Oxstalls Farm Invests in Kubota

Sheep share grass routine with Kubota

A bold diversification strategy that saw a Gloucestershire sheep farm add an equestrian training facility to its operations brought with it a need for a new level of skilled fence building and maintenance work.

And where the sheep used to do the great majority of the grass trimming, Charles and Davina Etherington-Smith found they also needed new machinery solutions. The answer, they decided, lay in a double helping of Kubota hardware – an M105GX tractor and ZD1211 ride-on mower, both sourced through Area Sales Manager Stuart Wilkieson at Lister Wilder’s nearby Cirencester depot.

The couple took over Oxstalls Farm at Frampton Mansell, near Stroud, some six years ago. While continuing to run sheep, they decided to put Charles’ high level experience in building equestrian fences (including for Olympic events) to work by setting up a training facility in the heart of an area famed for its horse eventing.

With Badminton and Gatcombe both a few miles away, they anticipated a strong following amongst enthusiasts wanting to prepare for big name events. In the years since, they have built around 150 fences over a 20 to 25 acre area on the farm and welcomed those wanting to school horses for cross country, show jumping and dressage. Along with it came stabling, a coffee shed and an opportunity to run their own small scale events.  While Davina focuses on the admin, Charles piles into the on-site construction. The couple also run events elsewhere including Gatcombe and do haylage alongside their sheep.

“I grew up around horses,” says Charles. “My parents used to run some of the bigger shows at Blenheim and Chatsworth and my father (Mike) used to ride professionally. When we came here we saw the opportunity to diversify into something equestrian and, while it needed a sizeable investment, we were able to do a lot ourselves with the support of our contacts.”

“While horse owners come here to school their horses over the jumps, we also have various local eventing trainers that come and give clinics. Covid slowed things down a bit but we aren’t grumbling, and while most are local, some travel two to three hours to get here. We keep adding new features and changing things around. It’s hard work but really rewarding to see people having a good time.”

The decision to buy the Kubota M105GX tractor was prompted by the fact that the equestrian school demands a lot of maintenance in the shape of topping, harrowing, rolling and other ground work.

“We initially had the tractor on demo and like it a lot,” says Charles. “I have driven smaller Kubota tractors and RTVs in the past and they have always been very hardy. We also had an old Kubota F series that ran happily for all of 20 years and it just kept going whatever you did to it. 

“It has plenty of power for what we want – we chose this size so that we can haul an eight-tonne tipper trailer, and it does that comfortably. We also have a big five metre topper driven by the PTO and that runs well.”

Utilising Kubota’s Bi-speed steering system, the M105 GX is able to turn in a much smaller space than rival tractors and has the largest and most comfortable cabin in its class. Power comes from a four-cylinder 3800 cc turbo-charged engine producing 111 hp, while its eight-speed powershift transmission features three ranges for precise movement no matter the situation. Its cab is quiet and comfortable and has an air-suspension seat. There is also heating and air-conditioning.

From springtime onwards the tractor does a day to a day-and-a-half each week cutting the grass around the jumps, plus the verges. The close up tidying around the jumps is the domain of the ZD1211 ride-on mower. Charles loves the fact that the mower gets in tight to the structures so that strimming is then minimal.

The three-blade ZD1211 has a 140 mm-deep deck featuring a flat design and Kubota’s unique baffling system that forces grass to be discharged evenly onto the ground. A more comfortable seat along with dual adjustable armrests, higher backrest, and lumbar support means less operator fatigue and greater productivity. Maintenance is quick and easy with good access to all critical parts. 

“Lister Wilder are always there when we need them and deal very quickly with any minor problems,” says Charles. “Their advice has been good and we have are really happy with the new Kubota machines.