As part of this week’s Agricultural Contractor of the Week segment, That’s Farming, profiles Shanaghy Plant and Agri Contractors. Kevin discusses joining the business after completing his studies, cutting 2,000-acres of pit silage annually, rising fuel and input costs and labour shortages.
Shanaghy Plant and Agri Contractors, Cavan, located between Ballinagh and Arvagh, is a family-run plant hire and agricultural contracting business that Sean Shanaghy established in the 1970s.
He saw an opportunity locally for land drainage and shoring and began digging with a JCB 3cx backhoe digger. He later invested in a Hymac digger.
“I have been working full-time with my father for about 15 years. I always have been there since I left school,” his son, Kevin Shanaghy, told That’s Farming.
“My early memories would be during the summertime helping my father with pit silage. I was always sitting beside someone in some part of the business.”
“Honestly, I could not wait to finish school to get working at it. I would have been driving a digger straight away.”
“My mother, Eileen, looks after the farm. We have ten suckler cows and some calves.”
“We run a Charolais bull and have a few Angus-cross-Friesian heifers that my father bought. My father reared them, and we have them alongside a few Charolais cows.”
Shanaghy Plant and Agri Contractors
Kevin and his father are in a business partnership, employing five full-time staff and approximately ten workers during peak times.
Shanaghy Plant and Agri Contractors serve Cavan, Dublin, Down, and Meath.
The business offers pit silage, slurry spreading (with splash plate and dribble bars), mole ploughing, hedge mulching, tree shearing, land drainage, land reclamation, groundworks and site clearance services.
The company has a “large” plant hire contract with College Protein’s three factories.
In addition to this, Kings Piggery contracts them to deliver slurry to farmer’s yards from their pig farm.
“We have the same customers all the time and get new ones each year. However, because we have that many customers, we have enough work without taking on any more work.”
“We cut 2,000-acres of pit silage a year. A lot of slurry spreading work starts from February 1st through to October. We empty 9-10 slurry tanks for farmers a year.”
“Most people who spread slurry are piping it out. They do not use a tanker to spread slurry; only if ground is dry enough.”
“Digger work occurs all-year-round for us, and it is our main service at the minute. We have 5-6 diggers working at any one time.”
Their tractor fleet comprises a John Deere 6195M, a John Deere 6150M, a John Deere 7530 Premium, two John Deere 6920s, a John Deere 6810, and a John Deere 6910.
Other machinery items include an Abbey 2500g slurry tanker, two Abbey 2,250g slurry tankers, an NC Super 3500 agitator, a John Deere 8500i self-propelled forage harvester and three 18ft Donnelly silage trailers.
They also have a JCB 426 wheel loader, a 14ft OCE fork, a CLAAS LINER 2900 rake, a KRONE BIG M 420, a KRONE front and back mower, a Seppi mulcher and a VOLVO FH 500 truck and low loader.
The company also own a Herbst 27t GROSS tri-axle low loader, a Broughan 20t dumper trailer, a Smyth 20t dumper trailer, an NC 16t dumper trailer, a Herbst 12t dump trailer and a Thompson 15t dump trailer.
His plant hire equipment includes two Hitachi ZX 130-1s, a Hitachi EX40-2 mini excavator, two Zx135US-5 diggers, a ZX200-1 hydraulic excavator, a ZX210-5 utility excavator and a Komatsu D65EX bulldozer.
“We have an employee who does all our maintenance work for us. He has been working with us the last 14-15 years and oversees a lot of work for us.”
“However, with newer machines and computer work, you need to go back to the John Deere dealer.”
The challenges this business faces include increasing fuel, machinery and part prices and calendar farming rules.
“Everything is going up in price, but the prices we are working for has not increased.”
“When the slurry window opens, it could be raining, meaning you cannot spread slurry. It does not make much sense.”
“There are lots of times there is good weather when the slurry spreading ban is in place to go out to the field, and you could travel with slurry.”
“The barrels of fuel I buy for my business have gone up in price. For example, this time last year, there could have been a 30c/L diesel price in the difference.”
“Other years, it has gone up, but it had fallen back down the year before last. So, diesel prices are looking now that they are going to stay up and not come back down.”
Kevin believes changing your machinery is the key to running a successful agricultural contracting and plant hire business.
“You nearly would want to change your machinery when the warranty is up.”
“You would be better paying your warranty than paying a person to fix your tractor. Also, you cannot afford downtime. Your equipment will always need to be kept fresh.”
“Machinery is a lot bigger and better. Every machine is updated and is a good bit different from when I started.”
“There is a shorter working window now; a couple of hours here and there, and just a couple weeks in the summer.”
Plans and the future of Irish agricultural contracting
Kevin intends to maintain the firm’s position in the marketplace and hand the companies reins over to one of his children in the future.
His long-term plan is to continue upgrading three machines yearly – depending on labour availability and cash flow.
“If the government do not do something about it, it is going to be very hard to keep going. Agricultural contracting is going to be very hard to do.”
“It is going to be very hard to get workers, and the price of everything is going to be too high.
“In my view, younger people are just not interested in agricultural contracting and have not got the same want or go in them.”
“Farmers are also getting it tough enough with fertiliser prices. So, it is going to be a difficult battle.”
“Every year is going to get harder because the government is putting in new restrictions on agriculture every year.”
“With the carbon tax and everything else, it is going to leave it very hard for contractors and farmers to make any money,” the agricultural contractor concluded.
To share your story like this Cavan ag contractor, email Catherina Cunnane, editor of That’s Farming, – email@example.com
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