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‘If they cut the national herd, there is not going to be much for agricultural contractors to do’

As part of this week’s Agricultural Contractor of the Week segmentThat’s Farming, profiles Ciaran Smith of CS Agri and Plant Hire. Ciaran discusses developing his agricultural and plant hire passion overseas, the worrying challenges he faces, and his plans for employment and investment.

Ciaran Smith, founded CS Agri and Plant Hire six years ago through his love for machinery and assisting in his father’s agricultural repair business.

The Cullen, County Meath, native, began with a second-hand John Deere 6900 tractor and built the company’s customer base over four years.

In 2011, he travelled to Australia, where he worked as a digger operator for Davis Earthmoving and Quarrying PTY LTD and Swivel and Tunnel for two years.

“It was more agricultural contracting before I went to Australia; I never drove a digger before. So, I went out and developed an interest in it in Australia and liked it,” Ciaran Smyth, married to Sinead, with their two children, told That’s Farming.

“It is a love/hate relationship being on the digger for a couple of months, and then you want to get back on the tractor and vice versa.”

CS Agri and Plant Hire

In 2015, Ciaran returned home to Ireland, registered Cs Agri and Plant Hire officially, and invested in several pieces of machinery.

These included a 1999 John Deere 6600 tractor, a Ferry 7.0m hedge-cutter, a JCB 13-tonne digger, a JCB JS130 digger, and a 2.8-tonne KANE digger plus its attachments.

“I would have saved up for this first tractor. I sold my jeep when I returned, and I would have had a few cattle on the ground at home.”

“So, I put the two incomes together and bought my first tractor out of my pocket.”

Today, his tractor fleet consists of his original John Deere 6900 and a John Deere 6820.

“I do all my maintenance on tractors, and anything mechanical I am stuck with, my father, who is a mechanic, can give me a hand.”

Other items include a JCB JS130 digger, a CASE 28-tonne digger, a McConnel PA5585T hedge-cutter, a REDROCK triaxle 24-tonne low-loader, and an NC 16-tonne dump trailer.

He also possesses an ORIEL tree shear, an ARBOR-CUT mulcher, a saw head, grab, rock breaker, and a MAJOR cyclone topper.

CS Agri and Plant Hire offer services including hedge-cutting, mulching, sawing, low-loader haulage, dump trailer hire and concrete work in Meath

CS Agri and Plant Hire

CS Agri and Plant Hire offer services including hedge-cutting, mulching, sawing, low-loader haulage, dump trailer hire, concrete work, and general plant hire work for residential and agricultural properties.

The business located on the Meath-Louth border, serves Louth, Meath, and north Dublin.

“In my first year in business from 2015, I would have done much more hedge-cutting.”

“I spent a lot of the year driving tractors for other people to build the business back up again. I would not have had full-time work until the last two years.”

CS Agri and Plant Hire offer services including hedge-cutting, mulching, sawing, low-loader haulage, dump trailer hire and concrete work in Meath

Challenges

According to Ciaran, among the challenges, his agricultural business faces increasing fuel and machinery prices.

“You will push it [the price] up a bit more on the digger work side of things, but you will not get much more for hedge-cutting.”

“In 2018, the price of beef fell through the floor. My hobby, farming, would have been a big hit to me.”

“I would have had 70-80 cattle at that time. Contracting took the sting out of all that.”

CS Agri and Plant Hire offer services including hedge-cutting, mulching, sawing, low-loader haulage, dump trailer hire and concrete work in Meath

Changes

Ciaran outlined some of the changes he has experienced over his time as an agricultural contractor.

“You do not have much of a weather window with anything to get a job done, now. There is no such thing as patience.”

“If you do not come when you say you come, they will be able to ring someone else, which I find amazing. So, there is always a person readily available even though you are on top of your head.”

“You would think the weather would not bother the digger work.”

“However, if you are trying to pour concrete and have the floor dugout in a yard, it affects everything.”

Ciaran shared what he believes are the key elements to running a successful agricultural contracting business.

“The key elements of running a successful agricultural contracting business are being true to your word, punctual, even though machinery can let you down, and paying your bills within a month.”

“Keeping your bills and getting paid is the key to cash flow in a business.”

CS Agri and Plant Hire offer services including hedge-cutting, mulching, sawing, low-loader haulage, dump trailer hire and concrete work in Meath

Future of agricultural contracting

Ciaran believes “everything is getting bigger,” and his fleet of tractors can be viewed as “very small by today’s standards.”

“I am going to have to scale up in machinery size to cope with the work in the future.”

Ciaran shared his view on the future of agricultural contracting.

“The last two years are getting busier with the new slurry spreading ban coming in earlier.”

“In my view, this means there is going to be a bigger demand for concrete, yards, and slurry storage. So, I can see the whole agricultural contracting getting busier.”

“The slurry spreading ban does not make much sense, and carbon emissions and diesel prices. The price of diesel, what they are adding onto it and blaming farmers for all these emissions is very wrong.”

“That is a challenge we are going to have to face head-on the next year or two because if they cut the national herd, there is not going to be much for agricultural contractors to do.”

Business plans

Looked ahead, Ciaran intends to increase the business size, branch into land clearance and reclamation, buy a second hedge-cutter, a tractor, and employ two workers.

The alluded to MAJOR cyclone topper is a new piece of equipment purchased last week for a new mulching service.

Ciaran outlined that he hopes to find a “niche in the market” for this service over the coming months.

“I hope to see my business running machinery under warranty instead of running second-hand tractors. I run all the implements new,” the agricultural contractor concluded.

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

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