OUR latest contracting feature is on Arbuckle Contractors from Hill of Kinnaird Farm, Falkirk, where we visited Ian Arbuckle and his two sons, as well as some of the team, who have all worked with the firm for a number of years.

Having been in the business for 40 years, the Arbuckles certainly have a lot to celebrate, particularly the company’s success over the years.

What started out as an agricultural contractors, has now branched out into forestry plantation and civil engineering work.

Although the agricultural side of the business is not now the largest part of it, the Arbuckles still have a strong connection to the farming community, and are a perfect example of the importance of diversification, and embracing change.

All questions were answered by business owner, Ian, with some input from employee, Scott Dalgleish and Ian’s son, Andrew.

How did your business start?

I started up the business in 1978 when I was 20 and I got an £8000 loan for my first tractor. My father lent me £2000 to get me started. To repay the loan, I had to pay £250 a month towards it, so it was important that I got work quickly. My first ever job was at Willie and Hamish Muirhead’s Croftside Farm, and I did some ploughing and dung-spreading for them. I then came to Hill of Kinnaird, which sat on a total of five acres, and that was a great base, with my wife and sons, in 1989, at which point I bought a JCB digger, and it’s grown from there.

The Scottish Farmer:

THE TEAM’S John Deere 6125R fitted with a McConnel Power Arm 6085, and ready for a day’s work Ref:RH160218020

What kind of work do you carry out throughout the year?

The main agricultural work we do is reseeding, but weather is a big problem and we supply and spread around 10,000 tonnes of lime per year. We also do hedge cutting and forestry work, particularly in the winter months, because those jobs are not weather dependent and they keep the tractors working all through the year. Forestry is now becoming a big part of the business and, hopefully, that will continue to happen. We also do civils work, which keeps us the busiest and within that we do a whole range of things, including foundations and concrete works, groundworks for new housing estates, big construction jobs and sites, and mono-blocking on driveways etc, and that’s all year round. There is always a lot of work waiting to be done in the civil side of things as it’s just non-stop.

Oldest and newest piece of kit?

I wouldn’t say we have anything that’s old because we try to change our machinery every three years. I always say I would rather pay them up than sort them up. The newest piece of kit is a John Deere 6155R.

Favourite piece of kit?

My favourite bit of kit is our hedge cutters, because they are great in the winter time and it can give you months’ worth of work. And you can do it regardless of the weather. I also love our Moore Uni-drill for rejuvenating grassland. We have had it for three years and you can do full reseeds with it. For stony land, it’s a great option because it saves ploughing and cultivating, meaning it’s a very good cost-cutting method.

The Scottish Farmer:

HENRY SMITH working hard in order to keep all of the tractors and implements clean and ready for their next job Ref:RH160218022

Most/least favourite job?

My favourite job is ploughing and I used to enjoy competing in matches. I hate baling silage and I think that was because we ended up having to bale wet silage in November and December of 1985, and it really put me off baling.

How many members of staff do you employ?

We employ 12 members of full-time staff and we also take on extra staff during busier periods.

Who has been employed here the longest?

Scott Dalgleish is our longest serving member of staff and he has been here for 18 years. He deals with all of the civil work, along with my son, Andrew, who is a civil engineer. Our head foreman is Gordon ‘Beaver’ Campbell, and he has worked here for 14 years, and I am, generally, ‘the tractor man’, and deal with the agricultural side of things.

The Scottish Farmer:

ONE OF the tracked excavators putting back top soil around a recent house build Ref:RH160218026

Dealerships used?

We use different dealers for different equipment, and they are mainly HRN, Hitachi CM, AT Best, Lloyds, and Young Plant.

Best tractor ever made?

I would say my favourite tractor is a John Deere 6125R auto-power. It’s amazing what you can do with a smaller tractor.

How has contracting changed over the years?

In this area, agricultural contracting does not generate a lot of work. For example, only about 20% of our work is in agriculture and I would say the biggest change is that every second farmer now also does contracting. I think that if you were paying a lot of men, you would really struggle to make agriculture pay around here. I would also say the weather has changed a lot and that is our biggest problem when it comes to agricultural work – it’s just so unpredictable and is a lot worse than it used to be.

The Scottish Farmer:

THE MOORE Uni-drill, mounted on one of the Arbuckles’ John Deere 6155Rs Ref:RH160218023