FOR THOSE who work alongside their parents, many would agree that it can sometimes be a bit of a challenge – words are never held back, and you never get a moment’s peace from one another.

However, the Gilbert family, of Whiteridden Farm, Kilbirnie, make it look like a piece of cake, with father and son team, Hamish and Hamish, having worked together for 35 years.

During that time, they have fully established their business, Hamish Gilbert Contractor, together and have picked up quite a few customers along the way, ensuring all of their needs are met.

We spent some time with Hamish snr and Hamish jnr, as well as Hamish jnr’s wife, Anne, who is company secretary, to find out all about their contracting operation and what keeps things ticking over after 42 years.

All questions were answered by Hamish snr and Hamish jnr.

How did you establish your business?

Hamish snr: I came from Coalheughglen Farm, Dalry, where my brother, Hugh, still lives and works, and I left home to work for McAlpine diggers and dozers, where I subsequently worked for 10 years. I think I maybe had a wee touch of itchy feet at home and I just really wanted to drive diggers.

McAlpine gave me an opportunity to go to England for further work but there was an opening for someone to start hedge-cutting because Bertie Borland, who had been doing that at the time, was retiring and I thought that would just suit me perfectly, so that’s how the company was started, and that was in 1976.

I started doing that with a David Brown 995 with a mid-mounted hedge-cutter.

I also helped Daniel Reid, Mosside Farm, Dalry, for a year and worked for him using a tractor and trailer and he told me that if I had my own forage harvester the following year, we could do his silage and we had, so he was our very first silage customer, and things then grew from there.

What changes did you make in order to grow the business?

Hamish snr: We bought our first forage harvester in 1979, which was a New Holland 717. It was expensive at the time, but it was a good way for us to progress the business.

We then bought our first self-propelled chopper in 1986 and there weren’t actually that many of those at that time, so it allowed us to progress things even further.


When did Hamish jnr join the team?

Hamish jnr: I left school at the age of 16 and started working at home full-time, at which time we purchased a new Renault tractor. I also did a course in agriculture at Oatridge Agricultural College on a block-release basis for three years when I first went home.

What area do you cover?

Hamish jnr: We work within the local area and do odd jobs further afield, but our main reach goes from Girvan to Roseneath, near the submarine base.


How many members of staff do you employ?

Hamish jnr: We have five full-time members of staff, as well as both of us, and we have up to 10 members of staff during the summer.

My daughter, Lauren, has also helped out a few times, driving one of the Claas tractors with a 16tonne Kane trailer on the back.

What is the main bulk of work that you do?

Hamish jnr: Silage chopping, slurry spreading, digestate spreading, muck-spreading, ploughing, hedge-cutting, excavation work, drainage work and over seeding.

We don’t do baling as that allows us to fully focus on the silage chopping.


Who drives the chopper?

Hamish snr: Me (he is 76). It’s nice to drive the chopper because they aren’t what they used to be and they are more comfortable nowadays.

Silage is intense when you’re doing it but it thankfully doesn’t go on for days on end like it used to, either, so it makes it more enjoyable.

Working is what keeps me fit.

Thoughts on 2017’s weather?

Hamish jnr: Last year’s weather was certainly a challenge.

It’s a wet area here, as it is, and some farms didn’t actually manage to get their second cuts done.

However, there will be plenty of grass in this area and plenty of silage in the pits this year, particularly since the rain came later on, it has certainly bulked things out a bit, so we are grateful for that.


How have things changed?

Hamish jnr: There are less smaller farms and a lot more bigger farms now than before but we can work for smaller farms just as easily as bigger farms and we will always do work for anybody.

Modern machinery means we can now do in double the time, but it is very expensive and the cost of it is rising all the time. An example of that would be that the cost of a new tractor has doubled in price since 10 years ago.

Dealerships used?

Hamish jnr: We always used to use Tom Murray, at Dundonald, for purchasing our Renault tractors and then when he stopped doing that we wanted to stick with Renault so we ended up dealing with Bruce Farm Machinery, Banff, and continue to do so to this day.

We use a number of dealerships in the local area, such as Agricar, Dundonald, as well, and that’s useful because it keeps all of our bases covered and it means we can get service when we need it.

We also purchase second-hand tractors because we can fix them up ourselves as we do our own repairs.

Doing our own repairs is a great way of being able to keep everything going.


How often do you change your tractors?

Hamish jnr: We change our tractors around the 8000 hours mark and we change our second-hand tractors at about the same. You can end up having some second-hand tractors for a long time because you can get some that have hardly done any work.

Do you have any other interests out with the business?

Hamish snr: I have a small pedigree Simmental herd, with followers, which are produced through AI, and the prefix is Whiteridden Simmentals. I keep them on our 24 acres of land and it’s a bit of fun if you get quite a good one.

We also have two horses which my granddaughters, Alice (Hamish jnr’s niece) and Louise (Hamish jnr’s daughter), love.

What are your plans for the future?

Hamish jnr: We always joke that we will need a stair lift so that dad can get into the chopper in the future, but in all seriousness, it’s hard to know what the future is going to be like, but we will just continue to take each day as it comes and keep working away and hopefully that’s what will keep us going.