Bale feeder creator listens to his clients
ATaupo farm machinery manufacturer is successfully riding out a slow economy by carefully lending an ear to clients’ needs. Feeder Leader Company managing director Terry Cameron said the key to the innovative business had always been to listen to what farmers wanted.
‘‘Every day I’m listening and talking to farmers to get new ideas to improve on what we have.
‘‘At the end of the day, you know you will end up with a farmer-friendly product.’’
The company has designed and manufactured round and square bale feeders since 1999, making its name with the patented design called ‘‘The Boss’’ bale feeder leader.
It’s a niche market but, as the name suggests, the company has become a leader in the field.
From initial production of 27 ‘‘Bosses’’ in the first year, the company now turns out around 200 a year, with an estimated annual turnover of $1.8 million.
Farmers across the Tasman have picked up on The Boss and several hundred have been been exported to Victoria.
The company has also diversified into rubber-tyred rollers, a machine called the Taupo Hand, designed to wrench stubborn scrub out of the ground and a feedlot feeder.
A new design – a six-metre tyre roller – is at present under patent.
All the machinery is hydraulic powered and operated from a tractor.
The bale feeders are designed to lift and unroll heavy 1.5-tonne silage bales, and be easy to use.
‘‘ We originally began selling tractors but, because of a recession, farmers weren’t buying them,’’ Mr Cameron said.
‘‘We were going broke so we had to think of an alternative product.’’
It was after talking (and listening) to farmers that the company decided to manufacture bale feeders which were stronger and easier to use than those already on the market, he said.
‘‘We were going to buy the feeders and on-sell them but we decided to try and make them ourselves.’’
Farmers wanted a big, heavy frame feeder strong enough to rotate silage bales between 800 kilograms and one tonne, he said.
The Boss weighed 500kg – strong enough to withstand heavy loads and included acid-resistant nylon bushes instead of bearings.
‘‘The competition took three years to catch up; we were on the home straight when the opposition were still in the stable.’’
As production increased, modifications were made in response to farmers’ comments.
The company is now split into a sales and marketing division and a manufacturing division with Taupo engineering firm – Grant Perry Engineering – sub-contracting the construction, employing a total of eight staff.
Mr Cameron said the company was weathering the recession.
‘‘It has bitten us hard and many farmers are reluctant to spend with high debt.
‘‘They are only buying what they need and we have to adjust our targets to suit that.’’
In the meantime Mr Cameron will keep listening to his clients.