Having his finances spread across different enterprises to ensure a cost-effective system, Scott White, of White Agri Services, which is based in Biggar, South Lanarkshire, keeps himself busy in several ways.

Being a full-time mechanic offering service and repairs, as well as dyno and remapping work on top of a list of agriculture services, there isn’t a lot Scott won’t take on.

Having been brought up in an agricultural and contracting environment, there was little else that Scott ever wanted to do. Gaining that experience at home helped start off his career and has proved vital in the success of the business today.

“Our aim in the workshop is to provide an affordable service at a dealer standard. Although our contracting side of things is kept busy, we wouldn’t be as successful without the mechanic side, being able to maintain your own kit and fix your own breakdowns is a huge saver,” said Scott, who is continuing to expand the business and is always looking for new challenges ahead.

With the ongoing progression of the business, this past year he has taken on full-time employee, Andrew Wight, as well as getting help from his self-employed brother, Glenn White.

Where did it all begin for you?

I started White Agri Services in August, 2015, after completing my apprenticeship and nine years working with Bryson Tractors, in Lanark. I got to the point I was needing a change and a new challenge. I would get people asking me to do odd jobs, so I knew I had to take a shot at being self employed to see how it went, with the intention to get another mechanic job if it didn’t work out.

I first bought an old van and with my tools, would go about looking for work. I couldn’t believe how much work I was getting to start with.

I didn’t know how long my work would last, so a local contractor asked me to rake silage. I did that my first year as well, which is where the contracting side of things spiralled from.

The first year raking I did it in an old Fiat F100 tractor, as I didn’t want to make my losses too soon! Little did I know where it would take me to now.

Where it all began for Scott, the purchase of this Fiat F100 tractor, which is still out at work today

Where it all began for Scott, the purchase of this Fiat F100 tractor, which is still out at work today

What areas do you cover?

Our main area is South Lanarkshire, and we do a fair bit of work into the Scottish Borders to help another local contractor, although we are willing to cover Central Scotland.

What services do you supply?

We offer the full silage operation, from cutting to chopping, raking, buck-raking, tedding, along with hedge cutting, verge cutting and, more recently, direct drilling. We were looking for a gap in the market and there are not many direct drills working in this area – but it was a good move as we had so much interest in it that we had it booked out before it arrived!

The winter months also need to make our business pay, so through mechanical jobs and maintenance on our own kit, we also had dump trailers on all through the winter months this year to keep us busy.

The dyno testing has been a great diversification to the business, covering as far up as St Andrews and Perth because there is a real demand for it. People want to know that their tractors are performing the way they should.

Scott and Andrew doing some repairs on a John Deere tractor

Scott and Andrew doing some repairs on a John Deere tractor

What keeps you busiest throughout the year?

The mechanic side of things is always busy and there is a strong demand all year round for it.

On the contracting side of things, we are focusing on summer work, which means our machinery maintenance needs to be at the top of the game. Come silage season, breakdowns are inevitable and trying to juggle everything is not one easy task to try and keep farmers, our customers, happy.

How do you cope with weather patterns?

This is when you could call us ‘lucky’ that we have the mechanical side of things to keep us busy on the wet days, we don’t have men standing waiting for dry days of silage. I don’t think we could justify silage without the servicing and mechanic work, due to the number of wet days we get here.

How important are your staff to your business?

Very important, I couldn’t do it on my own and having people you trust to go and do a job to the same standard you want is a big thing. I need to be happy for my customers to be happy.

Andrew Wight originally took on a full time job, but we wanted him to be gaining something out of it as well, so he has now been enrolled for an apprenticeship through the SRUC Barony campus, which will be three years long and hopefully he’ll gain a lifetime career out of it.

Scott White (left) with his apprentice, Andrew Wight

Scott White (left) with his apprentice, Andrew Wight

What brands of machinery do you use?

Mainly New Holland tractors, with the grassland machinery all being Claas, with anything not being Claas certainly will be in the future.

The reliability of the kit is second to none in comparison to other brands and we are able to get parts from our local dealership, Gordons, or they will be able to give us something to keep us going.

Has the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic had an impact on your business?

Very much so.

On the mechanics’ side of the business, getting parts is an issue, parts are taking a long time to come, especially ones that are coming through customs.

Pre-Covid-19 we relied on and expected too much from the next day delivery service, but we just have got to make do and hope that it gets better soon. Any parts we use a lot of, or know we need, we try to be a bit more organised now and stock up on them.

