Much more than an agri contractor

23 Apr , 2024  

Shane Nolan combines running his busy agri contracting and tillage enterprises with John Deere transmission repairs and servicing.

Based on the edge of the Burren in Finavara, Co. Clare, Shane left his electronics job in Dublin in 1995 to return home to take over his father Jimmy’s small farm and contracting business. He was initially joined by his brother Ronan before going out on his own as Shane M Nolan Contracts Ltd and expanding operations.

Shane grows 200 acres of barley, oats and beet on mostly rented land. He rolls the barley and oats during the winter that he supplies along with the beet – which he grows about 25 acres of – to local farmers. In addition, he provides an exceptional contracting service to customers in north Clare and south Galway. His services include pit silage, ploughing, sowing, spraying, beet harvesting, hedge-cutting, fertiliser spreading and stone picking.

Two years ago, Shane decided to drop baled silage and slurry spreading from his list of services as they didn’t “match” with his business model.

“We’re trying to streamline everything so that one runs into the other. The baling and the slurry were getting in the way so that’s why we stopped doing them,” he explains.

“We had problems getting paid for some of the baling, while some farmers were dumping everything and anything in their slurry pits, and that’s not our way of doing things. A shortage of skilled labour didn’t help either.”

Committed to providing superior service and complete customer satisfaction, Shane M Nolan Contracts has an array of machinery to carry out your work quickly and efficiently, providing you with value-for-money and an alternative to investing in your own expensive equipment. The contracting firm’s success can be attributed to the knowledge, experience, skill and expertise of its staff as well as the quality of its machinery. Shane and his highly-skilled and highly-motivated team deliver the value and quality farmers expect from their agricultural contracting partner.

Shane is running a fleet of 14 John Deere tractors, including seven 6920s, a 7920, a 6620, a 6610, a 6410, a 6320, a 2140 and a 1040. “My father bought a John Deere 955 combine in 1982, which we still have, and we’ve been green ever since. I bought a John Deere W540 with a 16ft header in 2012 and that’s our main combine now,” he says.

The affable Clare man’s grass equipment includes a John Deere 7480 self-propelled forage harvester, a KRONE BIG M mower, a KRONE rake, a John Deere 5830 silage harvester which has been converted into a self-propelled mower, six Herron silage / grain trailers ranging from 16.5ft to 22ft, a Volvo L70E loading shovel and a JCB telehandler that is used for a variety of jobs.

For tillage, he has a 3m Vaderstad Rapid 300 seed drill, a 4m Mandam disc harrow, a five-furrow Kverneland reversible plough, a Cross 6.3m ring roller with paddles, a single-row Armer Salmon beet harvester which was bought new, a Kuhn MDS 2 hydraulic fertiliser spreader and a Kivi-Pekka stone picker. 

Other pieces of kit include a John Deere 15m mounted sprayer, a John Deere 24m trailed sprayer, a Ferri telescopic hedge-cutter, two John Deere 441 balers and an original John Deere combi baler which was tested as a prototype.

All machines are maintained and serviced on a regular basis to avoid downtime, with all of this being carried out in-house. Shane’s main suppliers include Murphy’s Garage in Headford, Geary’s Garage, TFM (Templetuohy Farm Machinery), DH Farm Machinery in Gort and Paraic Dwyer Agri Parts in Kilconnell, Ballinasloe.

There is no such thing as a quiet time for this highly-regarded contractor who will work around the clock and take on extra staff at busy times to keep clients happy. Ploughing and sowing take precedence in the early part of the year, followed by pit silage during the summer months. After that comes beet harvesting, hedge-cutting and rolling barley and oats. The business cuts approximately 2,000 acres of pit silage per annum, having gradually built up its customer-base over the years.

“We pride ourselves on our efficient, reliable and value-for-money service. We get a lot of repeat business which is a sign that our customers are happy with us.”

As a member of the Association of Farm Contractors of Ireland (FCI) national executive, Shane is acutely aware of the challenges facing agri contractors. The FCI was formed in 2012 to give agricultural contractors a voice at Government and EU level. Its other objectives are to promote good contractor / farmer relationships; to promote the benefits of a good agricultural contracting service; to provide members with knowledge and courses to help them run their business; to promote a good working relationship between contractors.

“There are a lot of people getting out of agri contracting because of rising input costs, labour shortages and the lack of Government support for the sector. On top of that, poor weather conditions made life very difficult this year. It has been miserable since the end of June. In spite of that, the silage crops weren’t too bad and got heavier as the season went on.”

Shane’s background in electronics has come in useful and has allowed him to branch out into the repair and servicing of engines, transmissions and wiring for John Deere tractors.

“We have our own fully kitted-out workshop where we carry out a lot of repairs for customers. Some of the main dealers recommend us for electrical issues, transmission – including John Deere Auto-Power transmissions – and control repairs. We specialise in Auto-Power transmission repairs. It’s another string to our bow which attracts customers from all over Ireland.”

Shane is grateful for the support he receives from his wife Siobhan and his 11-year-old son James, who is flying high in the Irish Karting Championships. He would also like to take this opportunity to thank his customers and suppliers for their continued support as well as his small but dedicated team for their hard work and expertise.

Shane M Nolan Contracts Ltd




Co. Clare.

Telephone: 086 6008139

Email: [email protected]

First published in Irish Tractor & Agri magazine Vol 11 No 6, December 2023/January 2024