The forests of Ireland are very diverse, ranging from commercial plantations to native woodlands, to trees and woods in and around our towns and cities.
The range of benefits from Ireland’s forest cover is also diverse, extending beyond basic timber production to encompass employment, bio-diversity, wildlife conservation, environmental protection, rural development, carbon sequestration, amenity and recreation and tourism.Today the forestry sector employs 12,000 people and every year it contributes €2.3 billion euro to the Irish economy.Ireland has an ideal climate for forestry with one of the fastest growth rates of trees in Europe helping to reduce climate change effects and the industry has the potential to double in size over the next 10 years.
Helping to deliver on the growth are contractors such as Mike Cagney of Soplan Forestry & Agri Ltd who specialises in forestry contracting, ground preparation of aforestation and reforestation as well as a full array of agricultural contracting services. Operating as a sole trader from 1997 until the company went limited last year, Mike accumulated a wealth of knowledge and experience in that time plus an enviable reputation as a contractor you can trust when it comes to meeting those all-important deadlines.Since 2003, Soplan Forestry & Agri have carried out a great deal of mounding work where the ground is prepared for planting.
With the demand for wood energy biomass on the rise as more and more companies strive to reduce their carbon footprints by switching their energy source from non-renewable fossil fuels to renewable wood, whole-tree harvesting has become an extremely attractive proposition.“We do most of work for Coillte and get a lot of repeat business from them,” said Mike. “My father has been a contractor for Coillte for the past 35 years, & it was through him how I became interested in forestry work, and plan to carry it on into the future. We have a good working relationship with Coillte.”
Nowadays the majority of forestry work is carried out using specialised machinery, either fitted to standard excavators or on purpose-built ‘harvesters’. With the high costs of forestry machinery, contractors are under pressure to minimise stoppages and downtime, so co-ordination of operations between forest owners makes good economic sense.
“We have placed a great investment in the business over the years and we are continuously investing in new machinery, whether it be for the forestry work or the agricultural side of the business. We operate four track machines, all of which are kept relatively fresh and in pristine condition,” added Mike.There are plenty of rules and regulations to adhere to in timber harvesting, all of which Soplan Forestry & Agri comply with, as the company’s staff are highly trained, according to Mike.“Health and Safety is a major issue within the industry and every regulation that is in place is followed by us. Safety is our number 1 priority for staff and whoever may be on site. Despite, alot of paperwork, it all benefits the industry, which is only a good thing.”
Mike has always placed a huge emphasis on providing a good service to his clients, and to do this, he doesn’t only need a reliable work force, but trustworthy sub-contractors as well.“We can contract in hauliers needed to transport our machinery and the timber in and out of areas that would have poor roads or maybe no roads at all. I work with a number of haulage contractors.
On the agricultural side of the business, Soplan Forestry & Agri focus mainly on baling and slurry spreading. Mike operates a range of Renault and Claas tractors, as well as a McHale Fusion baler. For the slurry work, he opts for tanker work, which he feels that his customers prefer.“Our agricultural customer base would be within a 20-mile radius of their home in Ballybrien, Co Tipperary. The land we would be working on can be quite heavy, but I prefer, and many of our customers prefer to use tankers instead of the umbilical system.“The majority of our customers are with us for many years, and they have been a great support to us.Mike employs four full time staff, while his wife Margaret looks after the administration side of the business, which allows him more time on site, especially during these busy months in the summer.
With both the agricultural and forestry industries growing rapidly, we can foresee busy times ahead.
Soplan Forestry & Agri Ltd
Taken from Irish Tractor & Agri magazine Vol 7 No 4, August 2019