Profile: Gray Brothers Ltd

By: Cameron Officer, Photography by: Cameron Officer


Farm Trader meets the Gray family, who have farmed Ruataniwha in Central Hawke’s Bay for 113 years and attribute their success to solid machinery and sales and service agents

The Gray family have farmed at Ruataniwha in Central Hawke’s Bay for 113 years. Their sheep, beef and cropping enterprise relies on solid machinery backed up by an equally solid sales and service agent – a crucial component to the success of the cropping side of their business.

Alt TEXT HERE
The Case IH line-up at Gray Brothers’ Central Hawke’s Bay property

Leicester Gray and sons Phillip and Callum know a thing or two about customer loyalty. They have been loyal clients of Stevenson & Taylor Ltd since the company’s inception in 1951.

Many of the machines in the Gray family’s implement shed are a distinct shade of Case IH red. It’s a brand affiliation that goes back more than 70 years, with Stevenson & Taylor, Hawke’s Bay Case IH agents, able suppliers of horsepower for nearly the entire time.

Great gear

Alt TEXT HERE
The Gray Brothers team with Robby Smith from Stevenson & Taylor (second from left)

"My father bought our first International from Dalgety’s in 1946," says Leicester. "It was a long-nose International AR110. I think from that time on, we’ve always had International and Case equipment on the farm.

"Our first International bulldozer was a TD6 with blade, purchased in 1953. In 1975, we purchased a TD8 B, which is still in good working order.

"Our entire fleet of tractors has always been International, or Case as it is known now. Over the years, we’ve purchased a 584, 784 and a 956 before moving up to two 5140s, which were faultless."

Alt TEXT HERE
The immaculate International AACO180 drop-side tipper is still in regular use

Outside, in the truck shed yard, is a 1966 International AACO180 drop-side tipper in Gray Brothers livery. Its first years were spent with a fitted stock crate and trailer, carting cattle to the Tomoana processing plant in Hastings.

The truck was restored by Stevenson & Taylor in 2014 and is still very much in use – although only on clean jobs. On the morning of our visit, it was off into Waipukurau to collect a load of bagged fertiliser.

Alt TEXT HERE
There’s no shortage of work for the fleet

Also tucked away in a shed is a 1975 International C1300 4x4 pick-up. Leicester reckons this could be the next restoration project.

"International as a brand means a lot to me. You could say I’ve grown up with it," he says.

Local service

Alt TEXT HERE
The Case IH Magnum 245 with an Alpego Super Craker KF subsoiler

Like his father, Callum Gray reckons International – or Case IH as it is today – has provided the family business with reliable machinery that is easy to operate. But when it comes to reinvesting in the latest gear, there’s more to it than that.

"Quite honestly, I think 99% of the reason we buy Case gear is because of the service and support we get out of Stevenson & Taylor," he says.

"They are always there for us, no matter what time of day or day of the week. That’s really important to us. We buy Case equipment because it is reliable, but if there is an issue with a machine, it’s good to know Stevenson & Taylor are there."

Alt TEXT HERE
Getting ready to plough

The Waipukurau-based sales and service agents have come to the rescue a couple of times recently, says Callum, in one instance providing newly machined-from-scratch brackets for a piece of equipment within just two hours of the initial call being made.

It’s a responsive service that Stevenson & Taylor general manager Robby Smith is justifiably proud of. But then, that’s simply the nature of the modern ag industry, he says.

"The intensity has changed a lot. Whereas maybe 10 or 15 years ago, ‘tomorrow’ was fine, that’s often not the case any more. Our customers don’t ring us in anticipation of needing our help; when they call, they need assistance, whatever that might be. So, we need to be straight onto solving the puzzle for them.

Alt TEXT HERE
The Gregoire Besson plough at work

"We’ve worked hard to get to the point where we have a really robust parts-ordering system and a lot of parts on hand straight away," says Robby. "If one of our customers calls us, we’ll get the part they need out to them in the field straight away if we can."

Stevenson & Taylor also boast dedicated Case IH staff members with plenty of experience – Robby believes one of the core strengths of the business is having staff with excellent product knowledge. He says 60% of the technical team have been with the company for more than 10 years.

"One of our guys has 17 years’ experience working on Case equipment and he knows part serial numbers off by heart – he’s that invested in the brand.

IMG_3699.jpg

"I think we’re able to offer a large-town-shop experience, backed with small-town service," he says.

Gray Brothers Ltd currently has four Case IH tractors of varying ages and hours on the clock in its fleet. The through-line for Callum, however, is a good mix of dependable performance and decent amounts of grunt.

Firepower

The oldest machine is a 1998 MX110. A 2008 Puma 210, 2009 Magnum 245 and 2016 Puma 220 (leased through Stevenson & Taylor) make up the rest of the firm’s firepower. The trusty 210 has recently clocked up 8000 hours, and the 220hp leased machine has done around 600 hours. Callum says 800 hours a year is about average for the farm’s tractors.

When it comes to heavy implements, the family firm tends to replace machinery before the hours get too high – the balance between maintenance and repair is always a delicate one. As before, though, it’s Stevenson & Taylor providing the hardware.

The latest addition to the farming operation is a new Kuhn HR 6004 DRC power harrow, which replaced a second-hand machine. Other implements in the shed include an Alpego Super Craker KF subsoiler, a Cambridge roller, and a Dal-Bo Roller with an Hatzenbichler air seeder.

Traditionally, there have always been fluctuations between cropping land and stock land in the Central Hawke’s Bay.

Alt TEXT HERE
Seed crops are a recent addition to the business

"We grow a lot of peas and sweetcorn and we’re moving into seed crops too, such as carrot, radish and bok choy," says Callum.

"We also sell maize silage to the dairy industry. I like the quick nature of cropping when compared with stock. You can see your crops developing quickly and it gives you more of an idea of where things are at on the land. Of course, we’re much more reliant on the weather, but we can still be diverse in what we grow, which gives us flexibility."

While the company can be as flexible as it likes with the machinery it chooses, it’s pretty obvious Leicester, Callum, Phillip and their staff are all very happy with Case IH gear and, more importantly, the respected manufacturer’s local representatives.

"You’ve just got to get on with business regardless of what hurdles come along," says Leicester. "Having people like Robby and Stevenson & Taylor there to call on if needed makes things that much easier."

Keep up to date in the industry by signing up to Farm Trader's free newsletter or liking us on Facebook