The latest in our Contractor’s Yard series is father and son team, David and John Scobbie, based at Shannockhill, Tillicoultry, Clackmannanshire.

David established the agricultural contracting business – D Scobbie and Son – back in 1965, with John becoming a partner in the business in 2003.

He was brought up on his family dairy farm, however there were two brothers at home, so there was not enough work for all – and contracting was something he was always inspired by.

John added: “I was always told to go and learn something else and gain experience before I came home to work, so I served five years of working as a welder, which I did thoroughly enjoy, but I always knew agricultural contracting was what I wanted to do.

“I always looked up to my dad and wanted to follow in his footsteps as contracting is something that we both have always enjoyed,” said John, who’s wife Carrie is also a key component in the business. As well as doing her many different jobs, looking after the kids and collecting the spare parts for machines when required, she is a godsend in helping run the business!

It is very much a family affair, with John’s mother, Margaret, doing all the bookkeeping to keep the business running. John’s brother, David, used to work in the business for 20-plus years, however made the decision to leave the company to set up his own pressure washer repairs and maintenance business, which is based in same yard at Shannockhill.

The Scottish Farmer:

JOHN ENJOYING driving his Claas Jaguar 850 forage harvester keeping the trailers full throughout the day of the first cut silage Ref:RH2506200022


What areas do you cover?

We are based in Tillicoultry, and work mainly around the west side of Stirling and into the east of Fife. We occasionally do work in Perthshire, just depending on what jobs are on.


What keeps you busiest throughout the year?

Our business has specialised into two main jobs, which are silage and slurry, but we also do some big square baling at harvest time, as well as 1500 acres of sowing between spring and in the backend each year.

During the winter when we are quieter with jobs, we use this time to keep ourselves busy with the maintenance of the kit. We place a huge emphasis on this to keep the machinery running when it should.

Maintaining any kit is vital and it is too expensive to neglect. Most of which we do try to do ourselves. I served my time as a welder, so it comes in handy with many of the repairs.


How important and reliable are your staff in making your business work?

We really wouldn’t be able to be where we are today without them. We have one full time staff member, Craig Hall. He has been with us for about 30 years, plus we get some self-employed men out to help at our peak times.

Craig is an asset to our company and we are very lucky to have him as he is exceptional at his job, without him our job would be a lot harder. As are the self-employed staff that come out and give us a hand, each one of them makes our work run smoothly – our business can only be as good as the guys working for us!

We are very lucky in that we get a great set of guys throughout the year – they are a real asset to the business!

The Scottish Farmer:

THE SCOBBIES’ Fendt 716 tractor and Class Liner 3600 fourrotor swather, gathers up the silage into one row ready for the chopper Ref:RH2506200021


Which dealerships do you mainly use?

Gordons at Strathaven, Fife Tractors, Reekie, J Low Agri services, and Kerrs at Linlithgow all serve us well.

We are very brand loyal and so we don’t tend to buy things too much on price, just on the quality and reputation of the dealer. It is important to us that dealerships are reliable and understanding of our business.


How often do you change your tractors?

We tend to keep the tractors for six or seven years, reaching around 9000 hours total, we want to get the best value out of them as we can – they aren’t the cheapest of machinery to buy in the first place!


Most enjoyable job?

One I always enjoy is chopping silage … who doesn’t love silage time? Baling straw is another favourite and both jobs have the most money invested so we need to get a lot out of them!

They are certainly some of the most satisfying jobs of the year.

The Scottish Farmer:

THE CLAAS 300 pick-up mounted on the Claas 850 forager keeps the silage flow steady Ref:RH2506200019


Best and worse bits of contracting?

The variety with the job is fantastic, getting out and about and not being in the same place, every day is different and who knows where it will take you ... it is a real adventure.

But, the unpredictability of the weather can cause many issues! Battling with the weather, isn’t easy, but our clients are very good at working with us. Most of our customers are long-standing and regular customers that we are grateful for.


Interests outwith the business?

I used to play rugby, however I have now got more into my skiing, although I don’t go away as much as I would like to. It is a great hobby to have, especially in the winter to keep me busy.


Is there a lot of demand for contracting in your area?

There is not a huge number of contractors in the area, so it does work out pretty well for us. There is always plenty of work about to keep us busy and we have gained a lot of repeat customers.

The Scottish Farmer:

MAKING LIGHT working of this re-seed field with this Fendt tractor and Kverneland plough followed on by a second Fendt with an Amazone power harrow Ref:RH1706200010


What struggles come with contracting?

There are 101 struggles that come with the job, but it is important that we learn to deal with them. It seems you get better dealing with them as you get older...

The hardest thing is balancing family and work as long hours are required when we are working at the peak time of year. My kids, Hazel (6) and Archie (5) are just too young to understand.


What advice would you give to a new contractor?

I am not wanting to put anyone off, but don’t do it unless you absolutely love it. If you don’t love it, you won’t make it work. But if you do, go for it!


What changes have you witnessed over the years?

The industry has changed massively. The main feature is weather trends – we have had wetter years, with windows getting tighter to get the work done.

This year has been an exception that we certainly did not see coming – the rain never stopped at the start of the year and now not enough rain ...

More farmers have upped their silage acres and people who used to do two cuts now seem to be onto three cuts to get their pits fuller and keep the quality up.

Since we are now mores specialised with our silage machinery, we are more kitted up and able to adapt to tighter windows, as well as handle more acreage.

Machines, on the other hand, have changed an awful lot and are certainly more reliable and efficient but that all comes at a cost!

The Scottish Farmer:

POWER HOUSE that is the JCB 418s with it Albutt buckrake pushing silage in to the clamp Ref:RH2506200014


How are you future-proofing your business?

We decided to specialise rather than diversify, so we chose to focus on silage and slurry as our main components of our work.


How has Covid-19 impacted your business?

Overall, Covid-19 has not had a huge impact on our business. Like the majority of agricultural businesses, our work has been as ‘normal’ with most jobs continuing as they would. Although a few jobs have been delayed, they are back on track now.

The difficulty for us was sourcing spare parts. It had been a struggle to order any in as many manufacturers have been closed due to lockdown.

However, before lockdown we noticed this coming, so we luckily purchased a few wearing parts which we usually need, which was a good decision by us at the time as they have come in real handy.

The Scottish Farmer:

THE SCOBBIES use Ktwo trailers to cart the silage to the pit Ref:RH2506200012


What’s the future of the industry?

I believe we are lucky to work in the industry that we do, but it can be volatile. That said, people will always need to eat, so farmers will be needed in some way. It is important that we work together and support one another.

There will always be trends of some farms doing their own work, but we believe there will always be a place in the industry for us.

The way the price of machinery is going up and up it is pretty much unjustifiable for each farmer to get their own kit – it makes it easier for them just to call in a contractor like us and that saves them the work and hassle as well …

We have plenty of work that keeps us busy and we hope that will continue in the foreseeable since we are both so passionate about our business.

The Scottish Farmer:

THE FIRM’S Albutt Buckrake in action Ref:RH2506200016



Claas Jaguar 850 forager

Fendt tractors (x3) – 724, 718, 716

Class Arion 650

New Holland 6080

JCB 418 loading shovel

JCB 320 forklift

Claas rakes and mowers

K2 trailers (x3)

K2 dung spreaders (x2)

Storth and umbilical units for slurry (x2)

A Kuhn round baler

Big square baler BB 9090

Five furrow reversible ploughs (x2)

Four-metre one pass

Power harrows