Farmer Owned Co-op Expands into Dairy Equipment

Aspatria Farmers, Cumbria has greatly enhanced its services for its dairy farming member customers through the acquisition of milking machine and equipment specialists MTS Agricultural Services, in Longtown.

Together the businesses will enable the Aspatria based farmer co-operative to offer installation and servicing of dairy equipment while at the same time allow the MTS team to further develop the business.

left to right, Tim Summerfield, Tim Wilson and Mick Kirk.

left to right, Tim Summerfield, Tim Wilson and Mick Kirk.

Partners Mick Kirk and Tim Summerfield established MTS in 2004 and the company has seen a steady growth in business throughout its customer base in North Cumbria and South West Scotland, covering what is probably the largest dairying area in the UK.

The dairy engineering business will ideally complement the sales and servicing of farm machinery which Aspatria Farmers has done since its acquisition of Joseph Hillary Limited in 2006.

Aspatria Farmers’ chief executive Tim Wilson said:
“We were looking to grow and deepen our offering to our dairy farming members and we approached MTS to see how we could work together.

“Discussions resulted in the acquisition and it gives a great opportunity to taking the joint business forward. The two operations have great synergy,” said Tim, who joined Aspatria Farmers in November 2014 with a background in agribusiness in the UK and Australia.

MTS is run by a staff of nine headed by Mick Kirk and Tim Summerfield, who between them have been operating for more than 50 years in the dairy installation and service industry.

Operating from premises at the Borders Business Park in Longtown, MTS has a similar trading area in Cumbria to Aspatria Farmers but it also covers Dumfries and Galloway with its customer base of more than 700.

It specialises in the sale and service of Dairymaster parlours, bulk tanks and scraper systems, ATL milking equipment, Fabdec Heatime, Collinson feed bins and augers, and GEA bulk tanks and milk silos.

Mr Summerfield said:
“This new venture will open up the potential for business with both sets of customers - as well as new customers and members and it will give Mick and myself more opportunity to get out and meet our customers.”

He set out in the industry 33 years ago as a qualified electrician and he was involved with the installation of the first Dairymaster parlour in the UK in the 1980s.

Mr Kirk, who first began working with farmers in Cumbria with the Potato Marketing Board, said:
“Our business has steadily increased year on year, originally from offering service to include installations. Last year was our best to date. This will give us access to an even bigger customer base.”

Both Tim Summerfield and Mick Kirk have joined the Aspatria Farmers’ management team.

Principally, the co-op serves dairy, beef and sheep farmers with their feed, fertiliser and machinery requirements but it also provides a hub in Aspatria for general needs from paint to garden furniture for members and the general public in the area.

It already operates a store at Dyke Nook, near Appleby and last month opened another store in CT Hayton’s premises near the auction mart in Wigton which a similar range of products to Aspatria from dairy chemicals to animal health products and feed.

The MTS shop in Longtown will also offer the Aspatria range of products and parts carried by MTS will be available in the Aspatria Farmers stores providing a diverse range of products for farmers and the general public.

MTS offers a 24 hour-seven day a week support and maintenance service with its qualified engineers and electricians which is vital for today’s highly mechanised dairy farms. It also has regular van deliveries to farms for sales of dairy hygiene sundries and consumables.

Aspatria Farmers is one of the country’s oldest farmer co-operatives, dating back to 1870 when farmers in west Cumbria felt they were not getting what they paid for when they purchased their natural imported fertiliser, guano and took things into their own hands.

Fertiliser and feed have continued to be the biggest section of the business carried out by Aspatria Farmers with its 1,250 trading accounts which includes 840 member shareholders, turning over almost £20 million.

Like all co-operatives, it ploughs back any profit into the business and its member dividends. Farmers pay £100 per share and this is capped at a £5,000 investment to prevent individuals becoming too financially involved.

While the business would like to grow its shareholder base, there are no intentions to expand the geographic area much outside the county of Cumbria.

It employs 30 people, including some working part time, and nearly all of these have their roots in the local community.

Aspatria Farmers

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