As part of this week’s Agricultural Contractor of the Week segment, That’s Farming, speaks to Patrick Halpin from Patrick Halpin Agri Contractor Limited. Patrick discusses the challenges he faces, increasing machinery costs, lack of labour, and his outlook on the agricultural contracting industry.
In 2009, Patrick Halpin jumped at the opportunity to offer a complete baled silage service in his local area as a second income source alongside his family farm.
He established Patrick Halpin Agri Contractor Limited with his wife, Carmel Halpin and employs five full-time staff and five part-time staff alongside staff for their family farm.
“I worked part-time for a neighbour who used to make haylage, which gave me an interest in the machinery. I used to make the bales, mow, stack, and different bits and pieces.”
“Subsequently, I leased his farm when he gave up farming,” Patrick Halpin, a 1995 Kilmallock Teagasc centre and Pallaskerry Agricultural College graduate, told That’s Farming.
“We started with a McHale Fusion 2 baler, a CLAAS mower, a CLAAS rake, a Lynch bale trailer, a LELY tedder, a CROSS agitator, an Abbey 2500-gallon slurry tank and CLAAS Arion 630 tractor.”
“We saw the niche to start the business off as very few people in this general area provided a full service drawing the bales to tedding it. That is how it made it easier for us to get going at it.”
“When I started the family business, family help was key to getting it off the ground. I would like to thank all my family for helping to start the businesses foundation.”
Patrick Halpin Agri Contractor Limited
Patrick Halpin Agri Contractor Limited serves Limerick and Tipperary, offering a full silage baling service to stacking and a complete pit silage service (including covering).
Other services include slurry spreading (umbilical system and tanker with dribble bar and splash plate), hedge-cutting, digger work, reseeding, and harrowing.
In 2009, the initial year of trading, the business produced 4,500 silage bales, increasing to 20,000 bales in recent times. On the other hand, Patrick completed 850-acres of wagon silage the first year, with 1,670-acres of pit silage in 2020.
“We started wagon silage until 2012, and then we bought the harvester in 2018. The draws were getting longer, and there was too much downtime edging knives with the wagons. You get more output in the day, and it comes with a cost.”
“This year was hugely challenging. The weather was not good; the crops were too late, and when people got to cut, they were overgrown, and crops were too heavy.”
“It is very hard on machinery and a substantial increase on diesel prices plus an awful lot of extra diesel burnt to do the same job. The overheads and repairs were up substantially this year, and more things are going wrong. The machinery was under more pressure.”
“The season did not start as early and was condensed more than other years, which created its challenges. In addition, the price of machinery is crazy, and contractor rates need to go up a lot; they are way too low.”
Today, Patrick’s current fleet of tractors secured through hire purchase and farm income includes two CLAAS ARION 650, three CLAAS ARION 630, two CLAAS ARION 640, one CLAAS ARION 550, one CLAAS ARION 440, one CLAAS ARES 697, a Massey Ferguson 7720, a New Holland T6.125, New Holland TM120, plus two other tractors on hire.
“The person who owns the two tractors on hire works with me and does a lot of the maintenance. Then, we have main dealers, MCCARTHY, who looks after the harvester and then Breens Farm Machinery, M&S Machinery and, John Ryan, Greencare Mechanical Services.
“Every make of tractor causes some trouble, but overall, I would be happy with the tractors. The engine or gearbox has not gone on any of them. However, they all have their minor issues.”
Patrick possesses a CLASS JAGUAR 860 harvester, four 20ft Broughan silage trailers, a Volvo L60 loading shovel, a CLAAS SCORPION 1033 telehandler, a Keltec Engineering 10 bale handler, a Wilson Super Move 10, a Lynch bale trailer, a McCauley low loader/bale trailer and a Hogg tri-axle low loader/bale trailer.
Other items include two CLAAS Disco 3200 FRC and 3200 RC plus mowers, a CLAAS 10-metre tedder, a CLAAS 2900, rake, a CLAAS 2700 rake and a Fella 805 rake.
He also has three McHale fusion three-plus balers, two MASTEK umbilical systems with two pumps [2.2 km of hosing], a MASTEK 10m dribble bar, two Abbey 2500-gallon slurry tanks with 7.5m MASTEK dribble bars, and a CROSS agitator.
In addition, there is a Samson rear discharge dung spreader, Sulky 3-tonne fertiliser spreader, HARDI 1000-litre sprayer, Hyundai HX140 digger and Hitachi EX120 digger.
He also has a TAKEUCHI 3-tonne digger, 3-metre Gregoire Besson disc harrow, RABE 4-metre power harrow, SAMCO 3-metre land leveller and ZOCON 6-metre chain harrow.
A 16-tonne Smyth dump trailer, two 6-tonne Terex and Baraford dumpers, Twose hedge-cutter TV625, an Axer tree shears, and a SEPPI mulcher form part of the fleet.
Among Patrick’s changes include the introduction of a LESS dribble bar and trailing shoe application method to clients.
“The white plastic coming instead of the net is used exclusively now for our customers. We do very little bales with the net; 10% of bales are with net, which is a big change.”
“The biggest challenge I see going forward for contracting is the availability of quality labour or the lack of labour and also for the garages to supply a back-up service as required.”
“I see the future coming more challenging for the garages to provide the contractors with a good enough service. The season has become short, it is becoming more of a rat race all the time, and every year is getting worse.”
Looking ahead, Patrick will continue to introduce yearly machinery changes, with the philosophy that good staff and loyal customers are key ingredients to having a successful business.
“I do not canvass for work; I get work by word of mouth. To do a good job for one person, you usually get recommended and then you get another job.”
“I think the contractor is going to become more and more important as time goes on because farming is becoming a bigger scale, so they need a good reliable service. So, the number one priority for the farmer should be to get a quality service over price.”
“I would like to thank our staff and my loyal customers for the help in building the business because, without both, you do not have a business,” the owner of Patrick Halpin Agri Contractor Limited concluded.
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