Contractor profile: Beckett Contracting

Born and raised in the area, Nelson Beckett has provided a range of services to farmers Rotongaro and Huntly for more than 20 years

There’s something to be said for never straying too far from your roots. Born and raised in the area, Nelson Beckett has provided a range of services to farmers around Rotongaro and Huntly for more than 20 years.  

The power of green is strong in the Beckett Contracting yard

With early aspirations of ag contracting, Nelson started making noises about getting started in the industry when he was a teenager. These days, along with his team at Beckett Contracting, he is at the helm of a well-respected local business.

Nelson has stayed close to the land where he grew up. The Beckett Contracting yard is based on his father’s 400-acre farm, which has been in the family for more than 50 years. Nelson, his wife Rachel, and three young boys live just down the road.

Aside from their contracting business, Nelson and Rachel own a bull farm at Onewhero, where they raise 300 bulls for fattening to sell. True to form, they keep their business as close as possible, tending to service a 30km area from their base.

“I got keen to get my own business started when I was about 17, so Dad and I went halves in a tractor,” Nelson says.

“It was the first John Deere 6920 in the country at the time.”

Rachel and Nelson Beckett with the next generation of drivers (Hadley, Millar, and Reeve)

He started out small, going out and doing the groundwork for other people and grew rapidly from there. After a couple of years, Nelson invested in a baler, gained more clients, and started offering more services.

Now he has built it up to provide a wide range of options, including groundwork, silage and hay (round and conventional) baling, fertiliser spreading, undersowing, disc drilling, and planting.

His right-hand man Kane Nepe has also built more business bringing in various new contacts in the civil construction industry.

“Kane has taken over a fair bit of it now,” he says. “He has been working for us full-time for seven years now and is a jack of all trades and makes sure the entire operation runs nice and smoothly.”

While Kane has been working for Nelson for seven years, he has had family ties for longer.

The versatility of Krone machinery is a drawcard for Nelson and Kane

“I wasn’t from a farming background initially,” Kane explains. “I was a town kid from Hamilton who came to hang out with Nelson and discovered these tractors and caught a passion for it.”

Nelson says he has been an enormous asset to the operation ever since, working hard to expand the business and support Nelson where he can.

In addition to Kane, the rest of the team comprises Denis Bowmer, Robbie Clark, and Ben Hartstone, who add great depth, experience, and value to the business.

One of the biggest challenges for the team is the rolling and steep country they work on.
“We’ve been fortunate to find local drivers who are more experienced and used to coping with this area,” Nelson says. “It’s getting harder to find people who are confident with this sort of terrain. There are some pretty steep areas around here, and the guys take it all in their stride.”

They have avoided being caught up in the driver shortage from overseas workers as they have always been able to find workers locally.

Beckett Contracting manager Kane Nepe

“We’ve been fortunate with that; Dennis is a local guy who has been with us for eight years, and I’ve been able to call on mates I went to school with to come and work for us too, so it has been excellent in that way.”

TDH Tractor Services in Huntly support them with mobile servicing of their equipment, along with AgGrowQuip in Hamilton.

Behind every good man is a strong woman, and this is no exception in Nelson’s case, with Rachel supporting the guys in any way she can, as well as raising their three boys – who are also machinery mad and keen to get up in the tractor at any chance they get.

“Like everyone in this business, we make the most of the good weather when we can, so we do some pretty big days over the peak season, working into the night, so Rachel is great at bringing us dinner and supporting us,” Nelson explains.

One of the keys to success has been experimenting with different gear to find what suits their business best.

A second Goweil wrapper was added to the fleet this season

“Keeping up with the times is one of the biggest challenges. Things change a lot as well as how people work,” he explains. “We’ve stayed with standalone balers rather than combinations; it suits the hill work much better. We can’t get through the same numbers with the combinations. We’ve tried about four combis over the years, and it just doesn’t work for us. They are great for other people, but we’re happy with what we have now purely for the speed and how it suits our jobs.”

The team has an impressive selection of gear to help them in their work, headlined by their fleet of five John Deere M and R Series tractors that power over the hilly terrain easily.

“We have all M series and an R series, which is in Hamilton doing some clay work on a subdivision at the moment,” Nelson says. “We have the 6930 Premium, 6155M, 6195M, 6110M, and the 6155R; I like the 6155M, as it’s a great size and easy to manoeuvre around places.”

The team love the M series. As Kane explains, they are just so reliable for their work, never letting them down.

Nelson and his team know the importance of regular machinery maintenance

“The R is great with its high specs, and it’s fitted with GPS auto-steer to make a more efficient day’s work,” says Kane. “Nelson brought me the big 6195M, and I enjoy working in it every day.”

Nelson has two Krone Comprima balers for their work which he rates.

“I like the Krone because they seem to be able to bale anything. They are great all-rounders for any type of crop,” he explains. “The variable chamber is fantastic for us. We have found ourselves veering away from fixed chambers, as our beef farming customers prefer hard centre bales that come out of a variable chamber baler.

“They are stable on the hills and good on the peat with the tandem axels, all around, they have been great performers for us, and we’ve had them for around 20 years.”

Not only that, but the Krone Comprima balers are super-efficient, with Kane recording baling 85 1.3 metre bales in an hour.

“In good conditions with a good crop, they are speedy,” says Kane.
Super impressed with his first Goweil bale wrapper, Nelson replaced it with a second at the start of this season.

John Deere tractors have headed up the fleet since Beckett Contracting began 20 years ago

“We’ve been stoked with the Goweil. It’s a bit heavier than some other brands we tried, sticks to the hills, and never feels like it is going to roll and tip over,” says Nelson.

“The far axel is offset forward, so it is stable especially picking up the early season grass on the hills. It is fast, and it lasts. The previous one they just replaced wrapped 90,000 bales, so it has excellent longevity as the team bales around 15,000 to 20,0000 bales a year.

Beckett Contracting have been using Claas rakes and double mowers for the last five years.

“They have been going well for us. We use the double mowers as they suit us better for the work on the steep hills, they handle well, and they get through the work quickly,” Kane explains.

In addition, they also have a roller drill, power harrows, and an Allen ED4000 drill due to arrive in mid-February for direct drilling work.

This season has proved to be one of their best yet, and it only looks to get busier for the team at Beckett Contracting as they continue to expand their horizons with new and old clients.

Find new and used farm machinery for sale in NZ 

Photography: Ashleigh Kendall

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