Setting the standard for agri contracting in mid-Roscommon

7 Aug , 2019  

Des Hunt (Ballydaly) Ltd. has been providing unrivalled agricultural contracting services across the mid-Roscommon region for the past 44 years. Irish Tractor & Agri interrupted Nathan Hunt’s busy Spring schedule to find out more about this exceptional second-generation family business.

Nearly four-and-a-half decades ago, hard-working Ballydaly, Tulsk, County Roscommon based farmer Des Hunt started offering keen contracting services to fellow farmers in the local area. The business was built up gradually down through the years on the back of outstanding levels of customer service and, today, Des’ sons Nathan and Gary oversee a thriving operation.

Like any contractors worth their salt, the Hunts have always owned and operated top-quality, immaculately-maintained machinery, which has enabled them to get their work done quickly, efficiently and with the minimum of fuss. By keeping farmers happy, they’ve benefited from a high volume of repeat business and become one of the go-to contractors in Roscommon for silage cutting, baling, slurry spreading and reseeding.

Holding an Honours Degree in Agri Engineering from IT Tralee and having worked for Lely in Mullingar for twelve months, Nathan oversees all the tractor and machinery repairs and servicing himself and also offers expert, competitive maintenance services to other farmers and contractors.

Thus, it goes without saying that the stunning, well-oiled tractors and equipment assembled by Des, Nathan and Gary are central to the consistent delivery of professional, precise and prompt agri contracting solutions…

Des Hunt’s first tractor was a Fordson Super Dexta bought many moons ago and the Roscommon man decided to make the most of his equipment by offering services to neighbouring farmers. The fleet has been gradually expanded over the years and there are eight tractors at present – a John Deere 7530, three John Deere 6920s, a Same Silver 130, Same Silver 100.6, Same Antares 130 and Lamborghini Formula 135.

“The most recent addition was the 7530, which we bought two years ago,” Nathan notes. “We’re slowly transferring over to John Deere. As we run the garage here as well, we keep them all in very good nick. You have to be able to do that in this line of work. Pit silage, baling and slurry would be the three main components of our work, while we also do a bit of reseeding.”

Machinery-wise, Nathan and Gary run a JCB 414s, two Taarup 10x trailed harvesters and a Malone silage wagon as well as three John Deere 630 mowers, a pair of Lely 245 Xtracut balers, two McHale wrappers, three Redrock silage trailers, a Guttler GreenMaster for reseeding, a Redrock agitator for slurry alongside two 2,400-gallon Major tankers – one with a dribble bar – and also a 1,000-litre sprayer. The newest addition to the fleet in March was a new Lely 247 rake.

It’s a superb collection of machinery that has been painstakingly sourced and meticulously maintained to ensure farmers of the best service possible in terms of both quality and price. “We try to buy good quality second-hand gear and tractors, if at all possible,” says Nathan. “The balers and mowers would be bought new but if there’s good value to be had in the second-hand market for the other machinery, either at home or in the UK, then we’ll invest.

“After that, the key is to keep everything in good shape. You have to keep everything serviced and in prime condition, otherwise you will run into trouble in the summer. We do all the work here in our own garage and extend the garage service to other farmers and contractors, too, which helps keep us busy.”

Generally speaking, the catchment area covered is mid-Roscommon. “For reseeding, I’d travel a fair bit but the rest of it is confined to mid-Roscommon, where we’re lucky to have a strong core of loyal and long-serving customers,” continues Nathan, who started contracting alongside his father when he was 16 and is already something of a veteran at 27!

“In silage contracting, it’s all repeat business and you’d be doing the same work year after year.”

And what’s the secret to securing this repeat work? “You just have to try to do as good a job as you can while you are there – be punctual and provide a good service that farmers are happy with. We are very lucky that there are very good farmers in this area and they look after us fairly, once the work is done properly. That’s all you can ask.”

For the past three years, Nathan and Gary Hunt have been running the business, while Des has taken a backseat but still keeps a watchful eye on how his sons are getting on. During peak season in the summer, gainful employment is generated for six men – an important contribution to the local economy and community… “It’s nice for those young lads to have something to keep them at home during the summer,” says Nathan.

As small-scale farmers themselves – running a modest dry stock enterprise, with 60 heifers at the moment – the Hunts appreciate only too well the level of service that’s expected from contractors. “Farmers are always under pressure but, as contractors, we rely solely on them, so we have to look after them,” Nathan reiterates.

Reflecting on the heatwave of last summer and the challenges it presented, Nathan says it – rather ironically – gave them a little bit of breathing space: “We got through it okay. To be honest, we weren’t under as much pressure as we normally are during the summer. We came under pressure towards the end, when there was more to be done, but it all balanced out in the end.”

Looking to the future, Nathan says the key objective is to continue providing excellent levels of service. Ideally, he’d love to invest in more machinery but such expenditure is determined by the market and things are quite volatile at present:

“New machinery is certainly on your mind all the time, but you have to be measured when it comes to investing,” he concludes. “It’s difficult to know at the moment whether or not it’s a good idea to invest this year with cattle prices being so bad.

“It’s nearly all beef farming here and farmers have been finding it tough these past two years, especially in the last twelve months. We’re always looking at machinery and if we see value in something, we’ll probably buy it. But the main priority is to look after what you have and keep it in good condition.”

Des Hunt (Ballydaly) Ltd.,

Ballydaly, Tulsk, Castlerea, Co. Roscommon.

Tel: 087 246 4574 / 086 1987553

Taken from Irish Tractor & Agri magazine Vol 7 No 2, April/May 2019