Kiwi made: Stevenson & Taylor

When Central Hawke’s Bay cropping contractor Miles McBain wanted a new custom-built roller for his extensive cropping operation, he went straight to Waipukurau engineering firm, Stevenson & Taylor Ltd

The result is a purpose-designed and built agricultural roller that he is rapt with. Miles, whose contracting business Kahotea Farming Ltd cultivates around 1600 hectares of cropping land each season, has dealt with Stevenson & Taylor for many years and was confident they could come up with exactly what he wanted. He wasn’t disappointed.

The 6.4m and 5.3m rollers working in tandem on a squash paddock at Kahotea Farm

“I wanted a double-axle roller that was light to tow, not heavy on the back of the tractor, and which folded up to regulation transport width,” Miles says.

Robby Smith, who is an engineer and also happens to be general manager at Stevenson & Taylor, says listening to what clients want and coming up with solutions is one of the most satisfying aspects of their work.

The roller folded out in working mode

“People come to us with these marvellous ideas and we turn them into a fully operational piece of machinery.

“In this case, Miles wanted a roller that wouldn’t clog up with dirt and could be towed behind his power harrow.

Hydraulically operated drawbar for levelling in tough conditions

“He showed me a rough drawing he’d made on a piece of A4 paper and from there we designed it on our CAD software programme.”

Miles was happy with what the Stevenson & Taylor team came up with, so the design went from the computer into production.

“We nailed it, and although we made a few small changes, we got it right first time,” Robby says.

Miles had a few non-negotiable requirements. He was concerned about the weight of a power harrow on the drawbar and axle of the tractor carrying it. Stevenson & Taylor designed it to have zero weight on the drawbar, so when in transport mode, it’s not overloading the axles on the tractor or the power harrow with weight.

Soil roller features

The roller folded out in working mode

Designed to go behind a power harrow or rotary hoe, the soil roller’s sole function is to compact the ground and break up clods of earth that are left after power harrowing. “Because of its weight – the 5.3-metre one is about 4.9 tonnes and the 6.4-metre is 5.5 tonnes – it provides really good compaction,” Robby explains.

“It leaves a beautiful finish for the planters to operate and allows early establishment of the crop.”

The goose neck drawbar for tighter turning

The Cambridge roller rings rotate clockwise and anticlockwise on double axles, therefore, removing any build up of clods as it goes. Another feature is the gooseneck drawbar, so the power harrow can turn as tightly as possible at paddock headlands.

“We’ve built eight of these now since we built that first roller for Miles in 2013 and they’re proving very popular,” Robby says.

Satisfied customer

Stevenson & Taylor is a trusted name around the Hawke’s Bay district

Miles’ enterprise, Kahotea Farming Ltd, is a mixed cropping and farming operation based in Otane. The farming side is a 300-hectare sheep and beef fattening farm and includes 100 hectares of crops. As well, they work contracts of up to 1600 hectares all around the district for large-scale cropping enterprises such as Brownrigg Agriculture and squash producer, Nuco Produce.

Miles is more than happy with how the roller operates; it’s his third one and he plans on getting another new one this year.

He currently has two compact rollers: one 5.3-metre and the other 6.4-metre wide. One of the reasons he likes it is that “you can work in slightly damper conditions and it compacts the ground to perfection for the planter to come in and do its job. It does a range of crops from squash to peas and wheat, too.”

The roller attached behind power harrow ready for action

When asked if it had boosted the overall efficiency of his operation, he says, “I would say it has, because we’ve been able to keep going in damper conditions and still achieve the finish that the client wants, whereas, with other rollers, we’d probably have to take it off and roll it later or not roll it at all.”

Miles also appreciates the fact that the roller is a simple machine with few complex parts. “Overall, it’s very effective and at end of the day, it does what we want it to do.” As a long-term client of Stevenson & Taylor, Miles enjoys the tried and true connection he has with them.

Folded up in transport position heading into the paddock

“I’ve dealt with them since I started farming and they’ve done various engineering and basic repair and maintenance work, so when the need for a roller came up, they were my first choice of engineers.

“I‘ve always got on well with Robby and liked how he worked, so that made it easy. When we need help, they are quick to respond. They’ve also got a good parts shop and are quick to get parts in overnight too.

Stevenson & Taylor Compact SR Roller fast facts:

  • Rollers smooth and level the ground
  • Creates an optimum seedbed
  • Reduces moisture loss in soil
  • Smooth paddocks enable faster harvest
  • No rocks to damage machinery
  • Eliminates surface trash


About Stevenson & Taylor

Stevenson & Taylor’s facility in Takapau Rd, Waipukurau

Founded in 1951, the engineering business, located in Waipukurau, is a solid Central Hawke’s Bay institution well known for providing a wide range of services for its customers, including custom-designed and built gear. It’s a one-stop shop for farmers, contractors, or anyone requiring machinery repairs, parts, or new and used tractors, lawnmowers, and fireplaces.

Boasting a highly skilled team of 40, including 20 fully qualified engineers, welders, machinists, diesel mechanics, and auto electrical technicians as well as other technicians and administration staff.

‘You name it and we’ll build it,’ is a Stevenson & Taylor motto and Robby reckons there’s nothing they can’t do.

“We can design, engineer, and build any piece of equipment, tool, or accessory from scratch. What’s more, we can repair virtually anything too.”

Tractor driver, Aiden Booth, Miles McBain and Robby Smith

Robby reckons a key to the business’ success is the fact they really listen to the customer when they are building one-off machinery.

“And that’s listening to what they want, rather than telling them. We pride ourselves on that,” he says.

Having built everything from one-off machines for side dressing maize plants to fabricating massive squash harvesters, the challenge of successfully creating specialist customised machinery keeps the entire team enthusiastic and motivated.

“We enjoy it when someone comes in with an idea; it doesn’t matter if it’s drawn in crayon on the back of an envelope, we’ll turn it into something.”

As part of the continual growth, more recently, Stevenson & Taylor have revamped their vehicle fleet to new 4WD drive utes.

“Our call service is a vital part of our business and being readily on the ground to help with repairs is essential. We also have a Hydraulink field service truck, which enables us to shoot out and repair hydraulic hoses in the field,” Robby says.

At Kahotea Farm, the rollers were slowly making their way up a nice piece of dirt, creating smooth and even rows in their wake. As Robby looks at it, I imagine he must be thinking, ‘job well done!’

Photography: Vivienne Haldane

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