As part of this week’s Agricultural Contractor of the Week segment, That’s Farming, profiles Ultan Duffy Contracting Limited. He discusses finding an opening for baling services in his area, working overseas, buying his first tractor for €25,000, rising input prices, farm labour shortages and if the field is a viable business.
Ultan Duffy (36) from Ballinahown, Athlone, began agricultural contracting nine years ago when he saw an opening for baling services and now makes 16,000 bales annually.
He began his business, Ultan Duffy Contracting Limited, initially by purchasing a New Holland TM135 tractor with the help of his father, Enda, and mother, Gina, who gave him a New Holland TS90 tractor.
Ultan also purchased a CLAAS Rollant 354 baler, a McHale 991 BJS wrapper, and a KUHN rake.
He later upgraded the tractor to a New Holland TM155. He traded in his New Holland TM135 tractor to finance this purchase.
“I was in Australia for four years driving a loading shovel and digger. I saved a lot of money when I was over there, and that is what got me going here,” Ultan Duffy, a 2004 Gurteen Agricultural College graduate, told That’s Farming.
“My grandfather, Francie Coughlan, was involved in agricultural contracting for years and years. He started doing square baling, round baling, dung spreading, and also cattle haulage.”
“I got the love for agricultural contracting from my grandad.”
Ultan Duffy Contracting Limited
Ultan Duffy Contracting Limited serves a 30km radius of Athlone, including Moate, Doon, Castledaly, Ballynahown, Drumraney, Glasson, and Mount Temple.
Services he offers include umbilical system slurry (direct pumping or drawing with slurry tankers to the umbilical system), slurry spreading, baling, mowing, tedding, raking, wrapping, bale haulage, and hedge-cutting.
“Farmers are opting for our bale haulage service because farm labour is not there. It is easier for them to leave the whole job to us.”
“The bales are left in the yard, and all they have to do is put them out next winter.”
“The business was slow to build up customers the first year. Once I completed my first year in business, everyone saw I was going to stay at agricultural contracting, A lot of customers came to me over the years.”
“We are providing a good service. We are there when we are asked to be there. Also, we try to do the best we can when we go to a farm.”
“I work for a lot of local farmers around my area, and they all got me going. I am still completing work for all of them.”
Slurry spreading and baling services
95% of Ultan’s customers are repeat clients. His umbilical system slurry and baling services are among the most popular his farmer customers choose.
“Once the slurry deadline is lifted, we will be out spreading slurry until the first-cut of silage starts in May.”
“Once the first-cut of silage is harvested, we will be back spreading slurry again.”
“We will be working for seven days a week for the next month, and then we might go back to five or six days a week.”
“I find farmers are using agricultural contractors for a lot more work than they used to eight to ten years ago.”
“With farm labour shortages, farm labour shortages have drummed up a lot of business in the last couple of years.”
Tractors and machinery
His current tractor fleet comprises a New Holland T6070, a New Holand T6080, a New Holland T7210, a CLAAS Arion 650, and a CLAAS Axion 810.
“We do as much maintenance ourselves. There are three full-time employees, I, Nigel Rohan, and Dean Rock.”
“The two part-time employees in my agricultural contracting business are Eanna Duffy and Sean Malone.”
“They are all able to fix a problem without ringing me.”
“Two local mechanics, Jason Daly, and, Sean Shortle, do the rest of the maintenance work.”
Other items of machinery Ultan owns includes a McHale Fusion 3 Integrated Baler Wrapper, a KRONE front and back mowers, a KRONE TC760 rake, and a CLAAS Volto 1100 tedder.
The company also owns a HiSpec 2600 and 3000-gallon vacuum slurry tankers with an umbilical system pump/a dribble bar and a Redrock 4,500g tanker with an umbilical system pump and a Mastek dribble bar.
He also has a McConnel PA6575 hedge-cutter, a Cross agitator, a Cross 1100 rear discharge manure spreader, and a Broughan 32 ft Twin-Axle Bale Trailer,
There is also a 2T Amazone ZA-m 1501 manure spreader, a Carey 24ft bale trailer, and a Mastek umbilical system with a 10m dribble bar and 1,800m of piping
As an agricultural contractor, some of the challenges he faces include slurry spreading deadlines, working in tighter windows, hiring labour, and dealing with increasing machinery diesel and part prices.
“In 2002, I bought a New Holland TM135 tractor. There were 6,000 hours on this tractor, and I paid €25,000 for it.”
“You would not get much with €25,000 for a tractor today.”
Ultan believes the key elements in running a successful agricultural contracting business are timekeeping skills, high reliability and “doing the best job you can and giving the best service”.
The Athlone agricultural contractor intends to grow his customer base, branch into more slurry and baled silage contracts, and continue upgrading his machinery.
“In essence, I would hope my business to be still the way it is in five to ten years. I do not think I will be getting into any other agricultural contracting work.”
“I think if I can keep the agricultural contracting work I have and provide the service I am providing and maybe grow them a bit, that would be my goal.”
“Honestly, I do not see myself getting into pit silage or any service like that.”
“I hope agricultural contracting is a viable business going forward. My grandfather started agricultural contracting a long time ago and made a living out of it and kept his machinery up-to-date and right.”
“I am an agricultural contractor, and I hope to do the same work.”
“It is harder for us at the minute with the price of everything.”
“However, I think there is always a place there for the agricultural contractor. I would like to thank all my customers,” the owner of Ultan Duffy Contracting Limited concluded.
To share your story like this Westmeath ag contractor, email Catherina Cunnane, editor of That’s Farming, – [email protected]
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