Established on the outskirts of Dungannon, County Tyrone in 2002, Dorman Brothers provide a wide range of services to the agricultural community predominantly, including agri contracting, groundworks / site works and haulage. We interrupted Damian Dorman’s busy schedule to get an insight into this exceptional, customer-focussed family-run business, which he fronts alongside his brother Cathal.
As business owners go, brothers Damian and Cathal Dorman are about as hands-on and hard-working as they come. The duo run Dorman Brothers Agri-Contracts, Excavations and Haulage, which will celebrate the 20th anniversary of its genesis in May, 2022.
From their base near Dungannon, Dorman Brothers provide a wide range of invaluable services to the agri community both near and far, including the full spectrum of agricultural contracting solutions, excavation (groundworks and site clearance) and haulage (transporting agri machinery, animal feed, straw, peat, etc. across Ireland and the UK).
At the heart of the operation is a massive fleet of fresh and immaculately-maintained trucks, silage trailers, tractors and machinery; an unswerving dedication to delivering unrivalled customer service; and a wonderful family ethos. While family definitely comes first to Damian and Cathal, their commitment to carrying out quality work and providing total customer satisfaction is a close second.
The services provided can be divided neatly into three categories: digger work, lorry work and grass work. Dorman Brothers are renowned for high-quality digger work, invariably 100% neat and tidy, while the same can be said of their superb agri contracting and haulage services. “There’s an experienced man on every machine that goes out of here and I expect men to take pride in their work and their machines and to do things right,” notes Damian.
Reflecting on the formation of the business in 2002, the personable Tyrone man recalls: “We came from a modest family farm background and a late neighbour of mind used to do a bit of contracting and I used to help him out. When that man passed away, I had finished serving my time as a mechanic and Cathal, who’s three years younger, had just finished school. We decided to set up a contracting business on our own and we’re still at it almost 20 years later.”
With a vast fleet of tractors, mowers, conditioners, balers, wrappers, self-propelled harvesters, silage trailers (Kane and Redrock), slurry pipe system, loaders, hedge cutters and excavators at their disposal, Dorman Brothers provide a comprehensive range of agri contracting solutions as well as groundworks and site clearance, kerbing, pathways, fencing, foundations, etc. on farms and private houses. For the past 15 years, they have worked regularly for the Northern Ireland Rivers Agency (Dfl Rivers) throughout Tyrone, Armagh, Derry and Antrim.
The Dormans haven’t needed to advertise in years as the three-pronged business benefits from a healthy volume of repeat custom and attracts new customers through positive word of mouth. “We added the digger work within a year of starting out and have been in haulage five years this Christmas,” Damian continues. “We started out with two tractors, a couple of six-tonne diggers, a McConnel hedge cutter, round baler, wrapper and mower.”
Today, the magnificent fleet comprises twelve tractors (predominantly John Deere – from a trusty old 3140 up to the newest incarnations), two Volvo loading shovels (L50 and L70), Claas 850 and 960 self-propelled forage harvesters, Krone Big M 2, Krone rake and a set of triple Claas mowers. On the digger front, they operate four JCBs – 3-tonne and 13-tonne. “JCB has given me great service and they are very good on fuel,” says Damian. “I love the six-tonne digger as it is a great all-rounder but you hadn’t the reach with them and we decided to change to a combination of 13-tonne and 3-tonne and that works much better for us.
“We ran silage wagons for five seasons and then had to change to the harvester because we couldn’t handle the acres we were getting. We had the first John Deere harvester for five years and then changed over to Claas. The Big M has done a lot of work for us but we bought the triple mowers to push on and get the work done better.”
Typically, the contracting services are provided as close to home as possible: “We don’t believe in travelling for contracting work or in cutting rates. We stay within a ten-mile radius of our yard and we don’t need to go any further because people know we are good at our job and reliable. At the end of the day, you can’t work for nothing. It might mean doing fewer acres but whatever acres I’m doing they are with continuous customers and I’m getting paid for them. We also have the hours on the diggers and lorries too, so there is plenty to keep us going.”
