R Hillis Contracts – a family tradition

23 May , 2024  

R Hillis Contracts Ltd is a fourth-generation agri contracting business specialising in pit and baled silage, dung and slurry spreading, crop harvesting, reseeding, hedge-cutting, dump trailer and digger work.

Based in Newry, Co. Down, R Hillis Contracts continues to go from strength to strength after almost 80 years in business. The contracting firm has provided an exceptional service to farmers across Down, Armagh and Antrim in that time. Ryen Hillis is proud to follow in the footsteps of father Ray, grandfather Maurice and great grandfather Hedley, who were all in the business before him. Indeed, Ray remains a key part of the operation in his role as head mechanic.

Committed to providing superior service and complete customer satisfaction, R Hillis 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. Ryen, Ray and their highly-skilled and highly-motivated team deliver the value and quality farmers expect from their agricultural contracting partner.

At the heart of the business is a dozen-strong fleet of New Holland tractors. There are four TM150s, two TM155s, two 7840s, one T7185, one 8260, one 7040 and a Ford 7700. The grass machinery includes a New Holland FR960 self-propelled harvester, a new CLAAS 3200 rear mower, a new Krone 30ft rake, a McHale F550 baler, a CLAAS 250 baler and a JCB 416 loading shovel for backing up silage. The Hillis’ also have two New Holland combine harvesters (CX840 and TC56) which cut barley, wheat and sometimes peas.

“The new Krone rake has been a great addition. It leaves a lovely square row for the baler,” Ryen enthuses.

For slurry, R Hillis Contracts runs Red Rock and NC 2,000-gallon tankers along with a NC agitator. They also have a Bunning 10-tonne discharger that is often used for spreading compost. Their tillage work is carried out with two Accord drills, one of which was recently purchased new, a new Einbock 6m sower from G.A. Allen in Banbridge, and two Kverneland four-furrow reversible ploughs.

In addition, the family business runs three McConnel hedge-cutters and has invested in a new megahead (supplied by Alexander Mills in Benburb, Co. Tyrone), saw head and a set of shears for their JCB JS 145 digger. So anyone needing hedge or digger work done knows who to call.

“We offer a wide range of services, from silage, ploughing, reseeding, sawing and site clearance to digger and dump trailer work, and much more,” says Ryen, who featured alongside Ray in an episode of FarmFLiX in December 2019.

All machines are maintained and serviced on a regular basis to avoid downtime, with most of this being carried out in-house. Machines under warranty are sent to the main dealer. Parts are supplied by Burke’s of Cornascriebe and R Kennedy & Co in Ballinahinch.

R Hillis Contracts has built up a large and loyal client-base within a wide radius of Newry.

“We’re branching out more and more,” Ryen explains.

“We have a lot of valued customers up as far as Lisburn in Co. Antrim. While the vast majority of them are farmers, we also do some hedge-cutting for Gibson Bros, who are road contractors in Banbridge.

“We’re very lucky to have some great, long-standing customers who have stuck with us through thick and thin. We’ll always go the extra mile for them. 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.”

There is no such thing as a quiet time for this highly-regarded operation which will work around the clock and take on extra staff at busy times to keep clients happy. Ploughing, sowing and slurry spreading take precedence in the early part of the year, followed by silage and baling during the summer months. After that comes the harvest, followed by hedge cutting and more slurry spreading.

“At the height of the summer, we would have up to 15 men here. We are fortunate to be able to call upon the services of hard-working, knowledgeable and experienced men, some of whom come in from other contracting teams. The majority of them have been with us a long time, such as Chris Kelly, who drives the harvester and has been here 30 years. We look after them and they look after us.

“Markus Watt is another who has been with us for 15 years – he does a lot of the maintenance and night-time and breakdown work, including welding, repairing flat tyres, etc. My uncle Hector is also part of the team.”

Every year, R Hillis Contracts cuts about 3,500 acres of pit silage and makes in the region of 7,500 bales. Needless to say, Ryen is hoping this summer isn’t another washout.

“Last year was very, very challenging. The constant rain meant that we had to work numerous late nights to get through all the work. We had to cram a lot into the time when it wasn’t raining. The window of opportunity was very small,” reflected the affable contractor, whose sister Aimee looks after a small herd of Limousin cattle.

Passionate about agri contracting, Ryen and Ray would like to take this opportunity to thank their customers and suppliers for their continued support as well as their hard-working team for their dedication and expertise.

R Hillis Contracts Ltd

28 Ringclare Road,


Co. Down.

Telephone: 07597639355

First published in Irish Tractor & Agri magazine Vol 12 No 1, March/April 2024