Next to take to the limelight in our Contractors Yard series is Aberdeenshire contractor, Mark Lorimer, based at The Gammons, Rothienorman, Inverurie.

Always involved in agriculture, Mark started out on his own in 2006 under the trade name, MS Lorimer, after contracting for five years for someone else prior to that. It all began with £5000, purchasing a Renault 816 from Bruce Farming Machinery and has all escalated from there to a considerable operation in just a few years.

The majority of the work to begin with was with AA Carrots, which, as the name suggests, is a major carrot growing operations in the area and a business in which Mark still keeps in touch. They have always been there for advice and help for Mark over the years.

Just two years ago, Mark began a new direction and teamed up with four other local contractors – GM Thomson; Ross Murdoch; Scott McLaren and Colville Contractors – to help expand the business further, although still all operate individually. It almost operates like an informal machinery ring.

“Each contractor has their own specialist skills and we can all gain experience and knowledge from one another, so it really has been a great adventure for us,” said Mark. A decision was made to get rid of all of his full-time men two years ago, as when the bad weather hit there wasn’t a lot to do and proved that it wasn’t profitable to pay both labour and the machinery to sit in the shed!

“The team set-up has allowed us to cover a lot more work, as well as reducing running costs. We all have different machinery, and will all lend a hand to one another. I do believe that some of the business that we give away for some jobs – that we don’t have the machinery for now – we get back for the services we do offer. If anything, it has increased my profits and reduced my stress levels,” added Mark.


The Scottish Farmer:

LEMKEN SOLITAIR system on the John Deere 7250R Ref:RH100920196


What areas do you cover?

Generally, it’s within a 5-10 mile radius, however we have been known to travel up to 40 miles. We don’t like seeing people stuck.

What keeps you busiest throughout the year?

Baling is our main job! But alongside that we do some sowing, handle a lot of square bales, digger work and fertiliser spreading.

The washing and maintenance of the kit is a full-time job in itself. Everything needs to look good and tidy going out to a job as well as maintaining the kit to ensure it lasts that little bit longer.

Now that we are working as a co-operative team, there are very much fewer days that we are stressed out trying to cope with all the workload alone.


The Scottish Farmer:

THE BUSINESS’ Claas Axion 820 – Mark likes everything to look good and tidy going out to a job, as well as maintaining the kit to ensure it lasts that little bit longer Ref:RH100920207


What dealerships do you use?

The main brand we tend to use direct is McHale. Its experts are extremely helpful and know their stuff and their product is second to none.

For some of the Krone machinery, we will go to Alan Mackay Machinery, Forfar, as they are great at providing a service and knows that time is precious to us!

Along with that there are some national ones – Chandlers Farm Equipment, Agri-Linc and J Brock and Sons – but we also do use some of our own local dealerships, HRN Tractors, SD Agri, Sellars Agriculture, AM Phillips, Ravenhill, K and M Dey, and Redhill Farm Machinery.

Favourite and least favourite jobs?

I love the digger work and the latest addition, the Krone square baler. It is just new and different to me, so it has been off to a great start learning all about how it works.

Ironically, my least favourite job is round baling straw. I spend a lot of time on the McHale Fusion baler at silage, much of which is automatic, so when I jump to the round baler it is a manual operation and I am always distracted by the phone ringing. That gives me too much to remember … I am not great a multi-tasker!

The Scottish Farmer:

WELL LOOKED after – the Renault 155 54 that Mark learnt to drive in – and he’s now bought one with only 4000 hours on the clock Ref:RH100920201


Favourite machine?

The Renault 155 54 tractor. It’s a proper old school machine that I learnt to drive in when I was about 10-years-old. So, when the opportunity came up to buy it at a sale in England, it was a no brainer to me to buy it. It is a 1999 tractor and has only done 4000 hours.

Best and worse bits of contracting?

The best bit about the job is going back to customers year on year and getting to catch up with them to see how they are doing. We have a very loyal customer base, which I am thankful for.

However, when machines break down and the weather is going wrong, there is a lot that can be said about the job! The area we are in, the competition is pretty fierce, within a two-mile radius of our base there are four contractors fighting for the same work.

We are still doing the same acreage, but we have got twice the machinery now. As well as the bigger farmers buying in their own kit, it is not something we can even think of competing against. The bigger farmers are getting bigger and the smaller ones are disappearing.

