holland T7.220, New Holland TM130, TM140, TS115

Forager Claas Jaguar 870

Combine John Deere 2258

Telehandlers JCB 320, Manitou MLA 628, Merlo 32.6

Cultivations 2x Five-furrow Kverneland ploughs, Simba Flatlift subsoiler, John Deere direct drill 4m, Kuhn combination drills 3m and 4m, Simba Cambridge rolls 5m

Transport 5x West 12t trailers, Cross, NC and Star slurry tankers – 1,500gal, 2,000gal and 3,000gal, 2x Bunning Lowlander muckspreaders

Grass Claas Liner 2900 rake, Claas front and rear mowers, Major 390 topper, New Holland BR7060 round baler

Stoker: I managed to hit our parked combine while mowing grass in a 20ha field, which Paul still reminds me about.

Most awkward grease nipple?

All grease nipples are a pain because the gun is always empty and you can’t avoid getting dirty when loading a new cartridge.

What’s your best invention?

Last year we built a calf catcher that attaches to our Honda ATV. I do all the cows myself, so with this I can catch the calf, tag it and spray it without getting attacked by the cow. We’re going to try to make a few more this winter and see if we can sell a couple.

What couldn’t you live without in the workshop?

Paul: It is the compressor for me – you can’t go far on a flat tyre.

Stoker: The pressure washer is important for anyone running a contracting outfit. We like to keep the machinery as clean as possible – it gives the right impression to the customer and hopefully means the machinery will last longer, too.

Do you buy second-hand?

We usually buy new tractors and telehandlers but if there’s a bargain to be had then we’ll take it. Dad (Stoker) loves searching farmyards for a bargain, particularly when it comes to bale trailers and power harrows.

Favourite/least favourite job?

Paul: I enjoy corn carting and chopping grass. Least favourite is muckspreading.

Stoker: Favourites are combining and ploughing, but I will avoid round baling if I can.

What’s your everyday transport?

Paul: I have a 56-plate Nissan Navara and it has been brilliant, but I fancy a seven-seat Land Rover Discovery to make life easier hauling the gang about.

Stoker: I have a Jaguar XF, but it’s no good off-road.

Best tractor you’ve ever had?

Paul: We had an R-reg New Holland 8260 that practically ran on fresh air.

Stoker: For me it’s the TM130 – a nice, compact tractor.

Biggest machinery bargain?

A Keenan feeder wagon we bought nine years ago for £1,000 and ran for three years. We then sold it for £3,000, although the replacement wasn’t cheap. We now run a Mech Fiber 320.

Biggest myth to do with farm machinery?

Paul: Keeping machinery inside is a false economy. We try to get as much under cover as we can because it doesn’t last long if it’s battered by the weather.

Stoker: It doesn’t matter how things look. Cleanliness is very important in my opinion.

What would you buy if you won the lottery?

Paul: I’d go shopping for 1,000ha of arable land in the Borders with a big house.

Stoker: More land and a big villa in Spain for me.

Any machinery toys/classics lurking in the shed?

We’ve got a handful of International 275s and a 441 in the barn. They get used fairly often doing yard scraping, but it’s not the best advert if they’re seen on the road.