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Agricultural contractor

Agricultural contractors provide specialised, seasonal or other temporary support work to farmers.

Salary, a pound sign Salary: Variable average per year
Hours, a clock face Hours: Variable per week

1. Entry requirements

You'll need experience of a range of agricultural work and machinery.

It may help you to find work if you've been on a course in a relevant subject like machinery maintenance, health and safety or risk management.

You could also get into this job through an apprenticeship.

Lantra has information on courses and careers in agriculture.

2. Skills required

To be an agricultural contractor, you'll need:

  • practical farming skills
  • driving skills
  • machinery operation skills
  • business skills if you're self-employed

3. What you'll do

You'll usually work on short contracts, depending on when farmers or other employers need you.

You may specialise in areas like:

  • crop spraying and fertilising
  • harvesting
  • seed processing
  • seed milling and mixing
  • sheep shearing and dipping
  • animal management including hoof trimming
  • lambing
  • breeding

You could also carry out general work like:

  • dry stone walling
  • fencing
  • excavation
  • drainage work

4. Salary

As a self-employed contractor you'll usually charge for each job you do.

If you're hedge cutting with a tractor, you could charge £25 to £35 per hour. If you're combine harvesting you could charge £90 to £110 per hectare.

You may need to use your own machinery and equipment, so you should take this into account in your start-up costs. You'll also need liability insurance.

These figures are a guide.

5. Working hours, patterns and environment

Your working hours will depend on the job you do.

If you work in harvesting, your hours will be seasonal with long shifts during the warm months and fewer in winter. If you work in animal husbandry, you may be on call round the clock during the birthing season.

You may need to travel around the country for work.

You'll need a reasonable level of fitness as you'll often be outdoors using heavy tools and equipment.

6. Career path and progression

With experience, you could move into teaching, training or consultancy.

You could also work for private companies or co-operatives that offer management services to farms.

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Last updated: 11 April 2017

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