Machinery: Strong growth for farmer spec hedge cutter sector
The option of hiring a contractor is the correct choice for a farmer with just a small amount of hedging to cut, but at what point does it become economical for the farmer to start looking at buying his or her own machine?
It seems plenty are favouring the DIY route these days.
At an entry price of around €12,000, it is tempting for farmers with a farm size in excess of 40 hectares, which typically involves over 4000 metres of hedgerow. For farms of that size or greater, the annual cost of hedgerow maintenance starts to exceed the cost of making repayments on your own machine.
Expect to pay at least €45/hour for a contractor with a flail machine. If there is a lot of woody growth to be controlled, you are often looking at hiring a saw machine. In such a case, the hourly rate will be increased by another €20. The maths to having your own machine become appealing when farm size justifies the investment.
The main driver behind farmer owned hedge cutting kit over the past few years has been schemes like REPS and, more recently, GLAS which incentivise farmers to maintain a certain standard of hedgerow. However, increasing contractor charges and falling farmer spec machine prices have also played a part. What other reasons might be at play? To find out more this week I spoke to two manufacturers and distributors in the hedge cutting sales business. It is very competitive with lots of choice for the farmer, from the traditional brand names to cheaper imported machines.
Blaney Agri is a company with decades of experience in the design, development and manufacture of hedge cutting machinery. Their sister company, Quad-X, has spent considerable investment in developing shredding technology for a range of ATV compatible mowers. That technology has now been transferred to the Blaney hedge cutter range, which is manufactured in Northern Ireland.
Gillian Bonnar of Blaney Agri explained: “The shift in demand towards farmers buying their own machines in place of getting a contractor to carry out hedge cutting seems to be driven in part by the weather. Many farmers are not prepared to wait on the contractor if there is a risk that the ground will become too wet, which would cause damage. We have seen a noticeable shift in the last two seasons in farmers buying their own hedge cutters, with a trend towards higher specification machines with features such as power slew. Some of these farmers are also doing a small amount of contracting work to offset their investment.”