Bale feeder cre­ator lis­tens to his clients

South Waikato News - - RURAL DELIVERY -

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.

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