Agri contracting is a way of life for the O’Donoghue family in Banogue, Co. Limerick where girl power is alive and well.
Founder Mike O’Donoghue is joined in the business by his wife Marjorie, sons Micheál and Ger, and daughters Claire and Karen. Last year, Karen was the only woman to feature on the popular ‘Contractors’ series on TG4. The seven-part observational entertainment-based documentary series explored the working lives and personal narratives of seven agricultural contracting families from diverse locations over the critical six-month period from April to September.
Despite having a young daughter – Clodagh – and a full-time job as a chartered accountant with Northern Trust in Limerick, Karen still finds time to help out with all aspects of the family’s contracting offering which includes precision chop silage, round and square baling, raking, tedding, slurry spreading, dumper hire, hedge cutting, fertiliser spreading, wrapping and stacking bales, land levelling services, ploughing and tillage work.
“Claire and I would be very hands-on. When we get the call, we go for it. There is nothing like being out in a green open field where you can leave all your worries behind,” Karen says.
“Claire was probably one of the first women in this area to be seen out and about driving a tractor. As soon as I got my licence at 16, I followed in her footsteps. We used to get some strange looks. But I think the whole attitude towards women in farming has changed greatly since then. It’s great to see more farmer’s daughters getting involved in farming and contracting.”
A former chairman of the Limerick / Kerry branch of the FCI (Association of Farm & Forestry Contractors in Ireland) – his son Ger is current secretary – Mike O’Donoghue established O’Donoghue Agri in 1976 after seeing an opening for a baling service in his area. He invested in a Massey Ferguson 165 tractor and a Bamford square baler.
In the 1980s, he expanded into pit silage and acquired a JF trailed harvester. Then, in the early 1990s, he purchased his first self-propelled harvester, a New Holland 1900.
“My father was a secondary school teacher who had three months off every summer,” Karen explains.
“He did a few jobs locally in Banogue and Croom before gradually growing the business. He has been at it full-time since 2009 when he retired from teaching after 37 years.
“My oldest brother Micheál started working with my father first, while Ger, Claire and I always helped out when we were off school for the summer. Ger has been involved full-time since 2009 and Claire and I continue to help out during the summer, and the odd weekend as well. And not forgetting our mother Marjorie who keeps us all fed and is always available to collect parts etc.
“There is one full-time guy with Micheál and Ger in the winter time and up to 10 part-time at peak times. It depends on how busy we are.
“The last week of May and first week of June last year was absolutely mental. We got lots of first cuts done. Last year, we made 18,000 round bales of silage and 2,000 acres of pit silage.”
Committed to offering a professional and reliable service as well as complete customer satisfaction, O’Donoghue Agri has a wide range of machinery to carry out work quickly and efficiently for their clients, providing them with value-for-money and an alternative to investing in their own expensive equipment. Their success and longevity are down to the knowledge, skill and expertise of their staff, not to mention the quality of their equipment. The O’Donoghue’s deliver the value and quality farmers expect from their agricultural contracting partner.
The Limerick contracting firm runs a fleet of nine tractors, including five John Deeres, three New Hollands and a Case IH Puma, which was recently purchased from WC (Willie Champ) Agri. There are three John Deere 6150Rs, a John Deere 6190R and a John Deere 6930. The New Hollands are a T7.230, a T7.200 and a TM155, which Karen drives.
The O’Donoghue’s silage equipment includes a Krone Big X700 harvester, a John Deere butterfly R870 mower conditioner, John Deere 530 and 630 trailed mowers, a Krone mower, a JCB 434S loading shovel, CLAAS and Kverneland rakes, a Lely Lotus 6-rotor mounted tedder, a Lely Lotus 8-rotor trailed tedder, three Kane 20ft silage trailers, one Redrock 18ft silage trailer and one Redrock 20ft silage trailer. They also recently invested in a Samco silage fork.
For baling, they have a McHale Fusion 2 baler wrapper, a McHale Fusion 3 Plus integrated baler wrapper, a McHale F5600 round baler, Welger square balers, Broughan bale trailers and a Keltec 10-bale carrier.
The tillage equipment includes two Kverneland five-furrow reversible ploughs, two KUHN 2m power harrows, one KUHN 4m hydraulic power harrow, two Delimbe seeders and two O’Sullivan’s Rathkeale land levellers (4m and 3m). In terms of slurry and dung equipment, the O’Donoghue’s operate a HiSpec 3000 TD-S tanker (with trailing shoe), an Abbey 2500R slurry tanker, a new umbilical system from Newtown Engineering, a Conor agitator and Bunning rear discharge dung spreader.
Other equipment includes a Dalbo 6m ring roller, two McConnel hedge cutters, a Mandam 3m mounted disc harrow, an Amazone 2.5T fertiliser spreader, a JPM tandem-axle low loader, a mulcher and a Unigreen sprayer.
All machines are upgraded on a regular basis to avoid breakdowns and downtime. Servicing and maintenance are carried out in-house and by a local mechanic. Among O’Donoghue Agri’s main suppliers are Geary Tractors, Kerry Co-op and JMC Parts.
The family business serves customers within a 20-mile radius of Banogue, taking in Croom, Granagh, Manister, Athlacca, Bruree, Charleville and Limerick city. It has built up its customer-base mostly through word of mouth and recommendations from scores of satisfied customers.
“We retain existing customers and attract new ones by providing a reliable, clean and cost-effective service. We have an excellent reputation in the sector,” Karen adds.
“If you do a good job, the customers will keep coming back. It also helps that we are a one-stop shop for all their agri contracting needs.”
The O’Donoghue’s quality work hasn’t been compromised by soaring diesel, bale wrapping or machinery costs. Passionate about agri contracting, they would like to take this opportunity to thank their customers and suppliers for their continued support.
First published in Irish Tractor & Agri magazine Vol 11 No 3, May/June 2023