I have always wanted to farm myself, however it is just not something that is realistic when you see the bids flying for a farm on sale nowadays. That said, contract farming would be a great opportunity for us and it’s something we have always wanted to do and so I might consider taking something like that on.


The Scottish Farmer:

TRACTOR LINE-UP: The veteran of the pack, the Renault 155 54, with the more modern equivalents, a Claas Axion 820 and John Deere 7250r Ref:RH100920206


How often do you change your tractors?

When I first started, I would be changing them every two or three years, but with the price of machinery these days, you need to make sure you are getting the use out of them before changing them.

So, we now have a policy of making the tractors do 10,000 hours before changing, with on average the tractors turning in about 1000 hours annually.

Do you advertise your business?

All our custom is through word of mouth. We don’t tend to advertise ourselves as we believe if we make a good job of something, the work will come to us. Our number one priority is a quality service.

In 2017, we were almost at the point of stopping as we just could not get the staff that wanted to work, or do the job to a high standard. However, I then met Scott and Ross – and they are as fussy and as keen as me to push each and every job.

Any interests outwith the day job?

Spending time with my eight-year-old son, Jamie. And cleaning my truck!

Not to forget my better half, Jodie Tennant, who is also involved in the business keeping the social media sites updated, as well as feeding us all at dinner time!

The Scottish Farmer:

THE LEMKEN Solitair 9 seed drill on the John Deere 7250R Ref:RH100920197


What changes have you witnessed over the years?

There have been drastic changes in all aspects of the industry from machinery, weather and staff!

On a wet day, no one wants to hear from you, but on a dry day everyone demands you to be in all places at once. I do also believe that weather patterns are changing – we are getting longer spells of fine weather and a mention of rain creates a mass panic… which does not make our job easy.

The cost of machinery has almost tripled since I began in the trade. When I started, a brand-new Renault tractor would have cost me £42,000 ... and a similar machine will now cost well over £120,000.

Has Covid-19 had an impact on your business?

Definitely. We had a lot of digger work booked in at the start of the year and 80% of it had been cancelled, which has been a huge hit on our business.

But we’ve also had a recent knock-on effect to us, as barley prices have fallen due to distilleries being closed due to Covid-19 and no demand for whisky. There is now an excess of malt barley, with some farmers even considering growing wheat next year, as barley will be worth so little it will not be worth growing.

This is beginning to hit our trade, as farmers are trying to do everything possible to tighten their margins and save money where they can. So, anything they can do themselves they will, as opposed to getting contractors in.

The Scottish Farmer:

IN THE cab of the John Deere 7250r, Mark likes to have all the info at his finger tips Ref:RH100920209


Are you diversifying your business?

Coming away from having full time members of staff and working in partnership with other contracting businesses has helped our future of the business. It has allowed us to specialise and diversify into different avenues that we would never have done before.

The latest sideline has been the purchase of a digger, which has been extremely popular already and is a totally different game for us. It has already proven a worthy buy.

We have always been looking to diversify our business, and efficiency is key! We want to be ahead of the game, which is never easy because you can’t always get it right.

In 2010, we purchased a baler wrapper combination, which no one sles in our area had and no clients were overly interested in it. In fact, in the first year it struggled to bale 2000 bales. However, we now own two machines and will bale well over 17,000 bales a year and the number of contractors that now have them is crazy – it is amazing how times move on!

Add to this, the recent success of the clear wrap plastic at silage time, this has been a real hit for the business, with the product recently new to the market.

We began using it last season, and were one of the first ones in our area to try it and has been popular since.

Have you any concerns about the future of the industry?

The price of machinery has really got out of hand – it really needs to stop becoming so expensive, or it is going to put several people out of the industry.

Also farmers deserve more value for what they are producing day in day out and that would leave us contractors in a better position. We are at the bottom of the pecking order and can only hope we are always needed in the foreseeable future.

Inventory list

John Deere 7250r

Claas Axion 820

Renault 155 54

Doosan eight-tonne digger

Six and four metre power harrow seed drills

Seven furrow Kverneland plough

Two Bunning muck spreaders

Krone triple mowers

Claas liner 2900 rake

Two McHale fusion balers

Krone 1270 multibale square baler

Welger 415 baler

Amazone ZA-TS 4200 profi hydro spreader