From humble beginnings to making 16,000 bales a year

8 Nov , 2022  

Based outside of Ballina, Co Mayo, Cormick Bourke Agri Contractor offers a complete baling service to farmers within his catchment area. Irish Tractor Plant & Agri spoke with the man himself to learn all about the ins and outs of the business, the machinery he’s added and the hopes for the company overall going forward.

Business is good nowadays at Cormick Bourke Agri Contractor and the plan for the Co Mayo native is to try and keep things that way right through to next year.

Operating with one full-time and up to seven part-time staff in the summer time, the company is established 25 years this year and continues to be as busy as ever in spite of all the challenges out there for the industry at present.

2021 saw Cormick Bourke Agri Contractor making approximately 16,000 to 17,000 bales and the idea is to try and hit a target close to that figure again this year. 

Irish Tractor Plant & Agri touched base with Cormick Bourke to hear more about this thriving business which started from humble beginnings.

“Business is good but between expenses and lack of staff, there are definitely plenty of challenges out there,” he outlined.

“We have one working with us here full-time and, seasonally, we could have up to five or six working here and maybe more after that. It depends.

“Right now, we have about 10 or 12 tractors and bought a new Fusion and new triple McHale mowers as well directly from McHales.

“The fleet itself is predominantly New Holland bar two Case tractors, which are basically the same thing.”

The entire fleet at Cormick Bourke Agri Contractor is maintained to an excellent standard, which ensures that the company’s customers receive the efficient and reliable service they require.

The newest addition on the way is a Case CBX230 which is set to come from the UK and bolster things further for Cormick and his team in the busy summer season.

This year won’t be as busy as others, according to the Co Mayo native however, due to the rising costs hitting farmers across the country.

While the Covid-19 pandemic, and the government lockdowns which followed, did not have a significant impact on his business at the time, Cormick is bracing himself for its aftermath and, therefore, taking a cautious approach going forward.

“Covid didn’t actually impact us,” he pointed out. “In fact, during the lockdown it was great because a lot of the lads that worked for me over the years were hanging around and were glad to give me hand when I needed it.

“This year, pretty much everyone is back working and it’s going to be tough but I think I’m not going to make as many bales this year. That’s because a lot of my base customers are small farms and they just simply couldn’t afford to buy the fertiliser.

“So, I’d say those farmers won’t have the same bale numbers and they’d have sold a few cows and sold a few cattle and are just going to wind down slightly. That’s my gut feeling.

“Now, the dairy men are different because they’re going to rock on, but for many of the small farmers that we do work for, they’re going to feel the effects, I think.”

One thing that is for certain is that Cormick Bourke Agri Contractor will continue to try and provide the best possible service for its customers whatever the situation.

Since it’s inception back in 1997, the business has grown a reputation for excellent work and reliability to get the job done right.

So, what has been the secret to success? 

“Genuinely, I think they’re happy with the service,” Cormick stated plainly about his customers.

“I wouldn’t be the type to say that I’m better than another contractor. I just think farmers, they don’t change unless there’s an issue and if you’re doing as well as you can for them in providing the service they won’t change.

“They know we can be relied upon to do the job right and they know my habits and I know there’s. That’s just the way it is.”

He added: “I’d say contractors at the minute are more inclined to support each other than take work off each other.

“It’s just the type of year it is. Everybody knows it’s not simple and nobody wants to grab any work off anyone else. Everyone just wants to get paid and try and survive – it’s one of those years where that’s the way it’s going to be. Nobody wants to see anyone not able to do it or disappearing.”

Since ‘Day One’, Cormick Bourke Agri Contractor has taken the approach to bring in practically every bale and stack it for the customer.

Very rarely does Cormick or any of the men he has working for him leave bales out in the field and it’s just one of many facets of the business which customers have come to appreciate.

Having come from a farming background himself, Cormick is in a position where he knows what the customer wants and a quarter century’s worth of baling has certainly helped along the way.

“I do have a farm, my cousin has some land leased there and he milks 350 cows,” he said.

“I would also have a habit of selling an odd tractor. I’d sell maybe five or six tractors a year usually by word of mouth.

“We tidy up the fleet during the winter and sell one or two tractors, which helps us go year-round.”

Looking ahead to the coming months, Cormick Bourke Agri Contractor’s owner and founder is targeting consolidation above all else.

“I think it’s one of those years where you have to keep going as best you can, because it’s not going to be a year where you’re just going to take a leap.

“It’s going to be a year where you just do the best you can and keep going and hopefully come out the end, because, as I said, expenses are just crazy at the minute,” Cormick concluded.

Cormick Bourke Agri Contractor
Co Mayo
Mob: 086 805 6676

First published in Irish Tractor & Agri magazine Vol 10 No 5, September/October 2022