A good tractor equipped with a heavy-duty forest trailer and loader can make for an attractive alternative to a purpose-built forwarder. In forestry circles, Valtra and Kesla are commonly regarded as one of the best combinations available. And, thanks to a recent deal, both are now available through Chandlers Farm Equipment in England and Wales.

AMID the deluge of headlines which dominated the news in January of this year, whether those related to COVID or Brexit, political turmoil or environmental disasters, one could be forgiven for missing a forestry story of particular interest to contractors in England and Wales.

Lincolnshire-based Chandlers Farm Equipment, a main dealer for AGCO (Massey Ferguson, Fendt, Challenger and Valtra) completed the purchase of the Lister Wilder AGCO business on 4 January, acquiring five new sites and almost doubling in size in the process.

READ MORE: Forestry Journal Buyer's Guide: Forestry fencing

That expansion means it can now distribute the full-line AGCO offering through focused channels with specialist teams dedicated to specific brands.

But as well as taking on premises and various highly skilled staff, Chandlers has also taken on distribution for Finnish forestry equipment manufacturer Kesla, which Lister Wilder brought into the fold in mid-2020, when it became the sole dealer for the franchise in the south of England.

As such, Chandlers is now able to capitalise on Kesla’s long-standing partnership with Valtra to deliver a comprehensive and competitive forestry package to end users.


Valtra tractors have a long pedigree. First produced more than 60 years ago, they have a hard-earned reputation for reliability, durability and customer satisfaction in the toughest of environments, with their compact design, nimbleness and reverse-drive system marking them out as indispensable for forestry work. Add-ons for forestry tasks can include narrow mudguards, a steel fuel tank, polycarbonate glass, forest tyres, a rotating seat and cab protection.

Forestry Journal:

Its wide range saw a significant addition with the launch of the G Series in August 2020.

The first in the fifth generation, it has been designed to offer superior visibility and comfort – qualities for which Valtra tractors are already renowned.

Its spacious cab boasts 5.7 square metres of glass, including 0.35 square metres in the panoramic roof, along with heated mirrors, air conditioning, a lower cab heater and USB charging plugs available with the auxiliary power pack. All Valtra products have available an optional comprehensive warranty scheme, with the addition of a service contract if required.

Whether it’s a G Series or an earlier model, when forestry customers look to pair it with a timber trailer, Kesla is likely to be the name they think of first.
The brands have enjoyed a long association through their forestry customers and, in 2016, formalised an agreement of cooperation, joining forces in product development and their sales network, making their products available from the same dealers in a growing number of markets. As such, their combined distribution through Chandlers is very much in line with the companies’ ambitions.

Kesla’s roots go back to the 1950s, and today its range, designed to be compatible with Valtra tractors, includes not only forest trailers, but loaders, grapples and woodchippers.
When combined, a Valtra tractor and Kesla trailer make for a package that is affordable, versatile and easily transportable. For the right customer, they add up to a very attractive alternative to a purpose-built forwarder.


Much like Valtra and Kesla, Chandlers is a company with a lot of history behind it. A third-generation family business, its story began in 1935 with Joe Pell. A farmer’s son with an interest in the mechanisation of labour, Joe worked as an ironmonger’s apprentice before establishing his own business in Grantham with two friends, Tom Court and Des Chandler.

Specialising in mechanisation in the rural environment, they developed an association with agricultural equipment maker Massey-Harris, later to become Massey Ferguson.

Following AGCO’s purchase of Massey Ferguson, Chandlers grew to offer other brands including Challenger, Fendt and Valtra.Today, the managing director’s chair is occupied by Joe’s grandson, Gavin Pell. While it has steadfastly remained a family business, it has also grown to become AGCO’s largest partner in the UK. 

Prior to the Lister Wilder purchase, Chandlers operated from seven depots, primarily covering Lincolnshire and the East Midlands, and has now acquired five more in Warwickshire, Oxfordshire, Wiltshire and Gloucestershire. Meanwhile, Lister Wilder continues as a separate business focusing on groundscare and construction, with plans to significantly expand its full-line Kubota range.


Gavin explained that the deal, which has allowed it to sell and service Valtra and Kesla products across an increased territory, was partly prompted by AGCO’s global strategy.

He said: “AGCO wants segregation of the promotion, service and support of their brands.

"They feel it’s important they’ve got dedicated people who are specially trained and focused on each brand, and we wholeheartedly support that strategy. It does, however, ideally require the business to be at a certain scale to fulfil these aims.

Forestry Journal:

"That and the fact Lister Wilder was heavily involved in groundscare and construction with Kubota – not a natural bedfellow with AGCO – led to a sensible discussion between the businesses seeking a solution that would simplify their operations, allow Lister Wilder to focus on its groundscare and construction business and give us the scale and the locations to operate from to separate out Massey Ferguson from the Fendt/Valtra brands.”

Gavin described this as a mutually beneficial agreement, allowing each enterprise to continue to invest in the very best of facilities, and in their respective teams going forward, to provide the highest level of customer service for their respective brands.

