The summer months are a hectic time in the farming community as the main focus is producing feed for cows, cattle and sheep in winter time.
Silage harvesters are a common sight on Irish roads these months and even those without the slightest interest in farming, are impressed by the machinery they see before them.
The term ‘make hay when the sun shines’ could easily have been ‘make silage when the weather is good’ as the two go hand in hand. Agricultural contractors hit the roads with venom during these harvesting times and for this month’s edition of Irish Tractor and Agri, we profile Tipperary based Slievenamon Agri Services and speak to managing director Richie White, on behalf of himself and his brothers John and Martin, about the madness and mayhem that ensues during the summer months.
Slievenamon Agri Services is a family run business based in Drangan, Co Tipperary that involves Richie and his brothers John and Martin. Hailing from a farming background, the business was initially set up by their father Pat 45 years ago, and then his sons took over the business in 1997.
“We have always been agricultural contractors and my father started using the old double chop system before moving to a trailed precision crop. He was using David Brown, Deutz and Zetor tractors over the years,” said Richie.
“When my brothers and I took over, we placed an importance on investment in the business and that is something that we have continued to do so over the years. Machinery comes at a huge expense and we upgrade the fleet on a regular basis. In this industry, you need reliable machinery doing this work as downtime is something that has to be avoided at all costs.”
Slievenamon Agri Services has always been an innovative company and prides itself on doing things the right way.
“We would have been among the first batch of the first contractors to sow maize under plastic back in the late nineties when it was a much more difficult task than it is these days, due to the quality of plastic that was used back then.
“Then in 2000, we started to provide umbilical slurry spreading and we were one of the first in the country to provide this service also. We also do whole crop sowing and harvesting, while we would bale and wrap as well as other general agricultural activities,” he added.
Richie admitted that it was important to diversify to other areas in order to keep busy all year round. “Obviously, the summer months are the busiest period for us, but we would be kept going all year around through the services that we provide.”
The success of the business can be gauged by the fact that they have maintained their customer base over the years.
“We would have an awful lot of repeat custom, lads we have been working for many years. We are located close to the Kilkenny border, so we would have customers in South Tipp, parts of Kilkenny and Waterford.
“Our aim is to get in, get the job done as quickly as possible and get out of there. That is what the farmer wants and that is what we do our best to provide.
“The weather dictates a lot of when we do our work, so it is important to monitor it at all times and when a window of opportunity comes around, we have to be ready to go. We want to make farms more profitable and we try and bring value to our work. That is why we invest in the best of machinery that can get through a lot of work in a short time frame.”
Richie is chairman of the local branch of the Farming Contractors of Ireland (FCI), while he is vice-chairman of the national group. The Tipperary based contractor is vocal in his support of the FCI which he revealed is aimed at lifting the profile of the agricultural contracting industry at government level.
“Agricultural contracting is a very important industry in Ireland, but it was not recognised at government and financial level. We’ve met with government officials on a number of occasions and our aim is to explain fully what we do and highlight the benefit of the industry to the State, the economy and the wider community.
“We are taken for granted and that is something that we want to change. People don’t understand the costs involved in this industry, but hopefully we can get our message across sooner rather than later.
“Contracting is a vital cog in the wheel in the farm industry and that needs to be recognised.
“There are a lot of people in the FCI doing a lot of good work, including our current national chairman John Sheedy. It would be remiss of me not to mention our previous FCI national chairman Timmy O’Brien, who was the first person to serve in the role and he put in mammoth work laying the foundations for the association.
“I’d also like to mention our own local area secretary Padraig O’Brien who has been a big help to me.
“Finally I’d like to thank all the FCI members as the association wouldn’t exist without them and each one of them is important to the association.”
Slievenamon Agri Services
Mob: Richard @ 0861742587
or John @ 0872596282
Taken from Irish Tractor & Agri magazine Vol 2 No 4, September 2014