For many years the Bryan brothers, Alan & Stuart, have been synonymous with providing quality agri contracting services to farmers in counties Cork and Waterford. Substantial investment in a striking fleet of modern, high spec machinery enables Bryan Bros Contracting to offer efficient and cost-effective silage, slurry, tillage and contract maize services to customers within a 40km radius of their Conna base.
Almost three years on from our last meeting with Co Cork native Stuart Bryan we travelled back to the banks of the River Bride in East Cork to talk machinery and get an update on how things are going for one of Munster’s longest-serving and most highly-respected family contracting businesses.
The first thing to strike you as you enter the busy Kilclare yard is how fantastic their equipment looks. Stuart and Alan have never held back when it comes to investing in the business and the payback is clear to see as the best machinery invariably delivers the best results. The best of machinery is no good without quality operators and the team encompasses full time and seasonal staff. With a varied and comprehensive skill set, the crew keep on top of machinery maintenance themselves allowing a streamlined business with minimal machine downtime.
“The team that work here take the same pride in the machines that we do and it shows in how they work. We like each driver to take responsibility for their own machine and they do. Its not unusual for the power washer to be busy on a Saturday evening as the team prepare to head off to a charity tractor event on a Sunday. Whether full time or seasonal, most of them have been with us for a long time and come back year after year. It makes things easier during a hectic first cut season as they know each other, work well together and strive to give our farmers an excellent service.”
There is a strong emphasis on health and safety at all times whether working in the yard or on a job. “The advent of modern machines with vastly increased power, coupled with heavy loads and busier roads means we can never be too careful and all staff are trained in best practice.” Long hours are part and parcel of the business and its tough on everyone but we look after the lads well and value their opinions.
Performance-wise, the Cork siblings simply cannot be beaten. But, of course, these high-quality standards come at a premium … not just in terms of purchasing and maintaining the machines but also the inordinately high cost of running them and the business as a whole. “Diesel is a huge thing for us,” Stuart confirms. “It is a massive overhead in any contracting operation which places everybody under pressure. Diesel prices are up over 50% in the last number of years. It’s serious money and it’s not just restricted to fuel. The price of the machinery is soaring, too. We bought a Fendt 724 in 2016 and the same machine has risen over 20% in purchase price today. We are expected to pay increased market prices but our own prices haven’t gone up at all. So the contractor is being squeezed and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to maintain cashflow at certain times of the year while turning a profit.”
The grant system is an area that Stuart feels needs to be looked at, be it extending existing grants to contractors or opening up other grant options specific to them. “Farmers can get grants when they purchase new slurry tanks, agitators, sprayers and tillage equipment but, as contractors exclusively, we get no discount whatsoever. While the farmer gets a grant, the contractor is completely disregarded, even though he’s clearly using the machinery for the same purpose or in a lot of cases being hired in to do that job on the farm instead of the farmer doing it himself. Dairy and tillage farmers can make massive savings on their machinery by getting generous grants for tanks, pipe systems and slurry equipment, but contractors like myself and Alan, who do not own farmland, have to pay the full amount. It’s frustrating and it seems unfair … surely there should be something there for the contractor, too? Especially when we are often contracted in to do all services on farm for example slurry instead of the farmer running a machine.”
Stuart also noted “The “Low Emission Slurry Spreading Equipment Scheme (LESS) that comes under the Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Scheme (TAMS II) is probably the most relevant at the moment to our business and the contracting industry as a whole. The effect of agriculture on the environment is a huge topic of discussion at the moment. A huge part of why we have moved towards Fendt is the vastly increased fuel efficiency which is not only more economical financially, it means we have five machines running a much lower carbon footprint than their market competitors. These higher powered machines mean we can get a job done quicker, burning less diesel. Couple that with our AgQuip Umbilical System or one of the trailing shoe tankers, pollution risk is minimalised while nutritional value to the land is maximised. If I could access those machinery grants for the service we provide could be even better both for our customers and the environment.”
