small TALK

Har­ri­son Hunkin speaks to in­dus­try an­a­lyst Alan Kirsten to get his top 10 tips for small acreage farm­ers

Farms & Farm Machinery - - Special Feature -

If we had one piece of ad­vice for the small acreage farm­ers out there, it’s “do your re­search”.

That’s what Agriv­iew man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Alan Kirsten tells us when we speak to him about the in­dus­try and all the dos and don’ts of pur­chas­ing agri­cul­tural equip­ment suited for life­style farm­ing op­er­a­tions.

Small-acreage farm­ers – also re­ferred to as start-up or life­style farm­ers – are com­monly pro­fes­sion­als who work at their main job dur­ing the week and re­tire to the com­fort of their prop­erty come week­ends.

And, like the rest of the agri­cul­ture ma­chin­ery mar­ket, the small-acreage sec­tor is thriv­ing. (See page 38.)

“When I talk about the com­pact trac­tor mar­ket or the life­style mar­ket, I re­ally look at ma­chin­ery sales from the 20-60hp range,” Kirsten says. “The in­dus­try is do­ing well.”

More than 4600 trac­tors in the 20-60hp range were sold in

2017, while the av­er­age recorded over the past five years was just un­der 4300.

“The mar­ket is do­ing well; it’s been quite solid for the last five to six years now, and it’s great for the in­dus­try,” Kirsten adds.

Here are his top 10 tips for small-acreage farm­ers:


The thing with farm ma­chin­ery is there are a lot of brands and ma­chines suited to all sorts of work, Kirsten says.

“There are over 19 trac­tor brands avail­able be­tween 20 and 60hp to­day, and, of that, there are over 170 mod­els on of­fer. So there is an enor­mous amount of choice for the farmer, which only re­in­forces the fact that you need to do your home­work and ask ques­tions,” he says.


Don’t be in­tim­i­dated by your dealer, Kirsten em­pha­sises. His­tory has shown that head­ing down to your lo­cal dealer can be a daunt­ing task for life­style farm­ers, but we as­sure you they are here to help!

“If you’re a hobby farmer with no back­ground in agri­cul­ture, it can be quite in­tim­i­dat­ing when look­ing to buy ma­chin­ery,” Kirsten says. “You don’t know any­thing about it – you don’t know a good brand from a bad brand, what spec­i­fi­ca­tions, what sort of gear­box.

“It can be very in­tim­i­dat­ing for peo­ple who don’t un­der­stand what ma­chin­ery is; deal­ers have to pro­vide a lot of in­for­ma­tion.”


Deal­ers have com­bat­ted the above per­cep­tion by open­ing on week­ends, when the big farm­ers tra­di­tion­ally don’t buy gear.

“Sun­day isn’t the day the farmer goes and looks for ma­chin­ery, so the life­style farmer isn’t as in­tim­i­dated when look­ing for ma­chin­ery,” Kirsten says.


When asked what the es­sen­tial ma­chines for a small-acreage starter pack are, Kirsten is quick to de­liver his thoughts on the best com­bi­na­tion.

To­day, most com­pact trac­tors are be­ing sold with a fron­tend loader and three-point link­age, so Kirsten thinks ev­ery small-acreage or hobby farmer needs a trac­tor with a loader – def­i­nitely a slasher and a grader blade.

“That would be the ba­sic start,” he says. “It’s not just the trac­tor any­more, now it’s the trac­tors and the mower plus all the im­ple­ments. There are a lot of prod­ucts on the mar­ket to sat­isfy ev­ery prospec­tive cus­tomer.”


“We are see­ing farm­ers with a range of ma­chines for an ar­ray of jobs around the prop­erty,” Kirsten says.

So they’ll have a slasher to do their main pad­dock work and fire con­trol, but around the house or large gar­dens, these farm­ers will in­vest in a ded­i­cated mow­ing ma­chine, which could be a con­ven­tional out-front or a zero-turn mower

“So they’ll have a slasher to do their main pad­dock work and fire con­trol, but around the house or in large gar­dens, these farm­ers will in­vest in a ded­i­cated mow­ing ma­chine, which could be a con­ven­tional out-front or a zero-turn mower.”


Kirsten be­lieves there are sav­ings to be made by buy­ing a small-acreage ma­chin­ery pack­age if done cor­rectly.

“I would be bar­gain­ing hard with a dealer,” Kirsten says. “Tell the dealer that you want a ma­chine for X amount, but you want all of these im­ple­ments – what’s his best deal?” he says. “And I think there are sav­ings up to 10 per cent to be made if you go down that path.”


You should be switched on in re­gards to your dealer’s parts and sup­port ser­vice, Kirsten says.

“It’s one of the first things I would tell a farmer – you need to look at the ser­vice that you will be pro­vided.”


Prop­erty sizes have got­ten big­ger for the life­style farmer over the years, cre­at­ing a trend for higher-horse­power ma­chines. Em­brace it!

“Over the last five or six years we’ve seen the move up to higher-horse­power trac­tors as life­style prop­er­ties have got­ten big­ger,” Kirsten says. “And, with that in­crease in size, comes an in­creased de­mand for a larger ma­chine.

“The bulk of the de­mand is for 20-30hp trac­tors, but you’ll find that the 30-40hp range is in­creas­ing, as is the 40-60hp.

“The size of life­style prop­er­ties has in­creased over the years, hence the in­creased de­mand for higher-horse­power and larger ma­chines,” he adds. “So that’s the land­scape: we started a long time ago on small hobby style farms, now they are a larger farm al­to­gether.”


“You have to do your home­work,” Kirsten em­pha­sises again. “And you need to talk to your deal­ers and find out what best suits your needs for your life­style.”

De­spite ad­vis­ing farm­ers to con­sider higher-horse­power trac­tors, Kirsten says big­gest is not al­ways best, so don’t get car­ried away with specs you don’t need.

“You might be of­fered a 60hp trac­tor with all the bells and whis­tles, but do you need it?” he says. “You need to ask your­self how many times will you use it a month, and what your pri­mary use for it is.”


Kirsten high­lights the risk of remanufactured ma­chines; this is the process of pur­chas­ing a sec­ond-hand prod­uct over­seas that isn’t sup­ported in Aus­tralia by parts and ser­vice.

“Be care­ful of remanufactured prod­ucts,” he warns. “There are a lot of sec­ond-hand prod­ucts that come from over­seas, are put through a re­man­u­fac­tur­ing process, and then ar­rive here.

“Now the prob­lem is that some of those prod­ucts are well­known brands but are not nec­es­sar­ily sup­ported here in Aus­tralia in terms of parts and ser­vice,” Kirsten ex­plains.

“So if it hasn’t been sold by the Aus­tralian dis­trib­u­tor, it could lead to a prob­lem.

“I know there have been a few well-known brands over the years that have strug­gled with the fact there have been a lot of remanufactured prod­ucts com­ing into the coun­try, and they face the prob­lem with not be­ing able to sup­ply parts or ser­vice be­cause they haven’t brought that model into the coun­try.”

Photo: Az­manJaka/E+/Getty Im­ages

Above: Trac­tors be­tween 20hp and 60hp are most com­mon on small-acreage farms.

Photo: Si­mon McGill/Mo­ment/Getty Im­ages

The size of life­style prop­er­ties has in­creased over the years, like this one in Pore­punkah, Vic­to­ria.

Photo: van­dervelden/E+/Getty Im­ages

Above right: The choice of at­tach­ments is im­por­tant.

Photo: pixdelux/E+/Getty Im­ages

Above left: Mow­ing the pad­docks with a zero-turn mower.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.