SILAGE contractors have been busy this summer filling silage pits and making bales for farmers around the country. But how many of them have been going back to the same farm for 50 years?

That’s certainly the case for Newbury Wilson, from Derryhillagh, Enniskillen, who earlier this summer harvested silage on David Scott’s farm at Drumcose, Ely Lodge, for the 50th season. Is this a record?

Newbury clearly remembers starting out on his contracting business.

“I left school at 16 and worked at home on the farm. My father used to bring in silage from the fields on a buckrake and then bought a side-mounted harvester. Our neighbour asked him to cut his silage, and that’s how I started.

“I was 18 in 1971 when I cut silage for David in my second season, and this year, and he is the only customer I’ve cut for this year,” he explained.

He recalls how David's sister, Dorothy, was attending school when he first worked on the farm and now she is retired from a long career in teaching.

Newbury said his father, William, had worked their small dairy farm of 27 acres and also worked part time as a school bus driver for many years.

Newbury was available to carry out the tractor work and soon expanded the contracting side of the business, taking on silage cutting, slurry spreading and hedgecutting.

While most contractors use the latest models of precision chop or self-propelled silage harvesters, Newbury has remained faithful to the side-mounted harvesters which became the mainstay of silage making in the 1970s and 1980s.

He would have used a JF 43-inch harvester bought for £1,950 in 1986, and after three years bought his current model, a Taarup Handy 60-inch side-mounted harvester.

He would have first powered the harvester with a MF 165 with no cab and no power steering, but changed to tractors with electric and oil controls to avoid having to use hand operations.

He operates the Taarup harvester, now over 30 years old, from his John Deere 3350, also bought new in 1989, and which is still going strong with 23,000 hours after hundreds of oil changes.

Newbury’s style of contracting is different to most others. His is a one-man operation, hitching on and off his harvester in the field each time to empty the trailer in the yard.

Newbury would have travelled around the county during the silage season and recalls that during the 1980s, he would have been harvesting 600 acres a year with his side-mounted harvester with one trailer.

“This machine was very good on hills, and also during the wet years, as it was not too heavy,” he said.

He said one of the time-saving devices on the harvester was an automatic driveshaft and he also had a self-opening tailboard on the trailer which meant he didn't have to leave the tractor seat.

Newbury recalls his career in contracting with affection, as he was well received by farming families, always invited in for meals and a chat.

To recognise Newbury’s achievement this year, David Scott presented him with a jacket. He had already presented him with a body warmer on his 40th year contracting.

Newbury is the 10th generation of his family farming at Derryhillagh. Each generation with a son alternates with the names of Newbury and William.

Newbury and his wife, Lynn, have a son, William, who works off farm but who is also involved in farming, and a daughter, Amy, who has been helping him to cultivate the soil for reseeding.