TRACTORGUIDE2020 JANUARY 2020 A decade of change The benchmark figure used to view the performance of the machinery trade in a given period has traditionally been the registration of new tractors. The figure is obviously far from giving a complete picture of a complex trade as it takes no account of sales of implements and other products and services offered but, as a measure, it does have the merit of consistency ensuring that like for like comparisons can be made over the years. The somewhat unpalatable reality is that the level of new tractor registrations has declined greatly from a figure of some 4,500 in 2008 units to a position where, at the time of writing, it appears that the 2019 total will be somewhere close to 2,000 units. The annual level of registrations has not reached 2,000 units since 2008 despite expectations that as the economy recovered from the global economic downturn that the market would recover to what would have been the 10-20 year average before the high numbers seen during the so called boom years. On the basis of the above figures, you might think that the picture is quite negative. In reality, that is not the case; the tractor market has actually changed dramatically in the intervening years with the lower registration levels masking a somewhat more positive position. sold in Ireland has increased from approximately 100hp to slightly over 120hp. As a result, there was always going to be a knock-on reduction in the number of units sold. To put this development in context, in the early 1960s there was in excess of 6,000 new tractors sold in Ireland each year. When we consider what the average horsepower of those tractors may have been, it is clear that the Irish trade is supplying at least the same, if not more horsepower, to our farming and contracting customers from less than a third of the number of machines. In the 11 years during which Gary Ryan has been Chief Executive of the Farm Tractor & Machinery Trade Association (the representative body of the Irish farm machinery trade), he has seen great changes in the scale, technology, usage and regulation of all aspects of agricultural machinery, impacting on both our trade and their customers. Here, he discusses the key developments. Loaders Another important factor accounting for reduced tractors sales in recent years is undoubtedly the embracing of dedicated loader type machines such as telehandlers and small wheeled loaders by Irish agriculture. While the telehandler type machine has been in operation on Irish farms in a more limited way for many years, these machines as well as a variety of wheeled loaders suitable for farm yard use have made substantial inroads in recent years. Given the profile of many Irish farming enterprises with a lot of yard work around feeding and housing of stock, the replacement of a loader tractor with one of these dedicated machines can be a very suitable option in many cases. In general customers who go this route seem not to revert to their previous way of doing things. Selling horse power 32 The key underpinning rationale of the tractor trade is that it is selling horse power to do a job rather than simply selling a number of units in the way that the motor trade does. In the years from 2008 to 2019 the average horse power of a tractor Price An unfortunate but unavoidable consequence of the trend towards bigger tractors is that price has also risen. The