As part of this week’s Agricultural Contractor of the Week segment, That’s Farming, profiles Dunne Agri. Damien discusses joining his father’s agricultural contracting business, his opinion on calendar farming in respect of the slurry spreading, and his outlook on agricultural contracting in Ireland.
Dunne Agri, Kilkeary, Nenagh, County Tipperary, is in business for over 36 years, serving the customers of north Tipperary.
In 2003, Damien Dunne partnered with his father, Pat, in the family’s agricultural contracting business after completing his studies at Gurteen Agricultural College.
“My earliest memories would be of my mother dropping me off to a place cutting silage and sitting up beside my father,” Damien Dunne told That’s Farming.
“He would have had a John Deere 5830 self-propelled harvester back then in the early 1990s. So, I always had an interest in machinery. It is all I wanted to do.”
“I would have introduced a McConnel hedge-cutter, a Spreadpoint lime-spreader, and a SLURRYQUIP umbilical system, with a 12m dribble bar, to the business.”
Today, Dunne Agri employs two full-time workers and seeks additional help at peak times.
Dunne Agri offers silage harvesting, mowing, raking, hedge-cutting, reseeding, ploughing, disc-harrowing, direct-drilling, corn-sowing, lime-spreading, agitating, and slurry spreading an umbilical system or slurry tankers).
“We cut between 4,000 and 4,500-acres of pit silage now. If there is a long winter, pits are empty, and if the growth is right, you will cut more silage.”
“It was a tough start to the silage season with the weather, and we got going late. But, once we got going, we flew at it.”
“Lime-spreading is very busy. We could spread anything over 15,000-tonne a year.”
“There was no umbilical system around us six years ago, and a good few farmers approached us to buy one. We could do a lot more umbilical system work; only we would not get to it.”
“It all depends on the year, but we would be doing 400-hours of umbilical slurry spreading a year. So then, the three slurry tankers would be averaging around 200-hours each.”
“It was not too bad to build up a customer base; it was harder years ago.”
“We find it easier now as farmers are doing nothing themselves. They are getting an agricultural contractor in to do everything.”
“We are after getting very busy in the last couple of years, particularly with slurry, lime spreading, and reseeding.”
Tractors and farm machinery
Dunne Agri’s tractor fleet consists of a John Deere 6175M, John Deere 6155R, John Deere 7530, and two Massey Ferguson 7720s.
The firm hires two additional tractors during peak periods.
“My father and I would do any big maintenance, and we do all the servicing ourselves. Templetuohy Farm Machinery Limited oversee the silage harvester, and Abbey Retail, Nenagh, look after our Massey Ferguson tractors.”
Other items include a KRONE BIG M 450, a CLAAS 3200 front mower, CLAAS 9100 rear mower, two 22ft SMYTH tandem-axle silage trailers, two 22ft Kane tandem-axle trailers, a 26ft SMYTH tri-axle silage trailer and a New Holland W170D loading shovel.
In addition, Dunne Agri has a 9600 John Deere self-propelled harvester, two CLAAS 2900 rakes, Bicon 5m disc harrow, 4m LEMKEN power harrow, five-furrow reversible Kverneland plough, HORSCH sower, and a HORSCH one-pass system.
They also have a Ktwo rear-discharge dung spreader, an ABBEY 3,500-gallon slurry tanker, an ABBEY 2,500-gallon slurry tanker, a SLURRYQUIP 2,750G slurry tanker, and an ABBEY agitator.
Challenges agri contractors face
According to Damien, among the challenges for Dunne Agri are machinery, diesel, and insurance costs. He also cited weather conditions and legislation.
“The slurry spreading ban dates are the biggest issue. You could have fine weather before Christmas, perfect conditions for spreading slurry, and you cannot get out.”
“There is so much slurry going out together. If the weather was fine a couple of weeks before the slurry spreading ban date opens, we should be allowed to spread slurry.”
“Slurry is a very big thing and probably one of our big services. The slurry spreading dates will definitely impact our business some days as there is only so much you can do.”
“You could work very long hours regarding slurry spreading to try to get the work done. The way they are making farmers build bigger storage tanks to accommodate these slurry dates is ridiculous.”
Damien outlined some of the changes he has overseen in the industry since joining his father, Pat, on the venture.
“Agricultural contractors are getting bigger and busier, and farmers are getting bigger.”
“So, we are probably doing a lot more work than we were back in the early day but working for fewer farmers. The day of doing cheap work is over.”
Dunne Agri buys an additional tractor annual and upgrades its loading shovel and silage harvester every three years.
“I would say agricultural contracting is fairly ok. Nobody is going to get into cutting pit silage, only people who are going to get out of it.”
“There is definitely not anybody going to get into contracting in a big way. It takes years and years to build it up.”
“I find farmers are very loyal, and our customers are very loyal. So, I would hopefully like to see the business much the same as it is now. I would not like the business to get any bigger or expand anymore.”
“I would maybe try to be more efficient in the work that we are doing.”
“The key elements in running a successful contracting business are keeping your money collected, your bills paid and providing a top-class service,” the agricultural contractor concluded.
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