Two sets of 4AG discs have been instrumental in the rapid growth of Callum Thomsen’s contracting business based in Patoka, Hawkes Bay. C.T. Contracting was formed on the back of the explosion of dairying in the summer-safe Patoka region. “We have pretty much grown through word of mouth, and seem to be getting busier every year” Callum says, “Initially we purchased the cultivation kit for our own farming operation, as back then, there wasn’t a lot of choice of contractors who came up to the area. Next thing we knew we were doing the neighbours groundwork, word got around and with the dairy expansion, the work and acreage just kept growing, till the contracting side became a business in its own right, and haven’t looked back since”.
“We started the business in 2005 with a John Deere 7830 tractor, 3.4mtr 4AG XT 3000 heavy tandem discs, a 5mtr power harrow, and a 4 row maize planter. The two main tractors are now John Deere 8310R and 7230R, we have added a second set of 4AG discs, 4.5mtr DVi 970 offsets, and will need to hire a second 7230R to keep up with the workload this season.” Callum offers a complete package from spraying to full cultivation and planting. Crops are either sown with an air seeder on the back of our 5mtr power harrow, or a 3.0mtr Duncan air disc drill, or a Taege tyne drill. “The direct drilling side of the business has grown of recent years.” “Another side of the business that keeps the team busy in addition to the ag side, is earthmoving. Running a bulldozer, 20 tonne excavator and a big dump trailer behind the big tractor, we keep busy with track and race work, siteworks for dairy sheds and feedpads etc. plus a lot of work with effluent ponds”.
His original set of 4AG tandems have worked over 5000 hectares, and are on their third set of blades. The ash soil of the region while quite light in structure, is quite abrasive, so we wear blades out quicker than many other areas. Callum is a fan of the unique ‘lobe’ blade from French specialist Forges De Niaux. We use the discs in a lot of broken country with steep faces, the lobe blades give excellent penetration and really hang on when the going gets pretty steep. We like the job they do in our soil type. The XT’s are heavily built to handle some of the worst of the terrain, yet with full hydraulics we can tune them perfectly for finishing as well.
Having taken delivery of the new heavy 4.5mtr offset discs in February 2014, Callum is impressed. “We have only worked 300 hectares with them, but we are rapt with job they do”. “The ability to fine-tune all the adjustments with hydraulics has allowed us to get our discing speed up to 12-14km/h while still leaving a perfectly flat, level finish”. “This has helped our productivity hugely”. Matt Fryer, Callums right hand man, has come from a background of working for large cropping operations in Hawkes Bay, so has had a lot of discing experience. “I have had experience with a lot of the bigger American designs of offset discs, and the 4AG 970’s are light years ahead in technology compared with the big old American offset harrows” Matt says. “There is so much adjustment with the 970’s so you can leave a perfect, level finish. There’s really no excuse not to make a perfect job, as all the controls are at your fingertips”. Matt has added a six-row maize planter to the fleet for the coming season and will contract plant all the maize for the business, which is growing in demand each year.
Callum describes the soil type of the region as ‘Pavlova country’. “While it is easy dirt to work, you have to be very careful due to it’s light nature. It is easy to overwork the soil if you don’t know what you’re doing” he says. “We prefer to do most of the ground development work for clients in the springtime out of pasture, when we have good structure and a bit of turf to play with. This helps in contouring the ground correctly and binds everything together. We get better results for our clients this way than developing paddocks out of crop ground, as the looser soil and structure following crops doesn’t shape and pack down as well”.
When asked about his thoughts on the 4AG company and run he has with their discs Callum was full of praise. “I have dealt with 4AG pretty much from the outset of business, and am ecstatic with the service they give me. The robustness of their gear for our conditions, and their quality of advice and service is pretty hard to fault”.