Running the best equipment that money can buy demands substantial investment of funds back into the business. To this end, Dorman Brothers were particularly proactive in 2019 and 2020, with the addition of three fresh tractors, three diggers, a harvester, the larger shovel and the triple mowers. Earlier this year, a new McConnel hedge cutter with five-foot head and six-metre reach was purchased.
Dorman Brothers generate employment for six full time in agri (plus a few more during the summer) as well as three full-time lorry drivers. Their sister Michaela is a big part of the business, handling both raking and administration. “Michaela is a huge help to us and has been since she was only 13,” Damian reveals. “She started wrapping bales when she was 13 and now does our raking. Raking is one of the most important jobs in any silage crew and she is very, very tidy.”
On the haulage side, Dorman Brothers run eight V8 Scanias and do a lot of low loader work transporting agri machinery for customers including Farmhand, Malone Machinery and Martin Supplies across Ireland and the UK. They also deliver straw, peat, fertiliser, animal feed etc. for clients such as Bulrush, Growmore, Galloway & MacLeod and do some fridge work for Morgan McLernon.
Damian says he wouldn’t be where he is today without the help and support of local mechanic Sean O’Neill (brother of the contractor he worked with in the early days). “Sean is a very smart man and there’s nothing he can’t do. I’ve been learning from him since I was 13, which is 25 years ago, and Cathal is a very good mechanic too, so we do all out own fleet maintenance and servicing in house. We’re hoping to put up our own three-bay workshop soon. All the silage gear – even the trailers – is washed and greased and put away inside until the new season comes around.”
From a family of seven children, Damian was raised with a serious work ethic and a deep respect for those around him. “Myself and Cathal have worked very hard to get this business to where it is. We were always the two who stayed on late in the evening and we still put a lot of our time into the work every day. We have been driving lorries in recent years but in the past we used to buy used tractors and do them up and sell them. We bought and sold jeeps, cars and anything to make money. People don’t realise the work that goes on behind the scenes. Our brother James has helped out a bit and is a great man on a digger, although he always wanted to do his own thing, which is great.
“I’m 38 at Christmas and I used to say I was brought up with nothing but in recent times I’ve realised this is not true as I’ve looked at where some of those who grew up around me have gone in their lives. I don’t for a second believe I’m better than anybody else. We only ever got what our parents could afford – not the Nike and Adidas and Manchester United and Liverpool clothes that others had. We were brought up with love and as a close family and that has paid off. We took a chance on this business and thankfully it’s worked out so far. My daughter Emily, who is seven, plays a massive role in my life and is extremely important to me. Family values are the most important thing of all – not money.
“There were three boys and four girls (Colleen, Louise, Michaela and Corchennia) in our family growing up and every one of us showed cattle at Balmoral Show. What an experience that was for all of us! My parents, Dominic and Teresa, have a small farm and were always there to help if we needed a hand or some advice.
“My father is a brilliant stock man with a great eye for a good beast. He won Supreme Interbreed Champion at the Balmoral Show in 2015 with a Beef Shorthorn bull – the only Shorthorn ever to win it. He only owns two acres of ground so to get any rosette at Balmoral is something else but to win supreme champion out of 500 cattle is some achievement. He also won the overall Supreme Champion at Carlisle in 2010 with a blonde bull.
“Ultimately, we’re working towards hopefully buying our own farm of land sometime in the future if the economy is okay and the right opportunity presents itself – myself and Cathal and Daddy. In the meantime, we’ll keep working away with the business; we like to have something to get up in the morning for.”
Dorman Brothers Agri-Contracts, Excavations and Haulage,
Tel: 0(044)78 3394 6289
Email: [email protected]
First published in Irish Tractor & Agri magazine Vol 10 No 1, January/February 2022