THIS WEEK, we head to Larkhall for the next instalment in our Contractor’s Yard series featuring twin brothers, Alan and Stewart Turner, of Peter Clemson and Sons, which is based at Skellyton Farm, just outside the South Lanarkshire town.

This year, the twins are celebrating being in partnership for 10 years, after previously having different jobs. Alan was a contractor elsewhere and Stewart was working with livestock on the farm. But at that time, they decided to join and continue the success of the family business.

“The family business had been on the run for a long time now, long before either of us were alive, but we believed it was time for us to continue the success of the operation in the footsteps of our family,” said Alan.

The brothers operate one of the largest hedge-cutting businesses in the area now, along with many other agricultural tasks throughout the year, but their hard work seems to have paid off, with return custom and new clients keeping their business growing.

Alan and Stewart’s great gran and grandfather established the farming business in the early 1900s, which was run alongside a butchers and slaughterhouse in Hamilton. They rented Skellyton Farm in 1918 and bought it out in 1926 to run a livestock operation. That is now the base for their contracting business.

This generation of Turners has concentrated more on the contracting side of things, and decided to invest more time and money into this part of the business, leaving the livestock side largely behind.

“The name of our company – Peter Clemson and Sons – always brings us some issues, as people do not know it is us. It was our mum’s maiden name, so it has always been kept as this and we would not want to change it,” said Stewart.

The Scottish Farmer:

The pair of T154 Valtra's with their Mcconnell hedge cutters  Ref:EC0512192669

Who is currently all involved?

“Currently we are just a two-man band,” said Alan. “Our older brother, Robin, used to work alongside us when we were still farming but now that we are just a machinery-based business, he didn’t have much of an interest in it.

“He now works for the Department of Agriculture since leaving the business,” Said Stewart.

How long have you been contracting for?

“We actually started contracting in 1991, alongside a friend, which we had a great run at. But Stewart and myself, started in this family business 10 years ago and we have never looked back,” added Alan.

“We purchased more machinery to start up and built up more clients to keep us busy. We are always looking for more business and love seeing our customers happy with our service,” added Stewart.

The Scottish Farmer:

The John Deere provides the power for this bale packing operation 

What types of contracting do you do?

The Turner brothers said the main aspect of their business was hedge cutting, however, they have expanded into other areas. They are also involved in many other roles throughout the year, including dung spreading, spraying, grass seeding, ploughing and fertiliser spreading.

“We will do anything that our customers want, if we don’t have the machinery, it is not hard for us to borrow some to do a job. We don’t stop at any wee hitch, we are always pushing our limits to the max,” said Stewart.

“Keeping customers happy is the biggest future proof that we have for our business and we will beg, borrow and hire anything to keep them happy, and get any jobs done that we are asked to do,” said Alan.

What areas do you cover?

“We work, usually, within a 30-mile radius, completing jobs between Rutherglen, Blyth Bridge, Strathaven, Airdrie and Livingston. However, we do try and not turn away customers,” said Stewart.

The Scottish Farmer:

JCB telehandler is a useful addition to the inventory

Which dealerships do you use?

“We have recently just moved to Danny Ross for our new tractors, which is just along the road from us. We are hoping that, with their service side being close to us, it will work out well for both businesses.

“We also use Bryson Tractors, at Lanark, and Johnston Tractors, Dumfries for other machinery,” said Alan.

“We also work with Teagle machines as we feel they are reliable, good productivity and give a perfect finish to the job,” said Stewart.

What are your best and worst bits about contracting?

“The challenging parts are trying to keep customers happy. Everyone wants things done at the same time and sometimes they don’t understand that you have other commitments and other customers to keep happy.

“That’s especially as, of September 1, last year, the regulations state that is the first day you can cut hedges – and everyone expects it that day. We have regular customers every year that we have to start with.

“However, the best bit of the job is making a good job and seeing the customer happy with what you have done. There is nothing better than finishing a job and knowing you have made a good job of it, with everyone to see,” said Alan.

“Doing a good job is the best advertisement for us … through word of mouth is the best way to receive custom,” said Stewart.

The Scottish Farmer:

More work for the John Deere buck-raking in the silage pit 

What advice would you give to new contractors?

“The most important thing is to ensure you are doing the job right and doing it well. When the customer asks for a job, it is essential to get there as quickly as you can and help them understand your task and challenges,” said Stewart.

Alan added: “You also need to be able to set a reasonable price that will keep everyone happy. You need to keep the wheels turning as we, like any other business, need to pay our expenses.”

Does weather have an impact on your contracting?

“When it comes to seeding, it needs to be completely dry. We can’t seed anything when it is damp at all, so we need to pick and choose our days to make sure we get things done on dry days and the seed goes in to the best possible conditions.

“We wouldn’t want it to reflect on us if the crop did not come up right!” said Alan.

“It is important that we educate our customers and keep them informed all the way through the job so that they can’t come back and blame us for anything,” said Stewart.

“Some don’t understand why we need to stop jobs due to the weather, or why it will produce a lower quality crop, so it makes our job more difficult. We are just trying to give the customer the best service as possible, which due to weather sometimes can take longer than expected,” said Stewart.

The Scottish Farmer:

The teagle straw chopper helps out on local farms 

How have things changed over the years?

“There are an increasing number of contractors in our area and there seems to be less loyalty within customers, so this proves very difficult for our business.

“Also, people are expecting things faster for just the same price as 10 years ago, which is not practical for ourselves. Machinery is becoming more expensive as well as many other expenses and we need to be able to cover our costs,” said Alan.

How often do you change your tractors?

“We have just changed our tractors in December and as a rule we tend to change them every four years, as the hours can clock up on them very quickly. It also makes them look good to customers and minimises the number of breakdowns.

“We find if we change them more regularly, we get a better trade-in deal and it keeps our tractors up to the standard that we and our customers expect,” pointed out Alan.

The Scottish Farmer:

Adding to the spring and autumn work load with the Teagle power harrow 

Does health and safety requirements affect you?

“Safety begins with S but starts with U – it is mainly down to common sense and sensibility with the driver,” said Alan.

Stewart added: “We do complete all risk assessments and keep up to regulations, but if you watch what you are doing you shouldn’t have any problems.

“It is easy to run into problems with the industry we are in, but we just take extra care and keep up to date with health and safety courses.”

What is the future of your business?

“We are happy working amongst our two selves, as it means there is no paperwork hassle when dealing with workers, however, it would be great if brother, Robin was still working alongside us.

“If there is a quieter time of year, it also means that we don’t have to pay out wages when we are not busy and needing extra helpers. We are able to keep up with customers at the moment with just the two of us, so it works well for us,” said Alan.

The Scottish Farmer:

The Teagle dung spreader helps spread the work throughout the winter 

Any concerns about the future of the industry?

“There will always be a demand, people want their place to look tidy with hedge cutting and there are many regulations on hedges that they need to be cut to keep them off the roads.

“Along with the other jobs, I believe farmers will always still need us in some form,” said Alan.

The Scottish Farmer:

Teagle flair topper


Valtra tractors 140-160 hp x 2

John Deere tractor 90 hp x 1

JCB Telehandler 70 hp with a 6m reach

Teagle Titan 10 rear spreader

Fertiliser spreader Kverneland

Teagle Topper

Tine seeder

Vicon silage mower

Bailey dump trailers

Bryce post hitter

Gambetti sprayer

Kverneland 4F plough

McConnell hedge cutters x 2

Teagle power harrow

Bailey bale trailer