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Conor Halpin
Journalism intern.
Reading Time: 6 minutes

‘One machine cannot earn money for two or three people’ – ag contractor

As part of this week’s Agricultural Contractor of the Week segmentThat’s Farming, profiles Ken Pierce. He discusses the challenges he faces, the slurry spreading ban, and the importance of Irish agricultural contracting.

Ken Pierce established his business three years ago when he saw an opening for a reliable agricultural contractor in Blessington, County Wicklow, to complete farming services.

He believes contacting farmers and being there when “the farmer wants him” is why his small business has grown into quite a big one,

“The key in my business is to work locally where there was an opening and keep the work done when farmers wanting it to be done and not to go far away,” Ken Pierce told That’s Farming.

“People have contacted me to complete jobs far away. The very words I said was if I can keep the customers beside me happy, I will have no reason to travel for work.”

“I would rather a free day in the week than looking for a day in the week because then you have not made a liar of yourself to your good customers.”

“So, I started driving a tractor putting out dung with my father in a Massey Ferguson 35.”

“I loved tractors and machinery from that day to this minute. I have a love for farm animals and machinery. But, I am not a digger person or site person.”

Ken farms 180 Friesian calves, which he buys at 20-days-old to sell at Blessington Mart at 300kg/500kgs.

Agricultural contractor, Ken Pierce, established his business three years ago when he saw an opening in Blessington, County Wicklow.

Wicklow agricultural contractor

Ken Pierce’s business serves a 20-mile radius of Blessington.

He began offering slurry spreading, mowing, and spraying but has since expanded to offer a complete agricultural service.

These services include slurry spreading, dung spreading, agitating, mowing, turning, rowing, baling, hay/silage wrapping, grass re-seeding, aerating, and repairing poached ground.

Agricultural contractor, Ken Pierce, established his business three years ago when he saw an opening in Blessington, County Wicklow.

“I also supply quality hay and silage to farmers all from weed-free swart freshly sowed grass.”

“I sow 400-acres of grass seed a year. It is great to work in a community that is all local. You can call in, have a chat with, have a cup of tea, and know where they are going.”

“Bookwork has to be done. If you do work, you do the bookwork. I do my bookwork as well as doing my work, and I find it works very well.”

“I know how to put bookwork together to suit every job I complete versus a person in an office that has a big job putting the bookwork together to match the completed job.”

Ken intends to recruit an employee when the slurry ban lifts.

“I want them to come and work along with me, not just for me, which is a very important part of being a boss.”

“If you are not on-site doing the job, you will not have a good job done. Every customer has a different way of doing a job and wants it done differently”.

Ken feels it is essential “to keep accounts tight and your accountant on side every two months for VAT returns.”

Agricultural contractor, Ken Pierce, established his business three years ago when he saw an opening in Blessington, County Wicklow.

Farm machinery

In November 2017, Ken registered his business and purchased a New Holland T7190 tractor two months later. He completed 7,500 hrs in the first 36.25 months.

Furthermore, he upgraded this to a Landini Series-7 V-Shift 7210 tractor three months ago.

Other machinery includes an MCM 3,500-gallon slurry tanker, KUHN HR3102 power harrow (converted to a grass seeder with an ACCORD drill), JAMAR 12-metre sprayer and a 14ft land leveller.

He also possesses a KUHN mower, an Alstrong aerator roller 3M, an Alstrong Auctus re-seeding machine, a 6.3m SMG flat roller, a 9ft Redrock agitator, 6m chain harrow, and a 2T fertiliser spreader.

The company also uses a JOSKIN 9T rear discharge muck spreader, Morris self-tying bale trailer, LELY LOTUS 10-rotor hay turner, 20ft twin-rotor KUHN rake, New Holland BR6090 COMBI baler, and a McConnell 6565T hedge-cutter.

“Another important thing in contracting is if you need a repair person and tool kit on-site/with you all day every day, you have the wrong machine.”

“A good machine is easier paid for than it is to pay a bad machine because the farmer that has you employed is looking at you fixing in the field instead of working in the field.”

“I do all my own maintenance on my own machinery. The only thing I am not allowed to do is service the tractor.”

Agricultural contractor, Ken Pierce, established his business three years ago when he saw an opening in Blessington, County Wicklow.

Challenges

According to Ken, increasing fuel costs and weather are among some of his biggest challenges in the field.

“Slurry and fertiliser spreading rules are a big problem. Those that brought out the rule to have the slurry finished by October 15th was not in tune with climate change at all.”

“Everyone is trying to push out all the slurry before the deadline instead of spreading a small bit all along.”

“My customers are all very good to me, and I am very good to them.”

“I have a good price, do good work and have no problem. The challenge is with a lot of people, they go in undercutting, and they try the job cheaply and quickly, so it is not good.”

The price of the job has to go up to match the price of the machine. That is down to if you can put a good price down to do a good job.”

“The key to running a successful business is to keep your bookwork right and customers happy. If the customer is not happy, your bookwork will not be right.”

Agricultural contractor, Ken Pierce, established his business three years ago when he saw an opening in Blessington, County Wicklow.

Future

Ken intends to continue serving his customer base over the next five years and purchase additional machinery, including a low emission slurry spreading applicator.

“I picked up the virus in May, and I know the importance of getting the Covid-19 vaccination.”

He shared his view on the future of agricultural contracting.

“It is a very good business to be in, but every person in the yard has to be working. One machine cannot earn money for two or three people; the machine can only earn money for one.”

“Contractors have to survive to keep the community going. Where will food come from if the contractor and farmer go? We will all starve to death.”

“The farmer is going to survive as well as the contractor because workers in farming are hard to get, so it is easier to get the contractor.”

“The contractor comes in and does his job and hands you an invoice.”

“The farmer has paperwork for all his/her work done. It is cheaper than the farmer having the machine parked in the yard depreciating every day, not working, and having no time to use it,” the Wicklow agricultural contractor concluded.

To share your story, like this Wicklow agricultural contractor, email Catherina Cunnane, editor of That’s Farming, – catherina@thatsfarming.com

See more agricultural contracting profiles

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