Shortly after purchasing some specialist pumps in the late 1980’s from Westfalia, known today as GEA, David Twyman and Phillip Bridges, founders of Staplehurst-based Negus Chase, were encouraged to take on a milking machine agency which would soon become the main core of the dairy specialist business.
“A rep from Westfalia came to see us and said that after he had sold the machines, all we would need to do would be to install, service and maintain the equipment. It has been a steady progression from there,” said David Twyman, director of Negus Chase.
Over the past 30 plus years, the pair have built up an unrivalled reputation for fitting and serving across the South East. Today the Negus Chase team, which includes six qualified engineers, are a leading supplier in all things dairy from Kent, to Essex and across to Hampshire.
Covering all aspects of a dairy unit, from automated calf feeders, to the milking and washing down equipment, and the slurry and dirty water handling infrastructure, there are few dairy projects the team have not been involved with in some way.
“There is not much on a dairy unit which we don’t tackle,” said David. “We get involved in everything from the dirty side of things with the supply of slurry storage and automatic scraping systems, through to the installation, service and maintenance of feed pushers and Volac automated calf feeders.” The team are now also working with an automated cluster disinfection and teat dip application called Apollo, which is a more effective application set to save time during milking and reduce product costs.
Through word of mouth recommendations from customers and trade bodies, the order book is kept busy and it was after winning a Dairy Group tender that work started on a new parlour for Guy Dutton at Lodgeland Farm in Balcombe, West Sussex.
Having worked alongside the builder who constructed the Dairy Group’s design and Phil Turner at VA Turner and Sons who did the electrical work, Negus Chase installed the new GEA 18:36 SwingOver milking parlour system.
“If I had to chose a company who I wanted to work with it would be Negus Chase,” said Guy Dutton at Lodgeland Farm. “The GEA system has been a very good parlour; it is exactly what we wanted. The old parlour would milk 1,000 litres per hour and now we get 1,900 per hour with one man in the parlour. It is a very efficient system.”
“It is becoming a pretty standard parlour for us now,” said Phillip Bridges, director of Negus Chase. “As well as the milking system, we also fitted milk meters, cluster flush, in-parlour feeders and ear tag segregation system.”
Letting the work speak for itself, it is not uncommon for jobs to come in after customers have hosted farm walks and fellow farmers have seen the quality of installations.
“We recently had an order for a complete new installation, new building and new equipment in Blackham, Tunbridge Wells,” said David. “The Skinners visited Lodgeland Farm and after seeing the work we had done for Guy Dutton there they decided to phone us.”
As well as tackling complete new installations such as Lodgeland Farm, Negus Chase have recently moved across original milking equipment and fitted new rapid exit stall work with feeding into a newly constructed building at Leacon Farm in Charing, Kent.
From big updates to the annual servicing of the machinery, the team are fully equipped to deal with the challenging time constraints which arise when needing to get the parlour back up and running in time for the next milking session.
Fitting out new milking equipment on existing stall work at Court Lodge Farm in Great Chart, Kent, for instance, required a specialist installation as the upgrade work needed to keep the existing parlour in working order.
“It is always challenging to try and put a new machine in when they need to keep going,” said Phillip Bridges. “Over the years we have expanded the team to be able to service machinery in shorter time frames and we have also designed our own temporary milking trailer for projects where you are ripping out the old equipment and fitting new back into the existing space.”
For projects which involve fitting new equipment into existing buildings, David and Phillip have always prided themselves on adapting and tailoring the machinery to suit the customer’s needs.
“We are not afraid to modify something to make it fit what suits the customer best,” said David. “It is about adjusting the product to the customer and the use, which is something we have always done. We don’t say this is what we sell, because our customers all have different needs.”
Overseeing the projects on the ground, Philip is currently one of 18 in the country trained up to level three in the Milking Engineers Association, and with the rest of the team trained to level two, customers know the equipment is being installed and maintained by the correctly qualified people.
With an average lifecycle for fixed milking equipment at around 15 to 20 years, the team are now working with the next generation of farmers. Dealing with sons of the farmers they started working with many years ago, several of the installations in the last three years have been major modifications of equipment they put in 20 years ago.
Whether it is time for a small upgrade or an entire refit, as the dairy industry continues to develop the Negus Chase team are on hand to help the machinery and equipment evolve too.