Looking back over a busy 2018

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It has been said that time stops for no man and that is certainly most true. Now here we are at the end of 2018 and when one would look back to this time last year one would have to conclude that time really does fly.

For T. McFarland Agri machinery based in Fintona, Co. Tyrone, the year always kicks off with preparation for McFarland’s largest and most dominant show and that is the Spring Farm machinery show in the Fintona Ecclesville centre organised by AJS promotions.

This year (2018) was the twentieth anniversary year for the show and, like every other year, special care and attention to detail was put in to having McFarland’s stand looking one of the best at the show.

McFarland’s chose to début Pottinger’s all new round baler on their stand as the show attracts visitors from all over Northern Ireland and also counties Donegal, Cavan and Monaghan.

Sales for McFarland’s were good in the early part of the year, that is, before the 5th of April. Popular machines were Pottinger wagons, Merlo Telehandlers and Erth Panbusters. There was another short burst of sales just before first cut silage time in May then sales after that date slowed down and continued to be slower than normal for the rest of the year.

As with every business sales can be very seasonal and can also run in cycles. For example, Telehandlers tend to have a three-year cycle. Wagons tend to run a six-year cycle, while rakes generally run on eight-year cycles. Then you will just get the random sales like bale lifters, slurry tankers, slurry pumps, shear grabs and such like.

While 2017 saw the introduction of Fleming equipment into the T. McFarland sales portfolio, this year saw the introduction of Slanetrac equipment. The Co. Meath based company manufactures finger bar hedge trimmers for tractor front loaders and telescopic handlers. McFarland’s have sold three of these since August.

Exceptionally good weather this year meant it was a much more relaxed silage season with fewer machinery problems due to the machines not having to be pushed to the limits to beat the weather. The glorious sunshine was almost too good to be true with some areas facing drought thus affecting grass yields for second cut. However the year finished up as good as anyone really could have wished for.

The month of May also seen the wedding of one of our mechanics, Stuart McCormack, to Miss Kerri Crozier. Their wedding took place in Kilskeery Parish Church followed by their reception at Lusty Beg Island. The happy couple spent their honeymoon on a Mediterranean cruise.

This year McFarland’s organised two factory trips for their customers. The first one in October was to the Fleming factory in Newbuildings, with approximately forty two customers in attendance.

The second was to the Pottinger factory in Austria which was held at the beginning of this month.

All in all factory trips are a very useful sales tool as customers can see at first hand machines being manufactured from the raw material right through to the finished article.

November saw the arrival of our new 2019 calender. The almost out of date calender of 2018 was based on the theme of “our shop window”.

It had a wooden window frame border effect, then four seasonal pictures of machinery and in the centre was the picture of a single cow indicating that all we sell revolves around livestock.

This new 2019 calender is based on the theme “a new chapter” on the assumption that Brexit will no doubt bring new challenges to our farming industry. The calender is in the shape of an open book with four seasonal pictures representing the four seasons.

In October this year I wrote an article entitled “The problem facing machinery dealers”. In that I stated that our current further education NVQ work programmes used by all Further Education colleges are not fit for purpose and I want to reiterate those sentiments again. Why? I hear you ask.

Well I have carried out some job interviews recently with students that have completed their level 3 qualification. The simple proof of the matter is that when questioned on straight forward systems like engines, transmission, electrics and hydraulics the answers were not remotely correct. Also the ability to think outside the box and problem solve is virtually non-existent.

I have said before and I will say it again. Our colleges are failing our young mechanics, the system is wrong and we, the dealers, are left with consequences.

In November I started a “Technically Speaking” article in Farming Life which I hope to run once a month until I cover the topics that people regularly phone me up about. These topics are designed to help you the farmer in maintaining your machines.

At this stage I would like to thank Antoinette Kelly, advertising representative, for her patience in getting our adverts drawn up and proofed and also to Ruth Rodgers, the editor of Farming Life, for her support in publishing our advertising features and write ups on the different issues of the day facing our farmers.

I also want to say a big thank you to our customer base for their continued custom and loyal support. This is not taken for granted and is very much appreciated.

In conclusion, I would like to wish you the reader and our customer base a very happy Christmas and new year, and above all don’t forget the reason for the season which perhaps is best summed up in the words of the popular Christmas carol “Away in a manger no crib for a bed, the little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head...”

Season’s greetings to all.

Aaron McFarland