Celebrating 15 years in business, Cairns Contracting has been providing its customers with the kind of efficient service which keeps them coming back again and again. Irish Tractor spoke to company owner Garth Cairns to find out more about the County Armagh-based outfit.
Since 1999, Garth Cairns has been operating his own agricultural contracting business but his love for the industry itself stretches back a bit further than that. Farming has been a huge interest of Garth’s since he was a boy and right now he’s involved in the sort of work that he loves as the business continues to thrive despite the tough economic downturn in the last few years.
The company is based in Waringstown in Co Armagh and employ eight full-time employees on the contracting end. Garth’s other enterprise, SlurryKat Engineering Ltd, which will be discussed later in this feature, employs 40 staff and has been a resounding success since starting up six years ago.
Cairns Contracting hasn’t had a bad time of it either, as it constantly keeps giving its customers good reason to come back to them.
“We offer a full range of farm services, re-seeding, combining service but during the summer months silage is the main thing for us,” explained Garth.
“Our customer base is very much on milk production, with 95 per cent of our customers coming from the dairy production market. In the winter we do hedge cutting and site clearance. During the winter months we do a lot of maintenance as well.”
The secret behind the success is nothing special, according to Garth: “We keep costs down for one. Generally, anything mechanical we do it ourselves.”
That helps give Garth’s company an edge over the competition, so to speak, and in the agricultural industry you need to stay one step ahead of the game. That and providing a reliable service seems to go hand-in-hand when it comes to success in this particular line of work.
For Garth, the key section of his business has always been silage harvesting and slurry spreading which keeps him very busy during the summer months and also during autumn and spring with the slurry spreading. A great year weather-wise saw the busy times stretch into the autumn in 2014 and his maintenance work ensures that things will tick over during the winter before the spring rolls in and it all starts again.
He never tires of the cycle though, as he has been a lover of farming for as long as he can remember.
“I always had a real interest in farming machinery, even as a kid,” he said.
“When I was growing I always knew I wanted to be a contractor. I used to do work drawing silage and spreading slurry; they were humble beginnings back then. I made my own trailers, tankers and I guess it just progressed from there.”
A slow progress often reaps the best rewards when it comes to business and over the years Garth, along with his employees, has gained a reputation for the excellent service that they provide.
“It slowly just progressed and just grew year by year,” said the owner. “The ethos at this company is that we do a very clean and tidy job. That sort of stuck to us down the years and we do provide a very efficient service.
“We are not the cheapest but we’re by no means the most expensive either. Over the years I’ve seen neighbouring contractors around us raise prices and let the quality of their work slip causing them to loose work. We’ve made sure not to do that here.”
As for the economic downturn that claimed many businesses all over the country in past recent years, Garth is thankful that they haven’t felt the full brunt of it.
“We have not noticed a recession,” he said. “Our industry wasn’t as badly affected at the construction industry say and year after year we’ve had an organic growth in the company.
“We have kept things sensible here, changing one or two tractors a year and maintaining them ourselves which, as I said earlier, really helps when it comes to keeping down costs.”
John Deere is the brand which Garth chooses first when it comes to his tractor fleet and they’ve recently invested in a second silage harvesting outfit for the 2014 season.
“All of our tractors are John Deere. We have two John Deere 7750 harvesters and the tractors range from 1998 to the latest 2014 models. We also have two sets of butterfly mowers here,” he said.
“Because we’ve good drivers we have here we tend to get 20,000 hours out of a new John Deere as we maintain them ourselves and have careful drivers driving them which makes a huge difference.”
So why choose John Deere ahead of other brands?
“The product is good and reliable,” explained Garth. “When it comes to harvesters we have a very good dealer that we work with to ensure that we get the best deals possible when purchasing a new machine.”
Another brand which has proved reliable since its inception is SlurryKat Engineering.
SlurryKat is the leading manufacturer of quality slurry tankers, umbilical slurry systems and farm trailers so farmers, worldwide, can benefit from using the best pieces of kit on their farm.
First started in 2008, it now exports 140 different products to 18 countries worldwide and has seen Garth collecting numerous business awards on its behalf as the company’s CEO. In 2014 alone it scooped awards for Legacy, Manufacturing Excellence and Best Export Initiative at the Craigavon Business Awards.
“SlurryKat first came about from us manufacturing our own machinery,” explained its founder.
“We have 40 people employed in that end and we are manufacturing globally now. When we started it in 2008 it was by us using our own knowledge gained from the business.”
To ensure they deliver for their customers, all SlurryKat’s equipment is extensively tested at its research and development plant at its headquarters by a specialised team of professional agricultural contractors.
It prides itself on being one of the only companies in this sector to invest so heavily in developing and testing equipment. The equipment must meet and surpass a robust quality process in order to provide customers with high quality machinery which is built to last.
The latest cutting edge engineering techniques and systems are used to ensure SlurryKat equipment remains at the forefront of innovation and they employ highly skilled technicians and engineers to work on maintaining and improving their growing range of equipment, which provides the SlurryKat brand with a competitive advantage.
With awards for innovation, reliability and excellence, SlurryKat has earned its reputation as a global frontrunner in the production of ‘best-in-class’ dribble bars, slurry tankers, umbilical slurry systems, farm trailers, silage trailers, reelers and hoses along with one of the lightest and robust silage and grain trailers range on the market today.
SlurryKat equipment performs every time. Whether you are a farmer or a dealer you will benefit from our innovation and expertise.
The same goes for Garth Cairns Contracting too.
“Our unique selling point is the quality of workmanship offered at a quality price,” said the CEO.
“In 2016 you might see a third harvesting outfit here, but, without doubt, the biggest industry for us at the moment is slurry spreading.”