At the time of writing, Stuart and Alan run seven tractors in total – five Fendt and two John Deere, all but one of which are between 2015 and 2019 reg. Stuart is a big fan of Fendt and he feels they offer a performance to match their incredible looks: “As I said they are extremely efficient. I find them to be trouble-free and they will do the job every time. It’s hard to put into words just how good they are. My son, Padraig, really likes John Deere but I think he’s starting to understand the benefit of the Fendt’s reliability and efficiency in terms of operating the business.”
Reliability from the machine needs to be matched by the dealer from whom you purchase and this is something Stuart and Alan feel is essential to their business. “The Fendts are a brilliant tractor complemented by great service from Atkins. We also bought a Major slurry tanker with trailing shoe from them and their customer service is excellent. The same has to be said of the other primary dealers we work with, Jim Power Agri and McCarthy Agri who celebrated their 25th anniversary in business in March of this year.
“The Krone Big X 630 Harvester and Big M Mower, which we bought from Jim Power Agri in 2017 and 2018 respectively are superb machines. With the variety of terrain and conditions that we can deal with in an Irish Silage season the Big X is a truly outstanding machine. It performs exceptionally picking up grass be it wet, dry, lumpy or otherwise!!”
The most exciting recent addition to the fleet is a magnificent Volvo L110H loader purchased brand new this year from Pat O’Donnells. “We had done a fair bit of research and then got in contact with John O’Donoghue, the sales man there and I can assure you he did not lead us wrong.” Stuart stresses. “It’s a serious machine, with increased fuel efficiency and it was the first one in Ireland to come with OptiShift. It’s the biggest shovel available in Ireland for pushing up silage and I’m extremely happy with it.”
Returning to the tractors, the five Fendts Stuart and Alan run are a 2015 716, 2016 724, 2016 720, 2018 718 and 2019 720, alongside a ’16-reg John Deere 155r and a 2007 John Deere 6830, which has more than paid its dues and is kept for nearly sentimental reasons at this stage.
The Bryans’ fleet also includes a 2019-reg McHale Fusion 3Plus baler-wrapper, a 2016 Claas Scorpion loader, six 22-foot Broughan trailers and a Samco Maize Drill. “The Broughan trailers are a market leader and exceptional pieces of engineering. Strong and well designed, they are balanced to work with, comfortable to tow and give no trouble. We have always had a good relationship with Paul Broughan and the Broughan agent down here, Tim McCarthy of McCarthy Agri and feel they really are the only trailer to consider.
“A completely new investment this year is a Wilson Super Move 10 bale handler, which is another really good bit of kit,” Stuart adds. “It’s made in Laois and we bought it off Ryalls in Watergrasshill. That was our first time to deal with Trevor Ryall and it was a pleasure to do business with him.”
As we discovered three years ago the brothers also set up an additional business, Hose-Power, initially to fill the winter months when contracting got quieter. As the contracting business has gone from strength to strength so has Hose-Power. In addition to the already successful 24-hour hydraulic hose repair and replacement service, they have expanded to encompass an agency for Dairy-Power, a market leader in hydraulic scrapers. Operated by a low noise, hydraulic power unit connected to a hydraulic cylinder for each passage, the system allows one power unit to operate scrapers for six passages. The fitting involves the hydraulic set up, the electrical unit and the mechanism, with the Bryans also offering a service contract and 24/7 repair service. Again a quality machine, good workmanship and customer service are the name of the game.
With such a vast array of stunning machinery at their disposal, Bryan Bros are ideally positioned to provide unrivalled contracting services to their farmers.
“The whole team here aim to provide excellent service and get the job done,” says Stuart. “We find that it is better to have modern gear that you can depend on and match those machines with quality operators. We’re very fortunate to have a substantial and loyal customer base many of whom know and value the lads that work here and the good service we provide. At the end of the day, if you give good service to farmers, they will appreciate you and want you there. Keeping machinery fresh and well maintained offers comfort and reliability and it won’t let you down.”
Bryan Bros Contracting,
Tel: 086 8558355
Taken from Irish Tractor & Agri magazine Vol 7 No 5, September/October 2019