As part of this week’s Agricultural Contractor of the Week segment, That’s Farming, profiles Jason from Culhane Agri Contracts. He discusses saving costs by completing their own contracting, branching into baling, rising input costs.
Jason Culhane and his father, Thomas, from Killedy, County Limerick, established Culhane Agri Contracts three years ago to save agricultural contracting costs on their family farm.
Their enterprise comprises a suckler and Angus cattle beef with mainly Salers bulls.
Jason worked with other agricultural contractors and farmers for some time, before joining his father’s business.
His father began the enterprise by investing in a New Holland T6030 tractor with a Rossmore front loader, a Major LGP 2000-gallon slurry tanker and bale handling equipment.
“We got into agricultural contracting for the first year, drawing bales and spreading slurry as we make about 1,000 bales ourselves every year,” Jason Culhane told That’s Farming.
“Having a tractor to draw them was quite a change. My father and I have always talked about agricultural contracting. I have had a love for machinery since I was born.”
“When my father bought the New Holland tractor and tanker for our own use, we could not help but consider going on hire.”
Culhane Agri Contracts
Culhane Agri Contracts offers slurry spreading with a splash plate or dribble bar, hedge-cutting, mowing, raking, baling, and bale haulage services.
According to the company, 2021 marks, their debut year baling, and they claim to have made 4,000 bales.
Jason outlined how the business has embraced technology with a LESS applicator. “In 2020, we did a share of slurry spreading with a splash plate,” the 18-year-old explained.
“As of the Low Emission Slurry Spreading, we did not get as much work as we could have if we had a dribble bar.”
“We purchased a dribble bar in the spring of 2021 and got a reasonable amount of work done with it.”
“With competition out there and the scale of local agricultural contractors, getting work is not easy, and it takes time.”
The family covers a 40km-radius of their yard in Killeedy including Knockaderry, Glin, Broadford, Lisgriffin and Freemount or “wherever there is work worth travelling for”.
“It is hard enough to build up customers with the number of contractors in my area and the scale of some of them.”
“The customers I have are very good, and I could not be any happier with them. I have never gone to a job and not got paid.”
“Retaining customers is important to me; you have to treat them all equally. Everyone I have gone to so far, I have gone back again, thankfully.”
“Everything is done right, and there is a set price for everyone. They are not different for any other customer.”
“I try my best to get customers on social media, e.g, Facebook, YouTube and TikTok and word of mouth from farmers that I have worked for in the past.”
Their current tractor fleet comprises a New Holland T6030 and a New Holland T6070.
“There has not been much maintenance work, just a regular service. We have yet to experience any big mechanical problems.”
“Billy Daly in Bothar Buí would be the main mechanic. He has his own garage selling second-tractors. We bought the New Holland T6030 tractor off him.”
“New Holland tractors are very good, and that is why we went back to them.”
Other items include a Rossmore loader, a CROSS agitator, a MAJOR LGP 2000-gallon slurry tanker, a 7.8m Slurrquip dribble bar, a KRONE 10FT mower, and a KRONE TC780 25ft rake.
They also have a McHale Fusion 3 integrated baler wrapper, a Twose hedge-cutter, a 24ft Cronin bale trailer, a Cashels double-bale handler and a JM TR3 bale handler.
Jason outlined the challenges he faces in the field.
“The standard has to be very high these days. You have to have all the newest equipment to get anywhere with agricultural contracting.
“You have to be on time a lot more because if you are not, there are a lot more agricultural contractors that will do it the same day.”
“We were looking at buying another tractor, but we could not with the price of it.”
“You could buy old tractors that are making more money as the day they come out of the factory.”
“Weather would impact me as I have very good and very bad ground around me, which impact slurry spreading.”
“When the weather becomes too wet, you cannot go out with the tanker. That means you are going to lose a job to the umbilical system.”
He believes the key elements in running their successful agricultural contracting business is being “on time, doing jobs to the highest quality, consistency and minding machinery to avoid high machinery costs”.
“If you are going to be late, you should tell the customer you are going to be late. There is no point saying you will be there in ten minutes if you know it will be longer.”
They plan to achieve more customers and build up the business as big as possible.
Jason hopes to reach a yearly average of 10,000 bales in five years, employ a worker and invest in more machinery.
He is currently completing a Level 6 Green Certificate at Salesian Agricultural College, Pallaskenry.
Jason shared his view on the future of agricultural contracting.
“It will all depend on the environment and how all of those issues go. All of these new tractors with biomethane will cost big money too.”
“I believe fertiliser and slurry will play a big role in the future. In my view, the laws in place already are trying to slash the usage of both.”
“How and when they can be spread puts pressure on contractors to buy the right equipment to follow the rules and regulations.”
“With shorter slurry spreading periods, there is always panic at the start of the season and the closing date,” the agricultural contractor concluded.
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