Going from a one-man tractor band to now running a 1.8 million turnover business, is exactly what Aberdeenshire agricultural contractor, Scott Telford has done.

Established just 18 years ago, Scott has worked his way to the top with his ever-growing company – Telford Contracting Ltd – now based at Floors Farm, Stonehaven.

Born on a 200-acre dairy farm, with not enough work for Scott, saw him go to Craibstone Scottish Agricultural College to grant himself an honours degree in Agriculture, before travelling to New Zealand to gain experience by working with a drainage and silage contractor.

“My passion was then clear, I started on my own and purchased my first tractor at the age of 24 with no help from anyone. I worked as much as I could,” said Scott.

“It wasn’t an easy start with arable contracting work being seasonal. It didn’t take me long to get into the gritting world, which helped keep me busy in the winter,” he added, and now grits 130 sites per night between Peterhead, Aberdeen and Dundee.

The company has thrived over the years, now employing 15 members of staff between the contracting business and their latest diversification three years ago, into haulage.

This allows them to source and move animal feed and straw to their customers along with providing general haulage.

Scott also provides field drainage and civil work and has recently invested in a specialised trenching drainage machine for the larger agricultural drainage schemes as well as for the drainage of golf courses.

If that is not enough to keep Scott and his team busy, he also farms his own 550-acre farm at Stonehaven.

The Scottish Farmer:

Claas Lexion 770 mounted with the 1050 Vario cutting head Ref:RH050820404

What areas do you cover?

We try to keep our agricultural work within a 40-mile radius from Stonehaven.

We find there is plenty work for the contracting side of things, however, we are always open to new clients and will go further afield if required.

Obviously, the lorries travel and cover a much wider radius.

What keeps you the busiest throughout the year?

Our company has a proud fleet of agricultural machinery and a versatile range of accessories and attachments for all aspects of agricultural contracting, including fertiliser spreading, grass seeding, silage work, verge cutting and more.

Between combine harvesting, GPS OnePass sowing and a lot of crop spraying, there is always something on the go, however, it is not just agriculture work that we do.

We are flexible and keen to please as many people as we can – if someone comes to us with a quirky idea we are here to help and take on the challenge!

With the winter months being quieter on the contracting side, we take on gritting and snow clearing, to maximise our work throughout the year.

In the summer we do a lot of reseeding, including golf courses and large landscaping projects.

We were involved in the new Aberdeen bypass (AWPR), which helped our business expand further.

There was a requirement for tractors, Hiab trailers, dust suppression tankers and trailers for moving supplies around the job.

Nearer the end of job, we were engaged by the AWPR project management to undertake field re-instatement and field drainage work.

Field drainage has become a significant part of my business and we have recently travelled as far as the Borders to undertake such work.

The Scottish Farmer:

Alpego Foldable pneumatic Seed-dri and Multifunctional Hopper mount on the New Holland T7.260 tractor Ref:RH050820408  

How important are your staff to your business?

They are essential and we could not do what we do without them!

A lot of the work force have been with us for a long time and we are lucky to have such good guys that are always hard working and up for any challenge.

We rely on skilled men to do a good job and satisfy our clients.

We want our employees to be happy at work, so we do try and adhere to them and look after them to ensure they stick with us.

Has Covid-19 had an impact on your business?

Staff wise, we have had a couple of people on furlough and our office manager has been working from home. It was our priority to keep our work force safe.

The haulage side of things has been a little quieter during lockdown. At the beginning of lockdown, people were panic buying animal feed like there was no tomorrow but we have since went from the busiest we have ever been to more manageable levels. Getting parts was a little more difficult for a while as some suppliers were simply not open.

As well as some of our grass cutting jobs for local authorities being on hold, some contracts have been delayed because of COVID.

Fortunately, the work has now started flowing again as the rules have generally relaxed.

The Scottish Farmer:

Alpego Foldable pneumatic Seed-dri and Multifunctional Hopper mount on the New Holland T7.260 tractor Ref:RH050820408  

What changes have you seen over the years?

Machinery is getting bigger and more powerful. We used to run four 15ft New Holland combines and now run just two Class harvesters, one with a 30ft header and the other a 35ft header.

Not only do they do the job in half the time, it means we have less maintenance to comply with, as well as fewer drivers needed.

