For three decades and counting, brothers Pat and Leo Kelly have been delivering a full range of top-class agricultural contracting services to clients within a 45-mile radius of Monasterevin. We travelled to County Kildare and interrupted the latter’s busy schedule to find out more about the exceptional farmer-focused, family-operated enterprise that is Kelly Bros Agri Contractors.
Operating out of Kill, Monasterevin, Kelly Bros Agri Contractors have the experience, energy, machinery and manpower to consistently provide farmers in counties Kildare, Laois and Offaly with professional, prompt and value-added agricultural contracting solutions.
Leo and Pat have been looking after farmers’ every needs for three decades, with customer service very much the driving force behind their in-demand contracting partnership:
“You have to know your customers, and what is important to your customers,” notes Pat, who shares his brother’s passion for and innate understanding of both the land and machinery. “We pride ourselves on doing everybody’s work to a very high standard, as if it was our own.
“Hire work is a difficult game because you are at everybody’s beck and call and you have to look after them all to the best of your ability. This requires dedication. Also, Kildare is a very different county from north to south. No two farms are the same and no two farmers are the same. It’s very important to get to know them and to understand their specific traits and needs.”
Pat and Leo have invested 30 years into doing just this, observing the anomalies and peculiarities of the seasons in different parts of ‘the short grass county’ and building lasting relationships with farmers from Monasterevin to Edenderry in Offaly, Vicarstown in Laois and sometimes even further afield.
“The majority of the silage work is within 45km of home but fertiliser spreading, which we do a lot of, can bring us further. You really do get to know all of those fields,” confirms the personable Pat, who is without doubt one of the most insightful and informed contractors I’ve had the pleasure of meeting.
For silage, Kelly Bros Agri Contractors use wagons and their service invariably meets with the approval of their clients: “You choose the machinery your customer wants and it just so happens that our customers like wagons,” says Pat. “If you give a good service and have good machinery, then you will keep your customers.
“We have a lot of long-term customers. The majority of our core customers have been with us from the beginning. Of course, you will always have a certain percentage of floating customers who by their very nature move every two or three years regardless of what work you do for them. There’s nothing you can do about that but we are really pleased to have a number of loyal farmers who have stayed with us for years, which we really appreciate.”
Expounding upon the genesis and gradual growth of the business through the years and decades, Pat reflects: “We started around 1992 when we bought our first tractor – a second-hand Ford 7610 out of JR Perry’s – and a lime spreader and bulk fertilizer spreader.
“We now have a tractor fleet of three John Deeres [175c, 195c and 6930], one Case and two Valtras. The Valtras are the newest additions, which we got last Spring – a 235 and a 195 with all the bells and whistles. Swaine Agri offered us a demo on one for a few days and I told them a few days wouldn’t be enough, so I did a deal with them to take one on a hire demo basis.
“I liked the Valtra a lot and Liam Swaine is an easy man to deal with. It’s a good value for money tractor and we were very impressed. I’d have known Liam [Swaine] from before he took on the Valtra agency and he always gives a very personal service. Anyway, we bought the two new tractors and Valtra will be the first turn I’ll take when I go down the road of getting another new tractor, although I won’t be ruling anything out. As a friend said to me once: you don’t go around wearing John Deere pyjamas or Valtra pyjamas. You keep your options open.
“Service is as important as the product and that’s what I’ll always look for off a dealer. There are garages out there who are very good but are more farmer-orientated, but you need more when you are a contractor – you need service five minutes ago! Kelly’s of Borris and TFM are also well known for their service, and to date Swaine Agri has proven to be equally as good with the service.”
Despite the obvious appeal of the new Valtras, Pat himself sticks to driving his tried and trusted John Deere. “The lads love driving the Valtra but I stick to one tractor. I like familiarity. Even when we bought this one new, I kept driving the old 6930 for a year because I was used to it and happy with it.”
The Kelly brothers run two loaders (“I go to the Volvo first and Leo goes for the JCB”) and four silage wagons (two Pottingers and two Krones) as well as a Claas Lexion 660 TerraTrac combine harvester. “We cut a lot of corn and also do bulk fertiliser spreading, although the tonnage for that is nowhere near where it used to be,” Pat notes. “We spread around 2,500 tonnes per year now and we’re lime agents, too, spreading approximately 10,000 tonnes per year.
“We do a lot of silage for dairy men – about 4,000 acres of grass per year on average. We’ve been picking it up with silage wagons since 2002. At the end of the day, good quality grass is going to give you good silage whether you cut it with scissors, a self-propelled or wagons.”
There’s never a dull moment at Kelly Bros Agri Contractors, where Leo and Pat are on hand full time all year around, joined by two invaluable full-time workers and four seasonal staff. “You’re into silage season from the first of May through until the end of September, but the majority of it is cut in May and June,” says Pat.
“Harvest starts in July and continues into the first week of September and winter barley is a big part of it. We also do spring barley, winter and spring oats, spring beans, and winter and spring oilseed rape. If the weather works with you, you can stay at a nice steady pace on the combine.”
When it comes to fleet upkeep, Pat and Leo do all the servicing themselves. “If there’s anything that needs fixed, it goes to the garage where we bought it as most things need to be plugged into a laptop these days. Kelly’s give us a great service on the combine, which is three years old now. They come out and do the work and they know what they are doing. It’s only a day’s work and it’s great value and they will always give you some valuable advice while they are here as well.”
Kelly Bros Agri Contractors is a family business first and foremost, with farming and contracting very much in Leo and Pat’s DNA. The brothers do a little bit of tillage themselves (“nothing major but it keeps your feet on the ground”) and hope to perhaps one day hand the business over to the next generation.
Pat’s son Paraic and Leo’s son Leo Jnr. are mad for work and are out every day at harvest time.
“We got a very good moral compass off our own mam and dad. Our father did contracting in the ‘60s, cutting silage and beet, but he gave it up to run the farm at home. He was a good machinery man and so was his brother – they had a natural understanding of how machinery worked.”
Pat and Leo have followed in their footsteps in that regard, keeping alive a great family tradition.
Kelly Bros Agri Contractors,
Tel: 087 2506347 / 087 2660510
Email: [email protected]
First published in Irish Tractor & Agri magazine Vol 11 No 2, March/April 2023