McKnight Dairy Services in Convoy, Co Donegal offer clients total dairy solutions and sales, service and installation when it comes to milking equipment. Irish Tractor & Agri learned all about the business from director James McKnight recently.
These are busy times for McKnight Dairy Services in Co Donegal and the plan for James McKnight and Co in 2020 is to continue keeping up with the demand from clientele all over the North West region and beyond.
Agents for GEA Farm Technologies, the family-run company provides its clients with total dairy solutions and specialises in sales, service, installation, milking equipment, built tanks, slurry and water, as well as providing a 24-hour breakdown service.
McKnight Dairy Services also provides Robotic, Conventional & Rotary Milking Systems; Robotic and Conventional Scraper and in parlour and out of parlour feeding systems.
James McKnight himself was good enough to take time out from a hectic schedule to fill Irish Tractor & Agri in on the company that he and his brother David run together.
“We’re based in Glenmaquin, Letterkenny, Co Donegal and the business itself would be established 16 years,” James outlined about the business founded in 2004.
“We’ve eight full-time staff and we’d cover a lot of Donegal and then Tyrone, Fermanagh and Derry as well. We also contract install GEA rotary milking parlours in the UK and Ireland.”
McKnight Dairy Services became agents for Milfos International Ltd 12 years ago and since that time the latter has been acquired by GEA.
Headquartered in Düsseldorf, Germany, GEA stands as one of the largest suppliers of technology for the food processing industry and for a wide range of other process industries.
McKnight Dairy Services have a dealer agency for GEA Farm Technologies for the best part of two decades now and, according to James, 2019 went down as the Donegal-based firm’s best year yet business-wise due to a huge increase in local sales.
That’s a far cry from when the Tir Chonaill native and his brother David first started out in the industry that they now find themselves immersed in.
“I worked in a milking machine company in Strabane and also ran an agri contracting business,” explained James.
“We milk 120 cows on the family farm and McKnight Agri is still on the go, but the dairy service is our main focus now.”
And it’s not hard to see why either.
Business is presently booming at McKnight Dairy Services, with their work bringing regularly them all over the country as well as over and back to the UK.
“We picked up Milfos Dealership 12 years ago this was a huge stepping stone for the company. It was a deal that would see McKnight Dairy Sservices install Milfos rotary milking machines in Holland, Australia and all over the British Isles. They were then bought out by GEA five years ago,” said James.
“We’d be doing six or seven a year and I’d say 2019 was the busiest year we’ve had overall. We installed 15 Rotary Milking Machines, four of which are in our own local area and had five robotic installations as well.
“We’ve four rotarys on our books to install at the minute and we’ll be expanding our staff in 2020 in order to keep up with the demand.”
The signs for the year ahead are promising, which leaves one to wonder about the company’s secret to success over these past 20 years.
For James, customer satisfaction has always been paramount and coming from a farming background was a massive help in getting McKnight Dairy Services up and running back around the turn of the millennium.
“Many of our customers are with us right from when we first started here,” he pointed out.
“It’s all about customer satisfaction – that’s really why they stay with you. We’ve always concentrated on looking after the customer and, coming from a farm, we knew the background.”
To start 2020, the company’s robot install team successfully carried out a project in Bready, Co Tyrone which included a single robot with buffer tank, two stations out of parlour feeding, two feed types and cow scout heat & health monitoring, with milk tank, feed augers and wash down system done with stainless pipe work all completed by the team at McKnight Dairy Services.
The second start-up of the New Year for the robot install team was a single robot installation in Aghadowey, Co Derry, with buffer tank, out of parlour feeding, two feed types, liquid feed and cow scout heat & health monitoring tags.
The signs are looking promising for the months ahead and, with a decision having finally been made on Brexit, is confident that sales will continue to rise for ‘MDS’.
“2020 was looking good so far but it’ll do well to beat 2019,” James beamed.
“Around 80 per cent of our business would be between Northern Ireland and the UK, so we’ll have to wait and see on the impact Brexit has here.
“A decision has made so things are moving forward, which is a good thing. There was a bit of a hold up on sales towards the end of 2019 there due to the uncertainty, so I’d expect a bit of an increase in sales again.”
McKnight Dairy Services
First published in Irish Tractor & Agri magazine Vol 8 No 2, Summer 2020