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Conor Halpin
Conor Halpin
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Galway contractor with 6,000 livestock making 12,000 bales

As part of this week’s Agricultural Contractor of the Week segmentThat’s Farming profiles Cathal Moran Agri Plant Hire. He discusses taking over his late brother’s business, juggling a large farm of up to 6,000 livestock, making over 12,000 silage bales and challenges.

There is never a dull moment for Cathal Moran, who handles over 6,000 livestock at any given time and runs an agricultural contracting business.

The Headford, Co Galway native took over his late brother’s John, agricultural contracting business 23 years ago.

In 1997, his brother established John Moran Agri Contractor with silage and slurry spreading services when a local contractor he worked for, for seven silage seasons, retired.

John invested in various pieces of equipment and, in his first year, cut 1,100-acres of single-chop silage.

In July 1999, he passed away, and in August 1999, his brother, Cathal, established his own company and continued the business. Outside of his work at P&D Lydon, Cathal held an operator position in his brother’s business.

Farming

He furthered his knowledge in agriculture in 1998, when he completed a welding course through SOLAS in Galway and during the 2000s when he undertook his Green Cert in Teagasc in Ballinrobe.

“I always had an interest in agriculture and machinery growing up. I suppose I was always going to pursue a job in agriculture. So, I had an interest from a young age in farming,” Cathal Moran told That’s Farming.

Moran is actively involved in the running of the family farm with his father, Sean, farming over 300-acres (mostly rented).

They farm 500 lowland, crossbred and mountain-type sheep, 150 livestock as part of a calf-beef system, 150 store cattle, and buy-in up to 6,000 mountainy-cross sheep throughout the year.

They aim to have 70% Angus-cross breeding across both their calf-beef enterprise and store cattle businesses, but also have Angus-cross, Friesian-cross, Belgian Blue-cross, Limousin-cross, and Hereford-cross breeding.

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Cathal Moran Agri Plant Hire

Cathal began his agricultural contracting firm with slurry spreading, lime spreading, reseeding, and dung spreading services and continued serving customers from his brother’s business.

In the middle of 2001, he branched into baling silage. However, it did not generate a huge volume of interest until 2002 when he made 17,000 bales.

Today, the agricultural contracting business employs one full-time worker and three part-time operators daily and up to five staff at peak times.

The business serves within a 15-mile radius from its base, built up its customers through mainly word of mouth, and uses digital media to showcase its work.

“Customer retention would be important to me. 99% of our work would be repeat customers. I would be strict about how I complete a job for a customer, it has to be done right and on time.”

“There are a good few customers there from my late brother’s business.”

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Services

The company offers round baling, slurry spreading (with dribble bar and slurry tankers), muck spreading, lime spreading, disc harrowing, power harrowing, reseeding and dump trailer hire services, serving mainly drystock enterprises and GLAS participants.

The business decided to exit pit silage services this year. In 2009, he ceased offering plant hire services with six diggers, three tipper trucks, and five tractors in operation.

The firm branched into grass harrowing during the first week of May with 80-acres recorded since.

Each year, the company bales up to 12,000 silage bales and completes over 300-acres of reseeding. Slurry spreading and lime spreading are the next most popular services.

Mortimer Quarries has contracted the firm to spread lime for the past fourteen years. They apply it at an application rate of 2t/acre.

The GLAS scheme is great for the lime spreading as farmers get their land tested and then spread a bit.”

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Farm machinery

His fleet includes a New Holland T7.230 tractor, a John Deere 6930 tractor, a John Deere 6920 tractor and two John Deere 6330 tractors.

Other items include a Belmac 2,500-gallon tanker (with a Belmac dribble bar), a Major 2,600-gallon tanker (with a Belmac dribble bar), a Conor 7,000 agitator, a RECK propellor agitator, and a Conor rear-discharge muck spreader.

His grass equipment includes a McHale Fusion 3 Plus integrated baler wrapper, a McHale Fusion two baler, a Malone 9ft trailed mower, a Malone side-mounted 10ft conditioner mower, a Malone 8ft disc mower, a John Deere 131 10ft front mower, a Malone Tedd-Air 570, a Kuhn 8-rotor tedder and a Massey Ferguson rotary rake.

His tillage equipment includes a KRM 6m grass harrow (with APV air seeder), a Bredal lime spreader, a Mandam disc harrow, and an Amazone power harrow with a Guttler seeder.

Other equipment includes a CAT mini digger, a Merlo teleporter, an assortment of bale trailers, and a MAN truck with an 18ft Murphy body with decks.

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Maintaining tractors 

The business upgrades its tractors in the fleet as required. “Tractors are all serviced at their scheduled hours.”

“We have Murphys Garage beside us and Declan McHugh Tractors in Belclare, County Galway, who do the majority of servicing.”

“Then, Joe Whelan Limited in Loughrea looks after the rake and the Kubota RTV. Malone Farm Machinery look after the mowers for us.”

Challenges

Challenges that impact the company include diesel prices and insurance costs.

“We are lucky enough in the line of staff that we have plenty of people that we can call on.”

“Carbon tax is impacting contractors. It is adding serious costs along the line, and diesel prices are gone dear enough without that happening.”

Cathal believes the key element of running a successful agricultural contracting business is having time management skills.

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Silage scheme

Cathal feels the scheme which will see farmers receive up to €1,000 for up to 10ha of silage or hay is a “great” help but is “not going far enough”.

“Farmers need more. It will alleviate some of the cost but not a lot of it.”

“It costs €5 to put bale wrap around the bale. So, between fertiliser and bale wrap costs, contractor charges have gone well up.”

Plans and the future of Irish agricultural contracting

Despite this, the business is hopeful for the future and aims to keep expenses low.

Cathal said they are in a “comfortable” position regarding expansion and plan to employ another full-time worker.

“The contractor never gets support from the government and are always the last person to get anything,” the agricultural contractor concluded.

To share your story like this Galway agricultural contractor, email Catherina Cunnane, editor of That’s Farming – [email protected]

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