Picking up horse poo won’t feature highly in career options for those having recently completed their GCSEs and A-levels and it wasn’t the kind of output Danny Sykes had in mind when he was a 13-year-old tractor driver either, but his original concept that has become known as the Skipper is more than gathering steam under his company name Clever Pasture that specialises in paddock and grassland maintenance.
The Skipper made its show debut at YAMS (Yorkshire Agricultural Machinery Show) earlier this year and was at last week’s Lincolnshire Show alongside The Slitter and a sand arena grader; two further additions that Danny is hoping will become an even larger range of very useful attachments to quad bikes and compact tractors in the coming months and years.
Orders were taken for all three of the current range last week and more should come as a result of attending Driffield Show in a couple of weeks.
It is a great start for Danny’s leap into the world of manufacturing and machinery sales having started out Clever Pasture to look after the needs of those with horses.
Ideas for machinery have never been far from his mind. At 14 and on a school work experience with farm machinery specialists Simba, the youthful Danny had put together a computer drawing of a roller that was used on their leaflets; and his father, Hayden, is not just an engineer but was the man responsible for the managing and running of the power base at the oil refinery in Immingham and engineering development in mining machinery.
Danny’s family ties have agricultural links in Lincolnshire and West Yorkshire and have now spread to the East Riding since meeting his wife Bryony while both were studying at Riseholme College near Lincoln. Bryony studied equine, has always had horses and her parents live in Kelk. Danny and Bryony now live in Lowthorpe in the heart of the Yorkshire Wolds and Danny operates Clever Pasture from Fimber Nab Farm at Fimber near Sledmere with Bryony’s assistance when not working on quality assurance for Frontier Agriculture.
“I grew up near Boston. My mother’s side of the family are from Market Rasen and my grandfather worked on farms as long as he could. My grandparents on my father’s side had a small farm in Wrenthorpe near Wakefield. I couldn’t be kept off the place every time we visited and I knew right then at a very young age it was always going to be about farming for me.
“I started working for a local farmer Mick Jaques while at school and as soon as I could legally drive a tractor in a field I was out there. I was driving a Ford 7810 with dual wheels at 13 thinking I was king. Mick taught me everything I needed to know about starting up in farming and I was on my way.
“At 16 I took a paid job with Grant’s, another local farm, where I initially worked as a farm worker before taking on a manager’s role with a team of guys a lot older than me. I was 19 and responsible for 3,000 acres and four men.”
Having become familiar with the East Riding, and looking to make the transition from everyday farming to providing services to agriculture, after three years of management in Lincolnshire he took a role as lead arable operator at Fimber Nab tenanted by Rachel Scholes and alongside manager Andy Murr. It was a new experience for Danny with hills replacing his rather flat land background previously.
“All of a sudden I was ploughing up and down hillsides. I had four years working for Rachel and Andy and I couldn’t have asked for better people. I’m now renting a place on the farm to run Clever Pasture. I’d started out buying a quad bike and a few basic bits of equipment to look after paddocks for Bryony and her mum, but then a neighbour spotted what I was doing and asked whether I could look after her paddock too. In no time at all word of mouth spread and during the past four years I steadily built up an artillery of machinery and increased workload maintaining paddocks in my spare time away from Fimber Nab.
“Last year it got to the stage where I was turning down that much work on paddocks that I switched to Clever Pasture as the full-time occupation. I always have ideas about machines, liking certain bits of them but then adding my own concepts, and that led to me designing the Skipper and Slitter from scratch.
“The Slitter had its share of research and development through my own work and is now a very effective attachment. It works so well with a compact tractor that manufacturer Iseki is now demonstrating it on all their show stands.”
Danny is particularly pleased with how the Skipper has developed into a much more versatile piece of kit than he had originally imagined.
“It has a straight front blade that not only collects horse droppings, as its first use was intended, it also levels molehills and uneven ground from poaching, and cuts thistles and other weeds. It’s also having a secondary use as a lightweight trailer for carrying a bale or a bucket of water.”
Working alongside Danny is Shaun Wiles who now operates his company Ascend Engineering next to Danny at Fimber Nab. Shaun takes Danny’s designs and makes them viable for production.
“Every piece of Clever Pasture kit is made from laser cut metal utilising higher end market parts. Shaun also has a spray shop that liveries our growing fleet up into our colours of blue and gold.
“My five-year goal is to be by then employing a team to undertake our growing business of paddock work. I have so many ideas to add to our range of amenity and grass care machinery that I want to be able to focus more on that side of the business.”
Danny may not be farming the way in which he may have envisaged when in his early teens, but he has found what he hopes will be a sustainable and successful way of ploughing his own individual furrow in the countryside.