Features

Here come the men in black…

26 Mar , 2020  

Gorthill Farm Contracting’s stunning black-liveried fleet has become a familiar and eye-catching sight on farms across the North West, where the Boggs brothers have been delivering unrivalled services for a quarter of a century. We returned to Eglinton, Derry and touched base with Johnny Boggs to get an update on this exceptional third-generation family business.

Following on from father Ernie and grandfather James, brothers Johnny and Ryan are the third generation of the Boggs family to make their living off the land in the North West of the island. And their trademark, distinctive black fleet of modern tractors and machinery isn’t the only thing that makes them stand out from the competition! The quality of service provided by Gorthill Farm Contracting is second to none and this is why the business is going from strength to strength some 25 years since its inception.

At the heart of the fleet is eight magnificent Fendts – black beauties which look sensational and perform even better. Regular upgrading of the tractors ensures that efficiency and performance levels are invariable nigh on perfect.

This year alone, four 720s have been replaced by four brand-new 720s – a significant investment but one which ensures the Boggs brothers’ longstanding status at the head of the pack in their native Derry and neighbouring Donegal, Tyrone and Antrim:

“We keep them fresh and at the moment we’re changing them every three to four years,” says Johnny. “They look good, but more importantly we never have any issues with them.

“Of course, the original outlay is a little bit more expensive but running costs are what we are most concerned about and you can’t beat Fendt in that regard. They are dependable and economical and they also come with a three-year warranty so there are no hidden costs.

“And the drivers love them, too, which is another important consideration as staff is getting harder to get and you have to try to keep them happy.”

Alongside Johnny and Ryan, the business generates full-time employment for three others. “Max, who is Ryan’s son, is next in line,” says Johnny. “He’s only 16 but he’s tractor-mad and machinery-mad and he’s really taken to the work.”

A comprehensive general contracting service is provided and the superb fleet of tractors and specialist machinery guarantees top class results every time, be it baling straw, cutting silage or wholecrop, or mulching (a service which is provided all over Northern Ireland). The Bogg brothers also farm 700 acres, where they grow grass silage, wheat, oats and rye for use in their anaerobic digester.

The flagship machine in the Gorthill Farm Contracting fleet is the striking, latest-generation Claas 980 Jaguar forage harvester, which was purchased new ahead of the 2018 silage season. Replacing a 2015 Claas Jaguar 870 forager last July, this marvellous harvester was the first of the new improved 980 models to arrive in Northern Ireland. As well as fitting in with the trademark black colour scheme, the 980 delivers exceptional consistency and efficiency.

Other key items in the wonderfully-stocked Eglinton yard include a Volvo L90 loading shovel, six-metre drill, two sets of Claas triple mowers, two Massey 185 square balers, Krone four-rotor 14-metre rake, Krone 16-metre tedder, a five-furrow reversible plough, a six-furrow semi-mounted reversible plough, 12-metre dribble bar and slurry pipe, four 4,000-gallon Herron tankers, four 16-tonne Herron trailers and two 18-tonne Herron trailers. Black, wherever possible, of course.

Everything is maintained in immaculate condition and optimal running order, with regular checks and servicing. “Ryan is mechanically-minded and we do a lot of the maintenance ourselves, mostly during the winter time or when things are quietest.”

A large volume of repeat business, with many clients on the books since Gorthill Farm Contracting started out, ensures the Boggs brothers of a steady flow of business. Of course, high standards must be maintained as farmers always need the work done as quickly and efficiently as possible.

“Farmers are under pressure and the nature of the work is that they want it done today,” Johnny notes. “They don’t want to wait. You need to have the machinery and the men to meet that demand. If you break down, then they’ll get someone else to do it so you have to keep it as fresh as possible.”

Ultimately, it’s a mutually beneficial relationship that works both ways: “We have a loyal customer base and we give them a quality service,” Johnny confirms. “We look after them and they look after us. If they are loyal to me then I am loyal to them.

“I do everybody’s work the exact same as I do my own … as quickly, efficiently and as well as I could and with no messing. I treat their ground like I do my own and that shows in the quality of the service we give and the number of farmers who come back to us every year.”

While massive investments of money and time are required to keep the operation going strong, not to mention the day-to-day stresses of trying to sustain a viable commercial business with steady cash flow, Johnny admits he’s had a good, healthy life on the land and wouldn’t have it any other way:

“I enjoy what I do, it’s a good life,” he concludes. “The weather can change in a flash and it’s feast or famine, really. There’s days it’s stressful but you get used to that and it’s part of the job. There’s plenty of variety as you never know for sure what you’ll be doing from one day to the next, but I enjoy the work and this way of life has been good to four generations of my family.”

With very possibly more to follow.

Gorthill Farm Contracting,

19A Backhill Rd,

Eglinton,

County Derry,

BT47 3JR,

Northern Ireland.

Tel:  028 71810239.

Taken from Irish Tractor & Agri magazine Vol 7 No 6, November 2019

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