John Tulloch, Alastair Scott, and Graeme Tulloch mark 50 years of Krone farm machinery at Tulloch Farm Machine’s open day. PHOTO/GIANINA SCHWANECKE

GIANINA SCHWANECKE

It’s been a big year at Tulloch Farm Machines, says managing director and third-generation operator John Tulloch.

The company was first started by William Tulloch in 1963, who established DW Tulloch and Company Ltd with his two sons, David and Graeme Tulloch – John’s father.

In 1965, the company was selling and servicing farm equipment but pivoted a few years later, becoming an importer and distributor of farm machinery.

David continued to focus on engineering machines to New Zealand conditions, while Graeme set his sights on improving the country’s silage production.

In 1968 Graeme was offered the New Zealand distribution rights for Gehl farm machinery and spent three months touring mid-West USA.

During this trip, he learnt about how to improve silage making methods.

New Zealand silage was made using a direct cut system which produced a poor-quality product and meant that hay was the more popular choice – today, 90 per cent of forage used in New Zealand is silage compared to about 10 per cent hay.

He returned, calling for a shift to fine chop wilted silage and it’s now the predominant method used for conserving grass and other crops to feed stock.

This wasn’t without challenges though.

Graeme had to gain an import license from the government for every piece of machinery sold.

He decided the Krone TM4/270 mower conditioner and Gehl fine chop forage harvester were the perfect tools, which led to an early and longstanding relationship with the German-based farm machinery supplier.

“Once we established the Krone mower conditioner with the Gehl fine chop silage system, our capacity increased up to 45 acres per day,” he said.

He also had to convince the New Zealand Department of Agriculture which was still strongly in favour of the direct cut system.

“I came across one of our local farmers in the lobby who knew the Prime Minister [Keith Holyoake] personally and to my surprise he ushered me into the PM’s office so I could explain the need for this mower conditioner. The PM granted the license immediately.”

Figuring out new ways to distribute the improved quality silage was also a chance for innovation.

Graeme initiated the first silage wagon production in Masterton, based on a Gehl kitset.

Tulloch Farm Machines eventually developed their own silage wagon with production reaching one a day in the late seventies.

This pioneering spirit helped the company become the number one distributor of grass and forage harvesting equipment in the 1970s and 1980s.

The company briefly changed hands in 1984, when Graeme and David sold it to AIC just before the severe economic downturn in the rural economy.

In 1989, they bought back the assets and started trading again as Tulloch Farm Machines.

John was involved in the business from an early age, though he was interested in planes as well as tractors as a child.

“Probably living down Manaia Road near the airport, I was fascinated by planes, but I loved tractors too,” he said.

This interest led to him completing a degree in mechanical engineering in Canterbury before heading abroad to Germany where he gained further experience.

He spent close to 13 years working in farm machinery and aircraft industries in Europe, working for aeronautical firms like Boeing and Gulfstream.

He even worked on F-16 Fighting Falcons – a supersonic fighter jet.

“I ended up working as a mechanical design engineer for an aircraft company which was what I had always dreamed of.”

Wanting to be closer to his parents he returned to Masterton in the late 1990s and began working in sales at Tulloch Farm Machines

“We’ve grown a lot since then, especially with Krone.

“We just celebrated 50 years with them.”

John attributes a big part of their long-lasting relationship to those early days with his dad Graeme.

“That is a big part of it, especially with Krone. They highly value that family feel and family connection,” he said.

Tullochs are the second longest standing importer of Krone after a family business in Ireland.

He said the “innovative” company underwent a lot of changes themselves in the late 1990s choosing to cut out cultivation equipment and just focus on grass and forage harvesting equipment.

“That’s why it’s such a good match to New Zealand because we are a grass country.

“They also changed their branding, going from red and cream to green and cream and a new slogan – the power of green.”

These days the company is as equally focused on software development projects as they are the actual hardware of the machines.

There have been huge technological shifts in the last five decades.

“It’s been a revolution,” John said.

“It has been for my dad too. It’s been one revolution after another.”

Graeme Tulloch’s children collect his Presidents Award from TAMA: [from left] Christine Bell, John Tulloch and Liz Bosch. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

In August, Graeme received the Tractor and Machinery Association [TAMA] Presidents Award in recognition of this work and his contribution to the industry.

Though he couldn’t attend, John and his sisters were there to collect it for him.

Despite reaching such massive milestones this year, there’s been no slowing down for the team.

It’s been another busy start to the contracting season, with several calls already to assist technicians with repair jobs in the Waikato.

“It takes a team effort to solve problems. Communication is key.”

He looks forward to seeing what the next 50 years might bring for the business though.