Taking the limelight in our Contractors Yard series, this week, is a business that is very much a family affair – M Metcalfe and Sons – which undertakes part and whole farm contracts, share farming and is a specialist in leading waste from the food and drink industries.

Established in 1968 and run from their rented 110-acre farm, brothers Wilf and Martin Metcalfe saw a gap in the market and started the business using their father, Maurice’s Massey Ferguson 135 and McConnel sawblade and, with wages earned from working on other local farms, they also purchased a Someca mower.

In 1994, Martin’s son, Charles, joined the family firm and today, Wilf, Martin and Charles work alongside five full-time and seven part-time staff during peak periods. The Metcalfes purchased their farm in 1984 and went on to purchase a further 135 acres in 2008.

The workload is mainly split between forage operations, grain harvesting and crop establishment, with a fair acreage of solid and liquid waste application bulking up the company’s income over winter. Drainage, landscaping, and site construction work also keeps them busy during winter months.

The liquid waste comes from the local breweries and ice cream from R and R Ice Cream, Europe’s largest ice cream factory based at Leeming Bar. This side of the business has grown over the past 16 years and has been a real diversification in the business.

Due to the seasonal nature of agriculture, it means they are not solely dependent on one aspect of the business and have diversified into other areas.

Winter work includes full maintenance on all machines; modifying and fabricating new machines; using three 360° diggers and dozers, digging out lagoons, drainage maintenance and building site work; crusher buckets added to the 360 digger, crushes stones and farm waste; concrete to construct stone yards and farm tracks to comply with Environment Agency Rules; along with snow blowing and ploughing, plus gritting for North Yorkshire County Council – including keeping the road to the infamous Tan Hill Pub and Butter Tubs pass clear.

So there is always plenty to keep the Metcalfes busy!

The Scottish Farmer:

THE CLAAS Xerion with the 724 Fendt and Abbey tanker

What areas do you cover?

North Yorkshire and Co Durham – a radius of around 40 miles. Sometimes specific work can take us further afield, but usually one hour away is far enough.

What keeps you busiest?

The seasonal peaks involved within agriculture. The season starts with manure spreading, then early spring crop sowing, followed by maize sowing.

This leads us to the start of silage grass harvesting in mid-April. Combine harvesting starts around the second week in July and can last until the end of September.

Winter crop establishment starts in August with oilseed rape can last until Christmas if the weather is against us! Maize harvesting, manure spreading is also fit in during these months.

Summer is extremely busy, especially when we are trying to combine harvest cereals, haul corn from the combines, chop silage, bale straw, sow cereals etc.

But the leading and application of liquid waste keeps us busy all through the year, seven days a week, 365 days a year.


The Scottish Farmer:

THE REVERSE drive mowers making a good job on a sunny day


How important are your staff?

Staff are especially important to us. Often our staff are first on the farm and first impressions count. We believe it gives our clients confidence in our abilities.

Our staff respect the client’s requests and needs, as their reputation, as well as ours is just as important.

Most have been with us for several years and one of has been with us for 20 years and over that time they have all helped build a close relationship with our clients.

What dealerships do you use?

We operate a fleet of Fendt tractors. After purchasing our first Fendt in 1978, we have owned numerous amounts and have purchased several other brands over the years, but we have come back to Fendt and have been exclusively Fendt since 2010. These have all been purchased from PV Dobson.

All the green harvest equipment (mowers, tedders, swathers, foragers) and the grain harvest machines (combines, balers) are all Claas and purchased from Claas Eastern, at Sinderby. Claas Eastern also supply us with Kaweco tankers and seed establishment equipment.

We are brand loyal to Bailey trailers which are supplied through Ripon Farm Services and Russells (Kirbymoorside) supply us with all Vaderstad machinery.


The Scottish Farmer:

THE CLAAS Lexion 770 9.3m Vario 2019 combine has proved its worth for the Metcalfes


Favourite and least favourite job?

Silage and combine harvesting are one of the most stressful times of the year but also the most enjoyable when the weather is settled and everything is running smoothly.

Steam cleaning the manure spreaders after every job to ensure any disease is not spread to another farm is one of the least favourite jobs for anyone.

Favourite machine?

Our 2009 Fendt 936 has been with us since new. It has been a reliable tractor and will hopefully stay with us for a lot longer, maybe even making it into our little vintage collection one day.

Best and worse bits about contracting?

The best bits are when we have finished a job to a high standard and the farmer is happy. When a job is done right it is the best advertisement you can get.

Worst bits are the weather upsetting plans. When it rains for several days and then starts to dry up, the phones start ringing.

Every farmer wants his crop harvesting on the same day and trying to juggle jobs around to keep all our customers happy is difficult.


The Scottish Farmer:

XERION APPLYING liquid slurry to a spring crop


What advice would you give to a new contractor?

Make sure you have plenty of money! Machinery can be a big money pit!

Changes over the years?

There have been a lot of changes over the years. Many farms have been swallowed up by larger farms. Dairy herds have gone and have been replaced by suckler herds, this in turn has seen two or three cuts of silage been reduced to just one large cut.

Some have opted to grow more arable crops, so our workload has changed from silaging their crops to sowing and combine harvesting crops.

During foot-and-mouth, our flock of 150 sheep were culled and since then we have been solely focused on contracting.

A large acreage of potatoes were grown in the area in the 1990s, but this declined massively, so in 2003 we sold all our potato equipment and put on an extra combine harvester.

Machines have increased in size and capacity and the availability of GPS has helped to greatly improve output. From mowing grass with a 5ft cut, to now using 9m mowers guided by RTK steering. Combining with 10ft cutter bars in 1973 to now using up to 35ft.


