agricultural contractor

How to become an agricultural contractor

What does an agricultural contractor do?

Agricultural contractors supply a variety of services to the agricultural industry. General operations include cultivation, seed drilling, harvesting of cereals, root and forage crops, hedge cutting, and agricultural lime and manure spreading. Many contractors offer specialised services, which could include:

Crop spraying and fertiliser application - applying pesticides and fertilisers to agricultural land using ground-based vehicles. Equipment used ranges from hydraulic spray booms to granular applicators.

Mobile seed processing - using gravity separation machinery to sort and clean seed and grain ready for planting. Some contractors offer a quality-testing service.

Mobile feed milling and mixing - producing feed for livestock using the farmer’s own raw materials as the basic ingredients.

Amenity and industrial weed control - including a range of vegetation clearance activities such as verge and hedge cutting.

Livestock contract work - involves a whole range of livestock services such as sheep shearing and dipping, sheep and cattle pregnancy scanning, whole flock management, foot trimming of cattle and sheep, and contract lambing.

To supplement their income, those involved in specialist contract work often carry out some general contracting and other related work such as fencing, grounds maintenance and landscaping. Other common tasks involve earthmoving, excavation and drainage work associated with agricultural land.

Certain tasks must be carried out in accordance with current legislation, usually where pesticides or other hazardous substances are used, or when preparing feed for livestock, and in adhering to cleaning and disposal procedures.


What's the working environment like for an agricultural contractor?

Hours of work vary according to seasonal demands. Long, irregular hours are common during busy periods, and could include evenings and weekends. Depending on the type of service provided, an on-call system to provide continuous cover may be in operation.

Work may take place in workshops or outside in all weathers. The environment can be noisy and dirty, and the work is physically demanding, involving lifting and use of heavy tools and equipment. Some jobs may require the handling of animals.


What does it take to become an agricultural contractor?

To work in agricultural contracting, you should:

  • be familiar with the use and maintenance of plant and machinery
  • have a range of practical agricultural skills and knowledge
  • understand health and safety issues
  • enjoy working outdoors
  • be flexible and able to deal with problems as they occur
  • be capable of organising time and working to deadlines
  • be able to work both independently and as part of a team
  • have good business skills if you're self-employed.


Agricultural contractor career opportunities

The majority of contractors work on a 'job by job' basis, in businesses of all sizes which may operate over a number of counties. Many contractors are self employed, sometimes working alone, and often doubling as fencing contractors, particularly in the winter months.

Other clients who use agricultural contractors include the power generating industry, central government, local authorities and sports and recreational facilities.

Opportunities exist for suitably qualified people to progress to careers in areas linked to the agricultural industry, such as sales, research, and policy development.

Eventually once you have gained enough experience, you could also move into teaching, training or consultancy work. 


Further information

If you would like to know more about becoming an agricultural contractor that does not appear on Hotcourses, further information can be found below.

Lantra House
Stoneleigh Park
Nr Coventry
Tel: 0845 707 8007

Lantra career advice sites:

National Proficiency Tests Council (NPTC)
Stoneleigh Park
Tel: 024 7685 7300

Scottish Skills Testing Service (SSTS)
EH28 8NE
Tel: 0131 333 2040

Lantra Awards

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA)



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