He said: “It was a tremendously nice deal to do because there wasn’t a single person who was demoted or lost their job over it. It’s only created growth in both teams. Lister Wilder has gone on to recruit additional people and we’ve done likewise. It was wonderful to have a deal with all positives and no negatives.”

He admitted, however, that 2020 made for a challenging year in which to undertake such negotiations.

“Nothing’s easily done remotely,” he said. “We’ve now become quite familiar with Zoom and conducting meetings online, but some conversations are always better had face to face. The restrictions of the pandemic didn’t make it easy for us. Having said that, while we’ve all been affected by COVID, we were able to keep our doors open throughout and continue to serve our customers.”

Where the impact of the COVID pandemic has been felt more acutely has been among Chandlers’ suppliers.

“The knock-on effects on the supply chain have been greater this year than in 2020,” said Gavin. “The general impact on the worldwide supply of componentry used in multiple products has created a serious shortage, with factories closing around the world. And it will be some time before it gets back to normal.

Forestry Journal:

“That makes it essential for decision-makers to be thinking further ahead with their purchases. Whereas in the past you might have expected a lead time of two or three months, now it can now be up to a year for some items. It’s not that bad for everything, but if you’re considering investing in your equipment, that thought should be followed up rapidly with some action, if you want it in a timely manner.”

Beyond supply issues, Gavin highlighted some other good reasons for investing in new equipment sooner rather than later.

“Historically low interest rates available for financing remain an incredibly attractive part of capital investment at the moment,” he said. “If you’re trading as a limited company on a reasonable scale, the investment allowance is very beneficial from tax efficiency perspectives. There is a scheme where you can achieve 130 per cent of your capital equipment purchase offset against tax, which is unlimited in value.

“With very low interest rates available and good finance options, the advantage for a Kesla or Valtra customer coming to us is we have very competitive rates available through AGCO finance. We have our own internal retail finance manager who is an integral part of the process and can work with customers to structure their financing requirements appropriately, really get into depth with the accounts and look at what would be right for them.”


It is unquestionably a good time for Chandlers to be stepping further into the forestry market, with Valtra and Kesla, amid increased demand for machinery coming from existing forestry contractors and new entrants.

Ash dieback and other diseases are a major factor driving the felling of mature and semi-mature forests and the demand for suitable machines, along with estate owners and farmers diversifying their businesses.

Forestry Journal:

“We do see a greater demand for this type of equipment from the estates and those dealing with ash dieback,” said Gavin. “But looking to the future, we expect to see more customers regarded traditionally as agriculture becoming more involved in the forestry sector. I can only imagine that with the alterations to the single-farm payment and the encouragement to capture carbon and achieve carbon neutrality, there’s going to be growing demand for increased planting and on all the associated forestry industries that come with that, including machinery. It’s not instantaneous with forestry, given the crop time, but over the following years there’s thinning, maintenance and then the harvesting of mature forests, for which a versatile solution like Valtra and Kesla is ideally suited.”

However, while the addition of Kesla to its stable allows Chandlers to offer more to customers and expand further into the forestry market, it’s worth emphasizing the deal was not driven by a push for additional sales, but by AGCO’s push to improve customer service – an ambition Chandlers certainly shares.

This year saw the launch of the company’s new apprenticeship and professional training academy, designed to develop the careers of all its technical staff. This autumn, 30 apprentices will receive training from Chandlers’ new training manager – a significant addition to the technical team.

Forestry Journal:

“Support is paramount to what we do,” said Gavin. “Selling new products is nice, but this is fundamentally a service industry. People in the forestry business are working all year round, all seasons and in all weathers and conditions. They need good-quality backup with well-trained technicians and parts people who know what they’re talking about, can source the correct part first time and handle it professionally. That’s why we invest heavily to make sure we can offer the service our customers need.

“Aside from simply recruiting and training a lot of new apprentices into the business, our academy will aid the career development of all our technical staff, managing that process of their training and progression through what amounts to many years of experience and improvement. 

“We’ve got a great team of technicians who are used to working on fully guarded tractors. It’s a task that without the practice is really time consuming and would make jobs really long. And if you’re embarking on becoming an agricultural or forestry technician, working on that type of equipment, it’s at minimum a five- or seven-year project and ultimately a ten-year developmental programme. You train to be a doctor in less time. As we see it, we’re investing in the future.”


Looking back on a transformative year for the business, Gavin said he thought some people would be surprised to learn of the scale Chandlers now operates on.

He said: “We have 12 depots covering an extensive territory with six fully-articulated HGVs delivering equipment nationwide. We have 50 salespeople who are product specialists, the result of a serious investment in people to attain that level of knowledge.

But we’re a people business, providing a personal service. And, when the forestry shows return, we’re looking forward to getting out there, taking part and getting face to face with our customers.

Forestry Journal:

“The scale we’ve been able to achieve through the acquisition of the agriculture and forestry part of Lister Wilder has given us a great opportunity to embark on projects that you need to be of a certain size to manage. It’s a tremendously exciting time for the business and we can see that’s going to be something that’s going to put us in good stead for decades to come.”