When it comes to agricultural contracting, time is of the essence, certainly during the summer months when silage and baling are two services can are confined to small windows, especially given the nature of the Irish weather.
In fairness, the 2015 summer, while although not sending us all for the sun block on a regular basis, was a particularly dry period and there was enough windows of opportunity for contractors to get through their work load.
The pressure and demands of harvesting silage or baling is well and truly off, but this does not mean that contractors rest on their laurels for the remainder of the year.
Many provide a wide range of services that sees them spread slurry, plough, hedge cutting and in some cases plant work keeps them going over the coming months.
Maintenance of their fleet are also high on the list of priorities as it is essential to have machinery that will not give them ‘trouble’ during the peak of the year.
Indeed, the quality of machinery that contractors use means that there is little maintenance to be done as they use state of the art tractors, harvesters, mowers and the likes.
Many farmers have made the transition from farming to contracting and in some cases, they keep both going as is the situation with Trim, Co Meath based farmer Sean Fitzpatrick & Sons.
Sean moved from his native Northern Ireland to the Royal County a couple of decades ago. Having bought a small farm, he has now extended that to 1,500 acres where he does some tillage, silage, wholecrop and maize as well as sucklers to finished beef.
However, a number of years ago, Sean decided to spread his wings as so to speak and delve into the agri-contracting business. Having done all his own work on his land, he had the experience to make the transition an easy one.
While still operating the farm, Sean is able to service the needs of an ever-increasing customer base that is growing all the time. Also located in Sean’s yard at Ardbraccan is Royal Town and Country Stores, a very busy Agricultural Merchant business which leases its premises from Sean. Royal Town and Country work closely with Sean to supply inputs to his farming business.
“I came here about 20 years ago and bought a farm of land, we have expanded that over the years and between land I own and rent, we would be farming in the region of 1,500 acres,” said Sean.
To carry out such a workload, Sean not only has a reliable staff, but his two sons Tommy and James are also involved in the day to day running of the business.
“I decided to get into the contracting business a number of years ago, we were doing our own work anyway and we had the machinery, so we got some work form local farmers and it has grown from there.”
Sean admits that you need a reliable fleet to carry out the work, especially the silage when as we stated already time is not on your side.
“During the summer, we would run two silage crews. That helps us get through many acres a day. We know what the farmer wants as we have been there ourselves and that is to get in and out as quickly as possible while doing a good job.
“It helps having the two crews operating. We use Krone harvesters and butterfly mowers, while the tractors are all John Deere or New Holland. We actually bought two New Hollands this year off Lyons & Burton in Kildare and they give a great service, while we also do business with Meath Farm Machinery as well and they’re very good too.”
With five new John Deere added to the fleet that means there are seven new tractors and seven new trailers in a highly efficent fleet.
As much of the fleet is still under warranty, this cuts down on the maintenance needed, but Sean revealed that they still check the machinery regularly.
“We would give them a check every now and again to make sure there’s no small problems that could turn into big ones. We have a big range of machinery here, so it is in our best interest to do so.”
Sean added that they are kept busy throughout the year with the other services that they provide to their customers.
“At the moment we are doing a good bit of sowing, while the slurry has finished up for the winter break, there is also a good bit of hedge cutting to be done.”
Another service that the family run business provides is farm hire and this sees them hire out machinery to customers.
“We would have tankers, muck spreaders, land levellers and a wide range of other machinery here for hire. This saves the farmer from investing in a machine that they may only use once a year for a small period. They can come here, hire whatever they need off us and drop it back when they’re finished.”
The Fitzpatrick family are certainly progressive and not afraid to take on new challenges which they have proven they can do over the years and it’s no surprise to learn that Sean is open to further expansion if the opportunity arises.
“We’d be happy with the way things are going at the moment, but who knows what the future holds. If there is a chance to expand and it suits us then we will take it.”
Ardbraccan Farm Machinery
Taken from Irish Tractor & Agri magazine Vol 4 No 1, January 2016