Getting your hands dirty is not so much a statement of intent more a fact of life for farmers. Boiler suits and wellington boots are the customary attire for those born to a world of ensuring livestock is cleaned out and tended to the best animal husbandry levels and that crops grow as well as they can when the weather is as it seems to have been for the past six months and more.
There is also a breed of non-farmers associated with the industry who put themselves through similar experiences in order to undertake their own support business to agriculture and one of them, Steven Dresser, celebrates, if that is the right word, 25 years of dragging himself through pig huts, poultry units, dairy herds and grain storage areas ensuring electrical needs are as they should be.
“Work on farms has always been a major part of what we do,” says Steven whose company based in Thirsk now sees him with 15 electricians and a couple of apprentices. “There were a lot of tatty farm buildings around when I started. It’s always been mucky work particularly on pigs, poultry and dairy farms because of the nature of what they’re about and so not every electrical contractor wants that kind of life but I’ve never been frightened of getting in amongst pigs and muck to get the job done.
“Farmers continually reinvest to secure their future and regulations also change. It’s all about keeping up to speed with what is needed and becoming as efficient as possible and such as LED lighting replacing fluorescent fittings has saved on bills. We work for some of the largest pig producers in the north of England and we’re also involved with a lot of robotic milking parlours including presently a huge new development for dairy farmer John Banks in North Yorkshire.
“Due to the bodily functions of pigs and poultry the environment is corrosive and this deteriorates wirings and fittings so we are constantly aware of maintenance and the need to carry out improvements and to renew where necessary. Ventilation control is massively important to livestock farmers with housed herds.”
Solar energy, security systems and energy saving have proved three of Steven’s additional sectors within his agricultural work since 1993 when he started out following on from his father’s earlier exploits as D&T Electrics.
“‘Dad passed away when I was 11 and so I obviously didn’t follow him into the same trade immediately. He’d worked as an electrician for Richardson & Calvert, who were a farm machinery and farming tackle supplier near Thirsk, before starting D&T with his business partner John Trollope. Once I’d completed my apprenticeship at York College, I set up my own business.
“Diversification projects have always necessitated new work for us on farms and we handle a great deal of regular maintenance and on-call work in addition to complete new builds or renewals, but there have also been a number of new and expanded sectors.
“Solar power installation continues to be popular and although it doesn’t offer farmers the incentive they had at first it’s worth remembering that every unit the panels produce still saves buying from an energy supplier. Farmers can order their package through us and we handle all paperwork and install.
“We’ve become more involved in security. Farms had been seen as a soft target, but CCTV and installing the right systems is changing that mindset. Gone are the days when you could leave your keys in the back door, the tractor or the quad. I remember when farming people were frightened of setting burglar alarms.
“Although technology is almost something people don’t want, when you show them how easy it is to use with CCTV and security apps on smartphones and iPhones there is a realisation that it is worth having after all. Security now makes up around 10 per cent of our annual business.”
Steven’s father had been involved with the electrical needs of installing grain dryers and Steven is regularly called upon for installation of the largest grain drying manufacturers’ equipment.
“Dryers have become far more efficient and now require larger electrical supplies. We’ve also been involved in the latest trends towards floor drying as well as conventional drying.
“It’s not as dirty work as being around livestock but I still wouldn’t swerve being around anything in agriculture. I enjoy it, we work hard and we’re extremely conscientious.”
In the past 25 years Steven hasn’t just worked with farmers he also feels and hopes that he has been accepted as part of the farming community.
“I’m a country lad and country sportsman and count a number of my customers as close friends.”