Although he essentially provides a traditional, tried-and-trusted contracting service, Michael Barrett also embraces change and innovation to give his customers the best of both worlds. We visited the affable Limerick man at his dairy farm near Newcastle West to get an insight into his effective and efficient contracting operation.
It’s exactly 25 years since Michael Barrett started contacting and, over that quarter of a century, he has tweaked, tailored and fine-tuned his services to establish himself as one of the premier agricultural contractors in the Treaty County. “My father used to cut his own silage at home on the family farm, although he didn’t do any contracting. That’s where I got the interest in it from,” he reflects.
Michael started out round baling in 1994 with a Fiat 10090 and a Claas 46 round baler. From there, he diversified into hedge cutting, mowing, drawing bales and reseeding. “I started with the silage wagons in 2001 and did that up until 2007,” he continues. “In ’08, I got my first harvester and stopped baling around that time because we were very busy with the pit silage and the harvester.”
Today, Michael Barrett Agri Contracting provides first-class silage, slurry and hedge-cutting services. Michael runs a new harvester alongside one silage wagon and offers umbilical slurry spreading. He also spreads dung and sludge using a Hi-Spec rear discharge spreader.
His six-strong fleet of tractors comprises a 2017 Fendt 724 alongside five John Deeres – a 2018-reg 6175r, two ’17-reg 6155rs, a ’12 6830 and a ’07 6620. The tractors are fresh and maintained in tip-top condition in the yard, where Michael does all the servicing and minor repairs himself, while Gearys Garage looks after all the bigger jobs.
The flagship machine in Michael Barrett’s yard at present is a brand-new John Deere 8500i self-propelled forage harvester. “It measures both the quality and the quantity of the grass,” he points out. “It measures the protein, fibre, dry matter and sugar content as it goes through the machine and you can print the figures off or email them to the farmer. It’s a great way of keeping track of how each field is performing because not only does it measure the tonnage but also the quality.
“Farmers can really see the value of that harvester as you are offering them something that nobody else has. It took a bit of getting used to but you stick with it and work it out. It’s a very useful machine once you have it up and running.”
A man who is never afraid to embrace change and innovation – whatever it takes to maximise the performance and efficiency of his business – Michael also uses the OneClick Accounts app and finds it very convenient.
The Limerick man runs two hedge cutters, an umbilical slurry spreading system, a Hitachi track machine, Hi-Spec spreader and has paired Kuhn butterfly mowers with the Fendt.
Constantly investing in his fleet to ensure that the best-possible services are provided in a dependable and prompt manner, Michael also invested in a new Strautmann silage wagon in 2018. “We use it for second cuts, lighter crops and smaller jobs,” he explains. “Also, when we are busy, we can use the harvester and the silage wagon together – you get an extra bit of output with the two running together. The Strautmann has the capacity to do 45 acres a day, so it’s a very good back-up option to have.”
Like everything else, it’s all carefully thought through and tailored around the needs of customers. From his base just outside Newcastle West, in West Limerick, Michael caters for farmers generally within a 20-mile radius. Due to the high quality of the services provided, invariably in a straight-up, no-fuss manner, he benefits from a large volume of repeat business, with some farmers staying loyal for 25 years and counting…
“Yeah, I still have some customers who have been with me since ’94 when I started with the round baling,” Michael confirms. “I find that if the service is good, generally they won’t change. Farmers want a good service. That’s their priority, even more so than price. If you prove that you can do the job, then they’ll stay with you. I’m very lucky to have a lot of very good customers.
“Also, staff are very important. I’ve a great team working for me and they are very loyal. We’re busy all year around but the nature of contracting is that you’ll still have the rush in the summer. There’s enough work here over the winter to keep two guys busy with the slurry and hedge cutting. It can go up to eight men during the summer and I’d have a couple of temporary lads then as well, who have been coming back for ten or 15 years. They’re all great lads and they provide a great service. As I said, service is the most important thing of all. You have to provide a quality service … you wouldn’t be still here otherwise.”
As a wholly self-sufficient dairy farmer himself, Michael has an insight into what exactly his customers expect from him in terms of service. He milks 140 cows, supplying milk to Dairygold and rearing his own calves up to twelve months. Meanwhile, his wife, Mary, makes an invaluable contribution to the business, looking after all the paperwork and providing refreshments to keep the energy levels up.”
All geared towards ensuring that Michael Barrett’s customers are happy with the services provided.
Michael Barrett Agri Contracting,
Tel: 087 2602895
Email: [email protected]
Taken from Irish Tractor & Agri magazine Vol 7 No 4, August 2019