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Conor Halpin
Conor Halpin
Journalism intern.
Reading Time: 6 minutes

‘It is hard to learn an old dog new tricks; he loves that Fiat 110-90’

As part of this week’s Agricultural Contractor of the Week segmentThat’s Farming, speaks to Alan Lohan from Anthony Lohan and Son Groundworks and Agricultural Contractor. He discusses how he joined his father’s business over twenty years ago and the challenges they experience as agricultural contractors.

When Anthony Lohan returned from England in 1979, he established Anthony Lohan and Son Groundworks and Agricultural Contractor in County Roscommon.

Anthony first purchased a Hymac 580c digger aiding farmers in water schemes and providing a general plant hire service. His son, Alan, joined the company in 2006 and works part-time driving lorries during quiet periods.

“My father was always at contracting since he was baling and since I started growing up, that is how I got the grá for it. He was always digging since I was a gosson,” Alan Lohan told That’s Farming.

“I would have started part-time with him at the weekends, evenings, and summers twenty years ago. I would have been doing a small bit of mowing and drawing in bales.”

“When he got busier, he asked me to drive, so we added another Hitachi 120-5 to the fleet. I drove that doing farm work, site work, and land drainage.”

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“When I finished school, I took a year working in a tyre centre, Castle Street Tyres, with my uncle.”

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Anthony Lohan and Son Groundwor ks and Agricultural Contractor

His father, Anthony Lohan, first began by purchasing a Zetor Crystal 8011 tractor, followed by a Ford 4000 tractor, a Ford 5000 tractor, a David Brown tractor, and a Fiat 110-90 tractor.

Today, they have a Fiat 110-90, a New Holland T5050, a Landini Landpower 135, a Ford New Holland T6080, and a Ford New Holland T7.210.

“We do a lot of the servicing ourselves. We have a part-time mechanic Michael McGarry, in Tulsk. John Brady, who is a genius on a welder, does a bit of maintenance. He is very good at what he does.”

“I think there is an opening for young tractor and lorry mechanics. They are very scarce.”

Among the early machinery purchases his father Anthony made include a New Holland 7726 square baler, a New Holland 940 baler, and a CLAAS 46 roto-cut round baler.

Presently, they own a Kverneland 728 LT mower, Malone PRO-CUT 960C mower, Kverneland 9472C rake, Lely Welger RP245 extra cut baler, an MF RB F PROTEC baler and a McConnel PA hedge-cutter.

Other items include a Bredal lime spreader, Marshall 10-ton rear discharge muckspreader, McHale 991B joystick wrapper, a 14-tonne NC dump trailer, a 12-tonne Trebor dump trailer, and an SLS 19T dump trailer.

They also possess a Hitachi Zaxis ZX 130 digger, Hitachi 120-5 digger and a Hitachi Zaxis ZX 30 mini digger on the plant hire side.

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Alan and Anthony serve Four Mile House, Tulsk, and Strokestown, employing Anthony’s brother, Christy, and two other part-time staff.

Anthony Lohan and Son Groundworks and Agricultural Contractor offer lime-spreading, muck spreading, mowing, baling, wrapping, land drainage, foundation digging, septic tank digging, lawn digging, concreting, and bale stacking services.

“We would have a busier year with the digger with the Covid-19 pandemic. People are at home more and have more money to spend. There was always a bit of tidying up to do, bits of concrete, and home and land improvements.”

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Reflecting on the company’s performance, Alan said that while the business never offered a slurry spreading service, it has concentrated on silage, lime spreading, and plant hire.

“Once upon a time, customers would be going for bulky and longer grass. Now, it has changed. They want it dryer and cut it when the sugar is up on it.”

“I would have a lot of loyal customers, and my father would have a lot of loyal customers down through the years that would stick with him. So, it is good to have them.”

“We are always looking for new customers, but we do not be canvassing for work. We take what we get, and we try to keep everyone happy.”

“There is no point being too greedy. We try to keep customers we have happy, and if we get an extra one along the way, we do not say no.”

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Alan feels contracting has changed over the years, particularly in terms of silage season.

“The silage side of things would have changed a lot of where I thought farmers were more relaxed when we first started.”

“Now, it becomes the reverse; you need a good machine to do the work in a shorter period when the spell of good weather comes.”

“You would not be out late at night either. So, I can bale in the daylight, which makes sense too.”

“My biggest challenge is trying to keep everyone happy and be there on time when they [customers] are looking for digging done when the weather is dry.”

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Looking to the future, Alan intends to introduce a baler, hedge-cutter, a tractor, and a Hitachi digger (dependant on Brexit), to the yard.

“We might upgrade our lime spreader for spreading fertiliser. There is not a whole lot around this area spreading fertiliser, and there is an opening there for more of it.”

“We might retire the Fiat 100-90 tractor. Although we call him the legend, Christopher Columbus, we might have to give it an upgrade. We will see how the year progresses.”

“Christy is in love with the Fiat 110-90 tractor. You could send him anywhere mowing and lime-spreading with it.”

“So, we might give it an upgrade if we can convince him. Although it is hard to learn an old dog new tricks, he loves that Fiat 110-90.”

“My view on silage contracting is diesel, insurance, net, and maintenance are all getting a lift, bar the silage contractor who is sticking at the same price.”

“There should be a bit of leeway for the contractor with the price and few pieces like that.  Maintenance and parts have got more expensive, and the price of contracting is stuck at the same level,” the agricultural contractor concluded.

To share your story like Anthony Lohan and Son Groundworks and Agricultural Contractor, email – [email protected]

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