Given the expensive nature of farming machinery many farmers turn to contractors to carry out their annual harvesting and other work that is carried out every year.
Since the age of 14, Pat Mulchrone has been working in the agricultural contracting business, when he first left school and with a finger bar mower, he started providing a service to many of his neighours.
Almost 40 years later and Pat is still providing services to a customer base that has grown considerably over the years, although he has moved on from the finger bar mower to much more modern machinery.
So to say that Mayo based Pat has picked up great experience over the years would be a massive understatement as he has seen it all and done it all.
However, to be fair that is not exactly true as even he admits to Irish Tractor that he has never seen the likes of the weather conditions that hit the country during June and July.
A heatwave hit the country and although many basked in the sunshine, the farming community was met with massive concerns over a lack of rain which brought about its own problems.
“I’ve never witnessed anything like it. We still haven’t got to finish the first cut. From having artic like conditions only a few months ago to the heatwave was extreme to say the least,” said Pat.
“We went through a phase there where we had very little to do and that is something that I have never experienced during the summer. The time constraints are usually tight because of the rain, but it got to the stage that everyone wanted some rain.”
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Pat operates a fleet of five John Deere tractors, 6800, 6910, 2 x 6820 and a 6830, while a Claas 650 mower does the mowing.
“I would buy good clean second hand machinery with low hours on them. The price of machinery has gone up a lot. We would be putting anywhere between 1,000 and 1,500 hours on the tractors every year, so it is important to keep them well maintained.
“We deal with Murphy’s of Headford for a lot of our machinery and I’d have a good relationship with them as I’m dealing with them years.”
Slurry work is big part of the work provided by Pat and his team and the umbilical system is his preferred choice for spreading.
“I would have a 2,000 and a 2,500 gallon tanks, but they would be used to draw slurry to the umbilical system which we prefer to use, as the land down here is generally not great. The system is so much faster than the tanker work. It is costly to run, but far more effective. The only drawback is the slurry ban in place over most of November, December and part of January. It makes no sense at all as at times, the weather is not that bad and plus the aim of the umbilical system is not to abuse the land anyway.”
Many contractors operate within a ten or 20 mile radius of their bases, but for Mulchrone Agri they travel much further to provide their services.
“We would cover a 60-70 mile radius from our base in Castlebar whether it be slurry work or silage, ploughing or reseeding, our customers cover a big area.”
“Ploughing and reseeding are a major part of the business as well as lime spreading, so we are kept busy usually all year around, although the heat wave has certainly slowed us down.”
Two McConnell hedge cutters keep the hedges of west Mayo nice and trim during the winter months, while sludge work for the local authority is also carried out.
“We have our own waste permit for the sludge work, while the hedge cutting keeps us going over the winter months. Farm machinery is a rough and tough game to be in when rules, regulations, insurance and health & safety are taken into account. There is a lot more management involved than 20 years ago. It’s not something anyone can pick up. You have to be around it all your life,” the affable farm contractor stresses.
Of course to do all this, Health & Safety is paramount and all the necessary permits are needed and kept up to date.
Agricultural contractors provide an important service to farmers, particularly at these busy times of the year. Many of the services provided to farmers by contractors, such as slurry spreading, harvesting silage, also involve serious safety risks if they are not correctly planned and managed. Drivers have been with the team for many years and thankfully, there have been no major incidents.
“We have the proper permits to carry out the storing of slurry and spreading it on the land. We try to cover everything involved in the farming industry and we would have built up a large customer base over the years. We value our customers highly and strive to deliver a professional service at all times with many personal friendships built over the years.”
Pat Mulchrone Agri
T: 087 243924 E: [email protected]
Taken from Irish Tractor & Agri magazine Vol 6 No 8, December 2018/January 2019