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Conor Halpin
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‘We now source machinery in Norway, France, and Central Europe’ – ag contractor

As part of this week’s Agricultural Contractor of the Week segmentThat’s Farming, profiles Sean Magee from Agri Mac Services and Plant Hire, Galway. He discusses venturing into property development, increasing diesel prices, sourcing tractors overseas, and if agricultural contracting is a viable business.

Sean Magee (23) from Rosscahill, Galway, runs Agri Mac Services and Plant Hire, which has been in business for over two decades.

His father established the agricultural contracting firm, while he expanded into property development three years ago when his friend asked him to develop a site and to prepare it for rafts and services.

He constructed 60 property units in Moycullen earlier this year with an additional 80/90 units planned in the coming 18 months in Oranmore and Moycullen.

“I always wanted to do something with machinery, and my grandfather used to bring me around from field to field,” he told That’s Farming.

“I used to go wrapping bales, and once that garden was done, he would bring me to another garden where my father was baling when I was eleven or twelve.”

“Furthermore, I was on the wrapper for a year, and once I got my tractor licence, I went onto the baler the following year. So, I have not stopped since.”

Sean Magee, Agri Mac Services and Plant Hire, Galway agricultural contractor, on property development and increasing diesel prices.

Galway ag contractor 

Agri Mac Services and Plant Hire employ four workers and serve all of County Galway.

The business offers mowing, baling, wrapping, slurry spreading/drawing, lime spreading, dump trailer hire, tractor and tanker hire, truck hire, general plant hire, rock breaking, road sweeping and a groundworks service to include site development and land clearance.

He completes slurry spreading from 20 slatted tanks ranging from 2 bay to 6 bay tanks annually.

In 2020, Sean set up a Facebook page that gained increased demand for construction and plant hire services.

“Only for our customers, we would not be where we are now. We have a big enough customer base, and we are happy with it.”

“Every customer comes back every year, so that is a good sign, also, we gain some too with word of mouth.”

“We start silage the middle of May until October 17th, and slurry spreading starts at the end of February/middle of March.”

“Some farmers put out slurry before their first cut of silage, and others wait until they take their first-cut. The plant hire work is all-year-round.”

“Once we finish baling and slurry spreading, all of us go onto diggers, completing site work.”

In 2020, Agri Mac Services and Plant Hire invested in their McHale Fusion 3 Plus integrated baler wrapper.

“We were the first to introduce film this side of Galway, and the farmers are happy with it.”

“The benefit is you have extra farm film on the bale and extra protection. Come wintertime, silage is a lot better, plus they are bigger bales too.”

Sean Magee, Agri Mac Services and Plant Hire, Galway agricultural contractor, on property development and increasing diesel prices.

Machinery

His tractor fleet includes two Case Maximum 130s, a John Deere 6155R and a Deutz Agrotron 165.7.

Other items include an Abbey 2,250-gallon slurry tanker, an NC 4800 agitator, a 16T Redrock dump trailer, Chieftain dump trailer, 30ft Anderson low loader, McHale 991BE – round bale wrapper, two McHale F5500 balers, McHale Fusion 3 plus baler, three 8ft Kverneland mowers, and a 9ft Kverneland mower.

He also has two Hitachi ZX130 diggers, CAT 320 excavator, CAT 352 excavator, SCANIA P410 tipper truck, BOMAG double-drum roller, a Thwaites 6T dumper, D&A rock breaker and a 20T Furkowa rock breaker.

“MH Services completes a lot of our maintenance. However, we will do anything ourselves if we can complete any small bit of work, e.g., servicing diggers, balers, and mowers.”

Challenges

The Galway contractor listed labour shortages, diesel prices, plastic/film costs for balers/wrappers and tractors breaking down among his list of challenges.

“Diesel has gone up definitely €20/barrel or even €30/barrel.”

“Weather is probably my biggest challenge. You get over the rest of them, but you need good weather. Without good weather, you have nothing, especially in agricultural contracting.”

“Slurry spreading dates are putting pressure on the farmer and agricultural contractor. If the weather is bad, the slurry cannot go out.”

“The farmer is not going to want you in his/her field if it was raining for three days and the slurry spreading date is tomorrow.”

Sean Magee, Agri Mac Services and Plant Hire, Galway agricultural contractor, on property development and increasing diesel prices.

Changes

Looking back through the years, the speed at which tasks can be performed, and the increasing size of machines stand out for Sean.

“We started with one baler, and now we have three. We started with an 8ft mower; now we have two 8ft mowers and a 9ft mower.”

“Tractors are also getting bigger. Many of our tractors were sourced in England but have not invested since Brexit. We now source machinery in Norway, France, and Central Europe.”

“You save a few pounds buying in England that time, but I am not sure how it is now. Brexit has not impacted me in any way, as we have diversified to purchasing from other EU countries.”

“A second-hand tractor is definitely more expensive than it was six years ago, so I have to factor that that in too when I am buying.”

Sean Magee, Agri Mac Services and Plant Hire, Galway agricultural contractor, on property development and increasing diesel prices.

Future

Sean believes the key elements in a successful business are “making sure your customers are happy, completing work to a 100% standard, and using fresh machinery”. “You would not get business without your customers.”

He intends to invest in a new Deutz tractor, a dribble bar, and a GPS for his digger.

He also plans to introduce additional services including hedge-cutting and reseeding and expand its range of construction and plant services. For example, the company can currently dig a site foundation for 100 houses.

“If the customer base we have now is there, we will continue to provide the service they require. I will envision that the construction and groundworks aspects will also be demanding. It looks to be a very exciting time for the company.”

He shared his view on the future of agricultural contracting.

Contracting is definitely going to change with carbon footprint and emphasis on the national herd.”

“It could be completely different from now to ten years.  Farmers are either going to down stock or alternatively, some could expand. It really is a challenging time for all farmers.”

“If diesel prices still keep going up, your roll of plastic is going to go up as well, and then the price of your bale has to be looked at.”

“Every cost has to be a factor in the overall competitiveness of the business,” the agricultural contractor concluded.

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

See more agricultural contracting profiles

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