Tractors are getting bigger too – I started contracting with one 125 horsepower tractor and now we have six tractors, with our biggest being a 270 horsepower machine.

How brand loyal are you and which dealerships do you mainly use?

Most of our tractors are New Holland or Case. We get an exceptional service from our local New Holland dealer, Ravenhill, in Aberdeen.

The reason we stick to the New Holland and Case is because of them – they are helpful and look after us well as well as getting us going very quickly when we need them.

We also have our own in-house mechanic and what a difference it makes.

Having someone on site maintaining and servicing the kit has resulted in a massive saving financially, with less down time and this ultimately helps us maintain a good service for our customers.

The Scottish Farmer:

Alpego Foldable pneumatic Seed-dri and Multifunctional Hopper mount on the New Holland T7.260 tractor Ref:RH050820408  

How often do you change your tractors?

Generally, we try to change the main tractor every five or six years, clocking around 1500 hours annually.

The older ones get passed down the line onto lighter duties.

I like to get at least 10,000 hours out of every tractor, and they are able to do that. Servicing is a key factor for longevity.

What struggles come with contracting?

The nature of the job is seasonal and weather dependent, which means we try to find other diversifications in the winter to keep the business ticking over and the income coming in.

Long hours at certain times of the year go with the territory. Some people might find that hard or challenging, especially the 3am starts in the winter when we are gritting.

The agricultural work is also weather dependant.

The Scottish Farmer:

Alpego Foldable pneumatic Seed-dri and Multifunctional Hopper mount on the New Holland T7.260 tractor Ref:RH050820408  

Impact of weather on your business?

The weather during the summer is simply unpredictable so it becomes difficult when everyone is looking for the same job at the same time!

When the weathers good, we have to get the jobs done as quickly and efficiency as we can. We have to adjust.

If we can’t get out on the fields, we will ensure other jobs are undertaken such as maintenance or drainage work – there is always something to be getting on with.

Favourite job?

Much of the time, I am in the office organising jobs and speaking with my customers but when I do get out into the field, I love crop spraying and combining. I love harvesting my own crops.

It’s very satisfying watching the grain come into the shed and see the end results.

The Scottish Farmer:

Telford Contracting is based at Floors Farm, Stonehaven Ref:RH050820411

Best bits about contracting?

Doing a good job is the key to my business and if the clients are happy at the end of the day, you know you have done a good job.

What advice would you give to a new contractor starting up?

Engaging with your target market is the number one priority. You have to go and speak to potential customers, understand your market and let people know you are there.

Don’t just buy a tractor and bailer for the sake of it. There may be 10 people baling in your area already.

Ask what people are looking for and find out what it is your customers wants, as they are the priority!

Also look for slightly different things that other people are not doing.

When working your way up, there will always be challenges but you must stick in to get through it and the biggest focus is doing the best possible job, and getting your return customers.

The Scottish Farmer:

The team also provide field drainage and civil work and recently invested in a self propelled tracked trenching machine for the larger jobs which include golf courses Ref:RH050820402 

How are you future proofing your business?

We are continually changing and adapting our business and moving with the times, we are always trying to develop and strive to our fullest potential.

We will turn a hand to anything, winter maintenance, grass seeding, drainage and haulage are just some of the ways our business has grown into what it is today.

We are Tascc and FIAS registered, which are trade assurance schemes – this enables us to move fertiliser, grain and animal feed.

Landscaping and ground maintenance is also steadily getting more popular for us too.

We are proud to have reached ISO9001, Achillies, and Construction Line Gold accreditations which are required by many companies if you are to work for them. Already its opening doors for us.

Once you are on the schemes, it allows you to work directly with the main contractors and allows you to tender for bigger jobs.

We are always changing and diversifying into niche markets to continually expand our business and that has been the biggest success for us over the years.

The Scottish Farmer:

as much as possible all maintenance is done in house in the workshop  Ref:RH050820405 

The future of the industry?

So long as the land is farmed there is always going to be a need for contractors – farmers can’t do it

all by themselves, they still need help.

Machinery is getting more sophisticated and there is a big shortage in skilled tractor drivers to operate the machinery.

So, I do think there is still a strong future ahead of us yet.

Make sure and check them out here