OPINION: There were clear winners and losers in this year's regional field days circuit.
As usual, those with heavy-metal syndrome will trudge along, kick tyres, climb into tractor cabs and find fault. Then they’ll rub their brows and declare that machines are now so expensive that they will need a demo on their own property.
Having been involved in the industry for at least 35 years, I know that the cost of freight, man hours, site fees, hotel and hospitality costs runs into many thousands of dollars to stage a moderate display. So I can’t help wondering how long the industry can carry on this practice.
Any time soon, the National Fieldays organisation will deliver an economic impact statement, prepared by Waikato University, telling us that their event brings millions of dollars to the region. Despite this, ultimately, the cost of attending these events is becoming harder to justify.
Perhaps that’s the reason why global player Massey Ferguson has recently announced plans, in Europe anyway, to progressively move away from traditional show-style events and focus on bespoke, targeted activities to launch and promote its products. Indeed, at the recent EIMA show in Bologna, Italy — one of the ‘big three’ of European events — it only showed two tractors on a much smaller site. Instead the company used virtual reality to let visitors see its entire range of products.
One can see the logic: having heard, many times over the years, a farmer moaning: “they didn’t even have the machine I came to see”. Here in New Zealand, we’ve seen attempts to do something different. For example, Tulloch Farm Machines, which imports Krone machinery, has gone for a similar look that sees minimal numbers of machines and visual technology to display their systems.
We’ve also seen an attempt to run a large-scale working event such as Grasslandz, held to the east of Hamilton. Sadly that eventually folded, probably because it failed to deliver a crop that was hinted at in its title. Surely this was brought about by timing, when the dry site and high temperatures of late January meant a lack of crop.
A suggestion to hold the event in October was met with the response: “farmers are too busy with their own first-cut silage”.
But look at the original UK Grassland Event that has taken place in May every third year for at least three decades. This is a prime time for first-cut silage, but it is attended in huge numbers because there’s grass and it’s a great event.
Thankfully, the organisers of the SIAFD held at Kirwee can see the issue. They plan to extend next year their area committed to working demonstrations, knowing that noise, smoking exhausts and spinning wheels will always draw a crowd. In contrast, static machinery, polished to within an inch of its life with silicon spray on the tyres and surrounded by pot plants and plastic cabbage trees is all... oh so 1970s.