Michael John O’Sullivan and his son Michael run an agri-contracting business specialising in all aspects of baled silage and fertiliser spreading. Based in Mallow, Co. Cork, Michael John is also a grassland farmer who supplies baled silage to local farmers.
“When you only specialise in one aspect of contracting, you have to get it right”.
So says the Cork contractor whose round baling enterprise continues to go from strength to strength. He makes between 35,000 and 40,000 bales of mostly silage but also some hay and straw per annum, which is a far cry from when he started in the business over 30 years ago.
“Baling has changed massively since we started out. Everything from the baling process to the transporting has improved drastically. The equipment now is on a much bigger scale. There are no twines anymore which used to be troublesome and the quality of the plastic and netting is far superior.”
Michael John’s passion for contracting was instilled in him by his father Michael, who sadly passed away last January at the age of 93. “He had a great interest in farm machinery and I learned a lot from him,” he says.
“I was always around machinery when I was growing up and like my father had a great interest in it. Farming has changed a lot for us over the years and we have no tillage anymore which has allowed us to dedicate more time to the contracting sides of things.”
With his family in the round baling business since 1984, Michael John bought a McHale wrapper after sitting his Leaving Cert in 1989 and hasn’t looked back since.
“I bought a McHale 991 silomac wrapper from Ned Liston in Limerick. It was my first exposure to finance. I borrowed the whole amount to pay for it,” he recalls.
“The McHale only wrapped 888 bales in its first year. They were different times then. The machinery or the output was nothing like what it is today.”
The O’Sullivan family’s involvement in contracting – and association with John Deere – goes back to 1974 when the late Michael bought a John Deere 2130 tractor from Sherrard’s in Glanmire, which they still have to this day. Michael bought a second 2130 in 1977 before investing in two John Deere 3130s in 1978 and ’79 respectively. In 1980, he purchased a John Deere 965 combine harvester which he ran until ’86 when he traded it in for a 1065 with a revermatic transmission. This proved troublesome and led to Michael changing the gearbox.
Michael also bought a John Deere 456 square baler and a John Deere 410 round baler around the same time. In 1987, he upgraded to a Welger RP12 round baler which was purchased from Mervyn Shorten in Croom. In 1996, the by now father-and-son operation invested in two Welger RP200 round balers and a John Deere 6600 tractor.
“That was a major step forward for us,” Michael John reflects.
“Even though our output was still low, things were improving and we were getting busier and busier. In 1999, we bought two more John Deere tractors – a second-hand 2650 and a 3050. We also bought a John Deere 575 baler which was another step-up from the Welgers as it has a better pick-up and netting system.”
Between 1999 and 2004, the O’Sullivan’s purchased seven John Deere round balers as well as a John Deere 6620 tractor in 2003. Then, in 2005, they switched over to a McHale F550 round baler and McHale Fusion integrated baler wrapper. They also brought in a John Deere 6920 from England to power the Fusion. As the business continued to grow, two more Fusions were purchased in 2012.
Today, Michael John runs seven tractors – five John Deere, one Fendt and one CLAAS / Renault. The newest is a 2021-reg John Deere 6155R with front loader. The other John Deere’s are a 2019-reg 6195M which drives a front mower, a 2017-reg 6175R, a 2015-reg 6150R with front loader and a 6430 Premier with loader. The Fendt is a 2021-reg 716 with cargo loader and the CLAAS / Renault is an 836RZ that pulls one of the balers. In addition, Michael John rents a John Deere 6930 from a customer when the need arises.
The contractor’s other plant includes two John Deere 630 trailed mowers (2017 and ’21), Samasz back and front mowers (2020) a Samasz 40ft tedder, a Pottinger trailed 50ft tedder, four full spec Herron bale trailers, three new CLAAS 2700 rakes, three JMR bale handlers (the first one was purchased in 2016) and a Rauch 30.2 fertiliser spreader with GPS system. Fertiliser spreading is a growing area for Michael John who covers about 1,700 acres a year.
For baling, he has three full spec McHale Fusions 3 Plus’s which are all under three years old. The balers tick all the boxes for Michael John: “The camless pick-ups are far superior to cam pick-ups. We clocked over 20,000 bales on the newest one in its first year and only broke three tines. While the camless one isn’t without fault, it’s a big step forward from previous models.”
Asked if he has any plans to offer other services, Michael John replies: “No, you have to leave some time for your farming and family too, so I won’t be branching into anything else. I’ve invested a lot of time and money into making our baling service among the best around. That’s what I’ve always focused on and will continue to do.”
The Mallow man’s main supplier since 1996 has been Geary’s Garage in Kilmeedy, Newcastle West. The main John Deere dealer also carries out maintenance and repairs that can’t be done inhouse. His other suppliers are Atkin’s Farm Machinery in Cork for Fendt and McHale, and Egmont Agri in Mallow for Samasz.
Michael John is joined by his 17-year-old son Michael, who is in his final year in school and is a great help to him. He also takes on additional staff during the busy summer months. Michael John also receives tremendous support from his wife Lisa and daughter Abbie, who is 14.
Committed to providing superior service and complete customer satisfaction, Michael John has an array of machinery to carry out your baling and fertilising spreading quickly and efficiently, providing you with value-for-money and an alternative to investing in your own expensive equipment. Covering within a 20km radius of Mallow, he delivers the value and quality farmers expect from their agricultural contracting partner.
“All of the contractors in this area pull together. We also help and look out for each other. There is no rivalry or anything like that. I don’t view them as opposition – I view them as friends in the business. We all want to provide the best possible service to our customers,” Michael John stresses.
He added: “All contractors rely heavily on good staff and I’m no different. I’ve been very lucky over the years to have a top-class team.”
Like all contractors, Michael John has been feeling the effects of rising costs and inflation, but is meeting the challenge head on. He concludes by thanking his customers and suppliers for their continued support.
Michael John O’Sullivan Agri Contractor
Telephone: 087 2550174
Email: [email protected]
First published in Irish Tractor & Agri magazine Vol 10 No 6, November/December 2022