Helen Harris: 'What is the value of having good back-up services for your machinery?'
What is the price of good service? What I'm really asking, is what is the value of having good back-up when you need it?
We are looking at changing one of our machines and there is quite a price difference between all the options and I'm trying to work out what 'value' is the back-up. Could you put a price on it? Would you pay an extra 10pc for a machine because it had better service?
All machinery should have good back-up, but the reality is that as a small island it would be uneconomical to have a lot of garages. So inevitably, some are closer than others and some are better than others. In the middle of the harvest, when there is rain forecast, a good back-up service is priceless.
We have always been wary of bringing in machinery from Europe and the UK even though there are times when there is great value. Not only because of the risk of bringing in black grass and weeds but the bigger reason is the back-up. Most machinery dealers will look after their brand when imported, but obviously will give priority to their own customers. I also prefer the idea of buying Irish and keeping the benefit local.
We have such pressure at times during the year, with short weather windows to get a lot of work done. It is really important that everything works when you need it.
Every time we decide to change a machine I'm always shocked at the prices. With the poor yields this year after the drought and only a slight rise in prices, I worry about repaying the huge loans. If we decide to leave it for a few years, then we end up where we could have to change too many things in a short space of time, which is impossible.
Nowadays almost all machinery dealers keep the minimum amount of stock in store, as it is so fast to courier parts from Europe and UK and because there are so many different parts, for so many different makes and models. Soon I'm told that will all be done away with and they will be 3D printing all the parts we need. I'm not sure that will be available any time soon.
As the cold weather blows through the yard, I have no excuse not to do the paperwork. I always put it off till the last minute, but it has to be done. I have written up the grain assurance book and said a small prayer of thanks that even during our very busy times, we write everything up on the calendar as it happens. It is amazing how fast I can forget once the sowing is finished.