5 Jul 2017

Contractor wins case defending harvesting work

5:26 pm on 5 July 2017

The High Court in Dunedin has found a contractor who two dairy farming brothers were trying to sue for $300,000 worth of damages to their silage crop was not at fault.

Coat of Arms inside the High Court in Rotorua

The Dunedin High Court has ruled in favour of a contractor hired by the Hughes brothers to harvest their pea and barley crop. Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

In February 2014 brothers Tony and Wayne Hughes contracted Allan Lyall to harvest their pea and barley crop for silage near Balclutha.

Three months later when the silage pit was opened the feed was in poor condition and the brothers took Mr Lyall to court seeking compensation for the loss of the winter feed.

After six days in the High Court Justice Rachel Dunningham found the silage was poor quality because the crop was over-mature when it was harvested, which was not Mr Lyall's fault.

"In my view, despite Mr Lyall and his contractor using the skills expected of reasonably competent silage contractors to implement the fallback option of cut, rake and chop which the Hughes brothers agreed to, soil was still incorporated in the silage by this process, resulting in a loss of silage quality."

In her decision Justice Dunningham said Mr Lyall had not breached his contractual duties and that he was entitled to costs after being successful in the case.

The brothers pinned part of their case on the amount of dirt in the silage, however when Mr Lyall called in animal nutrition expert Jim Gibbs for advice, he said the level dirt in the silage was not a problem.

Mr Lyall said the crop was too far gone when he was called in to harvest it.

"They got me in to harvest their whole crop, peas and barley, but when I got there to do it it was three to four weeks over-matured... the peas were past it - they were starting to shed the pods and drop out on the ground.

"I couldn't get it through my whole-front because the pea stalks were about four foot long and they were wrapping around my auger, it broke the auger shaft... I hired another one and broke it too."

Mr Lyall said he told the Hughes brothers that that method wouldn't work, so the brothers mowed and raked the crop first.

He said it was a relief the court case was over and he always knew the poor quality silage was not his fault.

"I was feeling confident I had done no wrong."

However he was apprehensive the Hughes would appeal.

RNZ has been unable to contact Tony and Wayne Hughes for comment.