Developing ingenious ways to move livestock

Matt Edwards, owner of Graham Edwards Trailers, with one of the firm's trailers. Pictures: Gary Longbottom
Matt Edwards, owner of Graham Edwards Trailers, with one of the firm's trailers. Pictures: Gary Longbottom

It’s a fair bet that if you have travelled down a country lane in Yorkshire or indeed the rest of the north of England you will have been behind a gun-metal galvanised steel livestock trailer sporting the name Graham Edwards Trailers at some point.

Graham’s son Matt has run the company based at Moor Lane near Full Sutton for many years and tells of how new technology designed by his dad led to them becoming the UK’s second largest manufacturer of sheep and cattle trailers.

“Dad started the company Graham Edwards Fabrications in 1985. He’d worked on David Dixon’s farm at Sand Hutton as a farm fitter for 26 years and fancied a change. He’d been building trailers in an evening to make extra money and gradually started receiving more orders.

“I joined him following my studies at Bishop Burton College in 1991 and we moved here from Bolton near Wilberfoss in 1994. We’ve always built robust, dependable trailers, but dad also knew we needed something different, something that would give us that USP (unique selling point) and his wind-away deck that enables a regular sheep trailer to carry sheep on two levels was what really put us on the map.”

Graham’s self-designed wind-away deck does exactly what is says on the tin. A handle is used to wind down the upper deck so sheep can then be lifted and other sheep can get in on the lower deck.

“It is still as popular as ever but a couple of years ago we came up with a new deluxe version called the Power Deck. We’ve powered the wind-away deck with two electronic activators that bring the back end of the deck down.

“This makes the ramp a lot longer and means it’s easier to get the sheep on board.”

Finding USPs is all-important for Matt. His main competitor is a massive trailer company with huge production facilities.

Recently, they have also achieved a USP in the cattle trailer sector too.

“When the law changed to enable a Land Rover or other 4x4 to tow trailers up to 8ft 2in wide we came up with a new cattle trailer with wheels at the side rather than in line with the width of the trailer body.

“This brings greater stability on the road and that’s something that farmers prefer. We’re the only ones in the market producing these and because of it we’ve been able to produce a wider cattle trailer body of 6ft 3in rather than 5ft and 5ft 8in.

“This means farmers can get big cows turned around within the trailer and it also adds to the number of cattle that will fit in too. We’re finding that many farmers are now going back to having wheels aside on their trailers.”

The eight-acre site has over the years seen an extension built on to the original Graham Edwards Trailers factory and workshop.

Matt had his family home built next to the factory in 2000 and last year a new workshop and factory building was put up and new kit in the shape of a press brake for folding metal was installed.

“We’ve invested heavily and we currently produce 20 trailers a week, but we don’t just then sit here and wait for the orders to come in.

“We go to all of the local livestock markets such as Skipton, York, Otley, Ruswarp and Selby. We’re at York every week and last week I picked up four orders. We attended LAMMA and picked up five orders all from north of Sheffield even though it was held in Peterborough; and YAMS at York, well that was just the best.

“That was by far the best of the winter shows we’ve done this year.”

Although Graham Edwards Trailers will undertake any amount of bespoke work for their sheep and cattle trailers, they have still resisted going into the leisure market – horse boxes and motorcycle and speedboat trailers – but last year they entered a completely new market producing single axle road sign information trailers that through LED displays powered by solar panels carry messages such as ‘Drive carefully my daddy works here’ and ‘Remember to fill up with fuel’.

“We manufacture a lot of different trailers, not just for livestock, but this big order for what are called mobile visual information systems came in last year – 160 of them for the M1.

“We’d received some smaller orders prior to it but we were flat out last summer meeting our six-week deadline.”

Graham Edwards Trailers now employs a team of 25 and Matt’s dad is still on hand.