Diversity and scale the key to longevity for successful Gippsland contractors
GEOFF Allen started Allens Contracting near Leongatha in Victoria's Gippsland region more than half a century ago when was just 18 years of age. Today at the age of 70, he is still active in the business, although his son Mike has largely taken over day-to-day activities of the diverse organisation. In fact 42 year-old Mike is quite the veteran too, having started in the business when he was 16. Allens Contracting runs 32 pieces of equipment including 100 to 200kW farm tractors, mowers, balers, forage wagons, ploughs, bull dozers, 20 to 28 tonne excavators, Volvo and Hitachi wheel loaders, road graders, rollers, triaxle drop deck floats to move equipment mostly within 60km of home base and tip trucks and trailers mostly to handle bulk material. The Allens also run a quarry, a deer farm and a garden supplies business in nearby Wonthaggi. While the important earthmoving side of the business demands big machines, the Allens have invested heavily in large forage conservation equipment. They have mowers capable of harvesting grass at the rate of five to 10ha/hour and two forage pick-up wagons which can hold 38 cubic metres of wilted plant material. They then usually cart the material to sites near a dairy where a wheel loader compacts it into a clamp that is later covered with tyre weighted plastic to seal and protect it. Mike said clamped silage was increasingly more popular than plastic covered round bales because it was significantly cheaper to ensile and store. However in a wet year round bales come to the fore when large areas of mown pasture would be vulnerable to the elements. The Allens cut about 1500ha a year for silage and about 3000 big square hay bales around Nerrena about 10km south east of Leongatha. The season runs from September to the end of December and sometimes into January. On the earthmoving side of the business, the Allens mostly use two 14 tonne Hitachi excavators to excavate dairy effluent ponds, build dairy feed pads and excavate small wetlands for new environmentally-aware residential housing estates. Mike said the days are now gone when a contractor could walk a bulldozer across farms for maybe months on end, building gully dams on different farms as he went. He said the State Government had pretty well put paid to that by proclaiming a law which says that farmers must buy a water licence for the amount of water they want to store in a proposed dam.
That means engaging engineers and confronting considerable ‘red tape' and expense. Construction of cow pads where cows can eat and rest and keep pressure off wet paddocks are almost essential now on high rainfall, high production Gippsland dairy farms. The Allens utilise clay, sand and gravel from their Toora Peerless Gravel and Sands quarry, 50km south east of Leongatha, to build suitably elevated and compacted pads to keep cows dry. Mike said they are typically 7m-13m wide and need one cubic metre of gravel, sand and clay for each square metre of surface area. The quarry produces 3mm-7mm, 7mm14mm and 14mm-40mm diameter pebbles, as well as washed concrete sand, screened bedding sand and screened gravel for cow tracks and roads. The wash plant was designed and built to extract four different products from the raw material. The Allens have equipped a 24 tonne Hitachi ZX240 excavator with belly guards, strengthened upper structure, heavy-duty undercarriage and a mulcher to mulch trees up to 300mm in diameter as well as to handle other arduous conditions of forestry work. As well they operate a 28 tonne Dressta bulldozer generally for heavy duty earthmoving on various projects. Recently the Allens completed a 20km rail trail from Foster to Welshpool. That involved earthmoving, installing culverts and gravelling the already mostly elevated and previously railed gradient. Their deer farm runs about 250 red deer which are bred for their antlers and meat and are sold for export via a Myrtleford abattoir. However Mike said he was likely to only run deer for another few years before replacing them cattle. For the future he and his wife have four daughters. But he believes “there is some (contracting) talent there” for extending the business into the next generation. Details: Allens Contracting, 0417 550 568
Two excavators and a Dressta bulldozer initiate work for a weather proof cow pad on a Gippsland dairy farm.
Carting silage through a river on a 450 cow dairy farm near Toora.
Allens Contracting’s Toora quarry is about 50km from its base near Leongatha. Overall contracting operations extend in a 60km radius circle from Leongatha.
The Allens install culverts on the 20km Foster to Welshpool rail trail.