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HomeEditor's Picks‘Ag contracting will get tougher if diesel prices keep going up’
Conor Halpin
Conor Halpin
Journalism intern.
Reading Time: 5 minutes

‘Ag contracting will get tougher if diesel prices keep going up’

As part of this week’s Agricultural Contractor of the Week segmentThat’s Farming profiles Oisin Ryan Farm Services. The Tipperary agricultural contractor discusses establishing his own business, putting money aside to buy machinery, coming from a non-farming background, challenges in the sector and the firm’s plans.

At the age of seventeen, Oisin Ryan sold a foal for €1,500 and, in May 2022, invested in a Fleming 6ft topper from this sale and established Oisin Ryan Farm Services.

Before this, the fifth-year student of Christian Brothers’ Secondary School (C.B.S.) Mitchelstown, Co. Cork from Clogheen, County Tipperary, borrowed his father’s 1974 Ford 7740 four-cylinder tractor from January 2022 and used to hire machines from farmers.

Oisin invested €2,000 in the tractor and oversaw diesel, tyres, and repair expenses, while his father, Philip, paid the remainder.

After receiving his tractor licence last autumn, he began drawing grain for a tillage farmer, who he has worked for since April 2021.

Oisin grew up on a small holding with his family owning 3-acres for horses and renting a further 8-acres which they utilise for haymaking.

“My parents were very helpful because I did not come from much of a farming background. My neighbours and the farmer I work for taught me everything I know about tractors and machinery,” Oisin Ryan told That’s Farming.

“I have liked machinery since I was very young. I saw all the agricultural contractors going around, and they were always busy. It looked like a nice job and very fun.”

In the future, Oisin hopes to seek employment in the agricultural sector in farm management or advisory, alongside running his agricultural contracting.

Tipperary agricultural contractor

The business contracts work he cannot complete to his father, with the business serving Clogheen, Cahir, Ballybreen, Newcastle, Ardfinnan, Lismore and Cappoquin.

Oisin Ryan Farm Services offers topping services, farmyard tidy-ups, and dump trailer work, including drawing sand, gravel, and stones and delivering mushroom compost to a garden centre.

Oisin undertook topping on 10-acres this year for clients and 20-acres for his father.

He classes his business as “very small” with a topper and tractor, while he rent other machines.

In the future, he hopes to purchase a dump trailer, a power washer, and a hedge-cutter and conduct more work of this nature.

Customer base

The student said that building a customer base can be “tricky,” but digital media and word of mouth are among his current advertising method.

“I enjoy going into a farm and doing a tidy job and having customers happy with a job.”

“I do any job to the same standard that I would do a job for my father or the farmer I work for, that being the best I can. Moreover, I would not do something that I would not be able to the best of my ability.”

According to Oisin, customer retention is “very important,” and he hopes that clients return annually to book his services.

Maintenance

Moloney Mechanics, who live nearby his yard, carry out maintenance on tractors and machinery.

“We do the easiest bits of mechanic work ourselves. We would not have as great knowledge as mechanics as him, and we do not want to make a mistake either.”

“For example, if I was a bigger business and had more tractors, and I had more work down the pipeline, I would have to have my own mechanic and learn more mechanic skills.”

Challenges

Challenges impacting the business include diesel prices, machinery costs, and the availability of work.

“For example, last year we filled the tractor for maybe €80 and this year it was €100 to €120.”

“The war in Ukraine has not impacted my business, but I got a mirror holder for the tractor, and it was the last one in stock. I feel parts for older machines are getting harder to get.”

In Oisin’s view, the key elements of running a successful agricultural contracting business include “being able to advertise well, the ability to get enough work to keep going, and having good people to guide you along”.

“In my view, to venture into agricultural contracting, you need plenty of work.”

“I believe, as time goes on, agricultural contracting will get tougher if diesel prices keep going up and different things like that. If diesel and machinery prices keep going up, it will make it harder.”

Youth involvement

He shared his experience regarding employment opportunities in the sector for younger people who want to establish their own agricultural contracting businesses.

“In my opinion, it is quite hard to get into agricultural contracting. However, there would be a lot of agricultural contractors that have a very good name out there.”

“They would be very well established and have loads of machinery doing different work.”

“I do jobs that would be too small for the bigger agricultural contractors or that they would be too busy to do.”

Future

Oisin cannot say that the business is viable yet as has not enough work available to go full-time.

He said that it is “a hobby as it stands, and I will invest funds from his job into building the business”.

He is toying with the idea of adding a septic tank clearance service to its range of offerings.

“We had a problem recently with septic tanks, and other people might have the same problem, and it might be a niche market.”

“I thank my father and all the neighbours that help me and the farmer I work for,” the agricultural contractor concluded.

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

See more ag contracting profiles.

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