Di­ver­sity and scale the key to longevity for suc­cess­ful Gipp­s­land con­trac­tors

Australian Farmers & Dealers Journal - - CONTRACTOR PROFILE - By David Palmer

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.

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