The Scottish Farmer:

THE SILVER 724 with Horsch 3m Combination


How often do you change your tractors?

Tractor replacement varies on different models. Some of them can amass over 2000 hours a year, they will be changed every two years, but some of larger tractors are kept up to five years.

Key machines are kept under warranty, extended for the tractors. Where possible, we try to repair the machines by ourselves in our fully equipped workshop to keep costs to a minimum.

Is there a lot of demand for local contracting?

Staffing is becoming less on farms and many farm workers are no longer getting replaced, so farmers are opting to hire services in.

The increasing price of machinery is making it impossible for a single farm to justify the capital outlay on a small acreage. Contracting is essential locally for a lot of specialist operations such as maize sowing, forage harvesting, combine harvesting and big square baling.


The Scottish Farmer:

THE 939 Fendt busy at work with 6m Vaderstad


What struggles come with contracting?

The weather is the main struggle and getting farmers to be patient.

Weather is a critical player in running a contracting business – when it is dry it is so much easier, we can have a plan and stick to it, but as the last few years have proved, when it rains for weeks on end, it becomes increasingly difficult.

As soon as it stops raining, there is always a back log of work to complete and this is made especially difficult if it only stays dry for a few days. But with hard work and long hours we try to get through it.


After foot-and-mouth we diversified into the haulage and application of liquid waste from breweries and an ice cream factory. This has developed into its own business, which runs alongside the main contracting business.

We also invested in a 360° excavator at that time and now operate of them and a Cat D5 dozer for the construction of slurry lagoons and any site works.

The Scottish Farmer:

This 828 with Lemken eight furrow plough at work 


How are your future-proofing your business?

We class most of our customers as friends and visit them all during the year to maintain relationships.

In 2018, we held an open day to celebrate our 50th anniversary to which all past, present, and potential new customers were invited. We produce flyers for any new machines/operations we can provide to promote new business and discuss our customers’ needs and visions for their future.

By constantly investing in the latest machinery and looking for gaps in the market, we try to offer our customers a complete contracting service so they can focus on their business.

We also discuss with the client to find out what they want to do with the land long term and which machinery they would like us to use.

Once the work is complete, we follow it up by going out to the client and talking about the work we have carried out.

The Scottish Farmer:

THE SILVER 724 Fendt working with the Quadrant 4000


Any concerns about the future of the industry?

The weather, increasing price of machinery and availability of spare parts that are coming from outside of the UK are all cause for concerns to us.

Contractors are going to become more important to farmers as the increasing price of machinery is making it harder for the farmer to justify owning their own equipment.

Dry weather windows are just not long enough now and the reduced staff on farms make it harder for them to cover the acreage. So we do believe that we have a strong future in front of us.



Tractors – 15 Fendts – Fendt 942 2020; Fendt 939 2015; Fendt 936 2009; five Fendt 828 2018-2020; six Fendt 724 2018-2020Fendt 313 with Fendt Cargo 3X70 front loader 2018; Claas Xerion 4000 saddle trac with Kaweco tank 2019

Combine Harvesters – Three Claas – A Lexion 770 9.3m Vario 2019; Lexion 760 7.5m Vario 2017; Lexion 750 7.5m Vario 2018

Forage harvester – Claas Jaguar 980 2020; plus a 10-row Claas Orbis maize header and a 520 Claas Direct Disc

Handlers – JCB 541-70 Telescopic; Manitou 634 Telescopic

Green harvest – Claas 9400c reverse drive triple mowers; Claas 9200c autoswather triple mowers; Claas Volto 1300 tedder; Claas Liner 4000 swather

Balers – Claas Quadrant 4000 square baler and accumulator; Claas Quadrant 5300RC square baler; Kuhn 4014 autoload bale wrapper

Trailers – Two Bailey TD dump trailers; 14 Bailey TB16 grain/silage trailers; Bailey 28ft bale/plant trailer; Bailey tri-axle plant trailer; Ktwo 32ft bale trailer.

Muck and slurry – Two Ktwo Evo 1400 manure spreaders; two Kaweco Profi ll 23000 tankers; Kaweco Profi l 18000 tanker; two Abbey 3500T vacuum tankers; Joskin 22500 Euroliner tanker; two STP Stalprofil 66 m³ mobile slurry holding tanks; Bomech 12m trailing shoe applicator; Horsch Joker 6CT with Vogelsang macerator

Arable – Two Vaderstad Rapid RDA600s drills; Lemken Solitair 4m folding power harrow combination; Horsch Express 3KR 3m combination; Amazon EDX6000-2c maize drill; Vaderstad Carrier L 525 cultivator; two Vaderstad Rexius twin 630 press; Kongskilde stone bear; Globus 4m stone rake; Dal-bo Maxiroll Greenline 630 flat roller and seeder; Dal-bo Powerroll 1230 rollers; Kverneland 6m power harrow; two Sumo trios 3m; Lemken Jewel six-furrow plough; Kverneland EO85 six-furrow plough; Kuhn EL201-300 Rotortiller

Plant – CAT D5 dozer; Daewoo 225LCV 360 digger; Doosan DX140LCR-5 360 digger; Kubota KX080-4 360 digger; New Holland E18 C mini 360 digger; MB bf90.3 crusher bucket; Osma Mini-Forest 360 mulcher; Finley double skin three-way split trommel screener

Haulage – Mercedes Actros Artic lorry; Fruehauf bulk grain trailer; Kassbohrer step frame low loader; D-tec tri axle liquid tanker

Classic tractors – Fendt 614 1977; Fendt 308 1983; Case IH 956 1988