We now look at any alternative ways to get customers moving again, whether it be switching a part, or making our own part if we can by welding it. If not, we can offer our tractors for hire to keep them going. We never want to see anyone stuck and will always try our best to get them moving as quickly as possible again.

What are you most looking forward to with the easing of lockdown restrictions?

Getting a catch up with some friends in the pub. Although work hasn’t changed throughout lockdown – which we have to be thankful for – I would always rely on my weekends for a bit of socialising, when you have been working yourself all week it is the boost you need sometimes.

The dyno is a popular part of the business covering anywhere in central Scotland

The dyno is a popular part of the business covering anywhere in central Scotland

Best parts of your job?

I simply really enjoy it. I was brought up into contracting and ever since being a young boy I have always chased the ‘silage bug’.

Getting the silage in dry and having a happy customer is great satisfaction. Silage mixed in with doing mechanical work is a good combination as I can give the hard graft at being a mechanic and enjoy the interaction and social side that comes with silage too.

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

Choose your machinery wisely and only tackle what you can afford – don’t try to jump in at the deep end and get into too much debt.

It will take a lot of blood sweat and tears, and although it might look good from the outside it certainly isn’t easy.

Running the kit and sorting it myself is definitely what got us started. Maintaining your own kit is a big thing in keeping your expenses down in the long run.

Is there a lot of demand for local contracting?

The way we are doing it, we help another local contractor, so neither of us are having to outlay costs for a lot of men, it is providing a good way of doing it around here.

We found that after talking to various customers there was a huge demand for the direct drill, but again it is not something that is really in the area. We were always hoping to go into a niche market and be that little bit different from our competitors and that’s the way it turned out.

We found that more farmers were looking to farm more efficiently and a big way to do that could be direct drilling to save ploughing all the time. It is a way to cut costs as the drill can do one, or two jobs at once, as opposed to doing several passes with ploughing, reseeding and rolling.

Another benefit of the direct drill is being able to go into land that is not suitable to be ploughed.

It took us a lot of research into the topic to see which machine best suited our area, as there are so many different types. We are looking forward to getting it out to work from seeding barley, to grass, to kale, to turnips – it can do just about everything.

The newest equipment, the direct drilling out at work

The newest equipment, the direct drilling out at work

What changes have you seen over the years?

People are trying to do everything more efficiently.

With the increasing cost of machinery, people would prefer to put more power into tractors by remapping as opposed to going out and buying a bigger tractor. Also, with the cost of kit, people are looking at getting contractors in as they believe it is more efficient than buying their own machinery.

Tractors can be volatile with modern software issues. Gone are the days when you go to a break down with your tools ... it is now all laptops and diagnostic equipment which we have had to invest in to keep up with the modern-day tractor.

We have a lot of loyal and repeat customers, which I like to think is due to the service we provide.

If you could change one thing, what would it be?

The phone ringing constantly and not having to wait as long on parts!

How are you future-proofing your business?

We have always got to be looking forward. Focusing on the remapping and investing in the direct drill are just two ways we want to push our business that little bit further, as we feel it is going to be the future of grass land sowing, farmers are going to have to look at more ways to become efficient.

I am always looking to expand. I have a few more ideas we would like to do, but we just have to build it up slowly and work away at it.

It is crucial to always be advertising your business and maximising your potential, which we try to do through facebook and word of mouth just to get more customers on board.

Any concerns about the future of the industry?

Despite the on-going concerns about the industry, farming is always going to have to be here, I have no concerns that way.

If farmers can provide a cost-effective system, we will always be kept busy. I feel there is always a need for contractors, purely for the ever-increasing price of machinery, it is hard for any farmer to justify all the kit that is required throughout the year.

Dump trailer work through the winter keeps the contracting side of the business busy

Dump trailer work through the winter keeps the contracting side of the business busy

List of inventory:

Fiat F100 tractor (1992)

New Holland T6080 Tractor (2008)

New Holland T7.260 Tractor (2016)

Claas Jaguar 870 self propelled chopper (2007)

Claas liner 2900 rake (2014)

Claas liner 2900 rake (2020)

Moore Unidrill (2021)

Albutt 9ft buckrake (2020)

Grays 9ft buckrake (2002)

Claas Volto 800 tedder (2014)

Lely front and back mowers (2014)

Richard Western SF12 silage trailer (2015)

Dimsport tractor dyno (2020)

Dyno testing keeps the team busy on the mechanic side of things

Dyno testing keeps the team busy on the mechanic side of things