For more than three decades, Wright Agri Contractors have been providing farmers in South Limerick and North Cork with a comprehensive range of exceptional services. We dropped into their Dromcollogher base and had a chat with Tom Wright to find out more about this top-class, family-run enterprise.
The genesis of Wright Agri Contractors goes back to 1987, when proprietor Tom Wright got the ball rolling by taking on a bit of hedge cutting. “I’d worked with a local contractor for two or three years prior to that,” he reflects. “From hedge cutting, I got into silage and bought a double-chop harvester in 1988 followed by my first self-propelled harvester in 1990 – a John Deere 5830. Thirty years on, silage is still a big part of what we do.”
In addition to prompt, speedy, professional and efficient silage cutting within a 25-mile radius of the picturesque village of Dromcollogher, Wright Agri Contractors are also synonymous with high-quality, no-nonsense baling, slurry spreading, reseeding and hedge cutting.
“Over the last few years, dairy farms have got bigger and there’s more work to keep us going,” he notes. “As there are fewer farmers and they have all increased their cattle numbers, we’ve found ourselves drawing silage a longer distance and travelling a bit further. There’s also more land gone into plantation, so all in all the number of farms is decreasing but the ones that are there are getting bigger.”
For the Wrights of Dromcollogher, contracting and farming are very much a family tradition – a labour of love, in many respects. Tom grew up on the family farm and his parents, Paddy and Catherine, ran a small contracting business as well. “Dad worked with me up until last year,” the affable Limerick man reveals. “My brother William actually started contracting with me around 1990 but he then took over the home farm while I continued with the contracting. William still helps with the silage during the summer driving the loading shovel when we are under pressure, while my son Darren, who’s 20, has joined the business and the hope would be that he will take it over eventually, if all goes to plan. My wife Marie also makes a big contribution – she looks after the books and makes sure there’s a wage coming in.”
Full-time employment is provided for three people, while the numbers generally go up to seven or eight during the peak of the summer months – not an inconsequential contribution to the local economy by any means!
At the heart of the operation is a fantastic fleet of tractors and machinery. Tractor-wise, Tom runs seven John Deeres (a 6145r, 6930, 7530, 6920s, 6810, 6610 and 3650) alongside a striking Fendt 724 purchased brand new earlier this year to pair with the SaMASZ triple mowers.
Glancing around the yard, there’s a veritable plethora of high-quality, immaculately-maintained gear. Tom runs six silage trailers, four of which are classic and two halfpipes. The harvester is a John Deere 7700, while the McHale Fusion 3 Plus integrated baler wrapper represents another significant investment. There are also two loading shovels – a New Holland W170D and an O&K L25 – plus a Krone TC880 rake.
For slurry, Wright Agri Contractors have a SlurryKat umbilical system with dribble bars as well as a Bunning rear discharge dung spreader. Add in a Kuhn reversible plough, Lemken power harrow and two McConnel hedge cutters and it’s enough to almost make one’s eyes water…
“Look, you have to keep spending to make sure that you can get all the work done and meet farmers’ expectations – there’s no other way,” shrugs Tom. “You need to have all the gear and it has to be fresh and in good condition. So you are replenishing all the time. This year, for example, we bought the new Fendt and also the power harrow. If you’re not prepared to spend money, you will get left behind.”
Tom handles the lion’s share of maintenance and servicing himself, although he also has good working relationships with many local dealers and suppliers including local John Deere dealer Geary’s Garage in Kilmeedy; Nunan Farm Machinery in Broadford; and Atkins Farm Machinery for Fendt. “We get a lot of parts from JMC Parts in Rosscarbery in Cork and I buy my diesel from Shreelawn Oil in Newmarket,” the long-established and highly-dependable contractor adds.
Due to the reliability – and comprehensive nature – of the services provided, Tom benefits from a large volume of repeat business and has many customers coming back to him for 30 years: “If you give them a good service at a fair price, then they will generally stick with you – and you always pick up new clients too,” he states. “Margins are small so you have to be very efficient and you need to be covering all corners. Baling has really taken off here this year. We bought the Fusion 3 Plus baler / wrapper so that we could offer more – mowing and baling. A lot of second cuts are going into bales now and it’s a service you simply have to provide.
“Insurance and labour have gone up, as has the cost of machinery, while rates have remained the same, so it’s a tough game. It’s also difficult to find good labour as some of the machinery has become so technical and advanced that you need really good men to operate it. But, ultimately, it’s all about keeping the farmers happy and keeping them ticking over.”
Looking to the future, Tom says he’d be content if things continue as they are: “We’ll stick with what we know and what’s working,” he concludes. “There’s no point taking on too much and then not being able to give a proper service. We have enough to keep us going and you can’t put your arms around the whole world. It’s a good living – probably better than being stuck inside in an office – and we’ll keep at it and continue to look after our customers and improve the business any way we can.”
It’s worked a treat for 30 years or more and one gets the feeling that Wright Agri Contractors will be looking after the needs of farmers along the Limerick / Cork border for many more years to come!
Wright Agri Contractors Ltd.,
Tel: 086 8290358
First published in Irish Tractor & Agri magazine Vol 9 No 1, January/February 2021