What’s it all about then?
Working as an Agricultural Contractor means you’re a service provider for farmers who haven’t the resources available for certain roles.
You’ll likely be self-employed or perhaps have your own company and you may specialise in one area of the farm business, or have several areas for which you can provide services.
These different areas include crop spraying, applying fertiliser, harvesting, and working with animals.
What might I be doing?
You could be involved in a variety of activities, depending on the area in which you specialise; these include:
- Crop spraying and applying fertiliser
- Seed processing
- Seed milling and mixing
- Sheep shearing and dipping
- Animal management including hoof trimming
You could work as part of a team of employees although many contractors are self employed and have their own equipment
What will be expected of me?
As an Agricultural Contractor you’ll need to be someone who has good practical skills and technical knowhow; you will normally be working to tight deadlines so the ability to work quickly and accurately is very important.
It is also vital that you are well versed in the use of your equipment so that you can get the best results from its use; this means also being able to perform basic maintenance and operate safely at all times, without taking any short cuts.
Naturally you will be interested in all things agricultural and you’ll have to keep up to date with the latest kit and techniques regarding the areas of farming in which you specialise; keeping abreast of all developments will help secure business for you.
If you are self employed you will need to have some business skills to make sure the paperwork is accurate; good levels of physical fitness are also important for this career.
What can I expect?
The hours of work are likely to vary with the seasons and you can expect to be extremely busy at times and less so at others; when you’re busy you’re real busy and will work evenings and weekends in order to complete the work.
If you are working with animals you may be required to be on call at various times e.g. during the lambing season.
Working with equipment is physically demanding and you could be working outside in all sorts of weather conditions.
What about the pay?
Working as an agricultural contractor, you will usually charge for each job you do. The way you’re paid will depend on the work – for instance you might charge for your time for a job such as hedge cutting. Alternatively you might charge by the amount of area you cover for a job such as combine harvesting.
As you may be using your own equipment you will have to build this cost plus liability insurance into your price.
The professional body, the National Association of Agricultural Contractors, provides useful cost guides for different sorts of work and you should use this as a guide to what you might charge for your work.
Remember that any figures are for guideline purposes only.
What qualifications do I need to get in?
Although qualifications aren’t essential they are nonetheless very useful for developing your skills and knowledge in line with your experience.
There are loads of useful courses through the National Proficiency Training Council (NPTC) which is now part of City and Guilds, and these are available as college based study or in short course format.
Please check the website for details – www.nptc.org.uk
You could also consider taking an Apprenticeship which consists of a combination of on the job training and underpinning knowledge.
For someone thinking of managing their own contracting company, a business qualification is also valuable.
Where would I get these qualifications?
Your local Agricultural College will likely offer the best opportunity to gain qualifications and you should check their websites for details of courses that you can take.
What about further training?
There are absolutely loads of training courses that you can take throughout your career; in fact it may be useful to think about joining the professional body for Agricultural Contractors (NAAC as above) and sign up for a structured programme of Continuous Professional Development.
Anything else I might need to know?
Yes, this business tends to be highly competitive so it might be useful to have more than one string to your bow in terms of what you can offer; or, of course, become the sole supplier of a service within a region.
Many farmers also act as agricultural contractors for other farm businesses, meaning that farmers are able to share the cost of keeping equipment which may be used only on a seasonal basis.