As part of this week’s Ag Contractor of the Week segment, That’s Farming profiles Enda Dunne, who operates an agricultural business with his son.
Enda Dunne put on his thinking cap, and rather than establishing his agricultural contracting business by starting with baling or pit silage, he founded an aeration service.
While he works in a full-time role outside farming, he has had a hand in agriculture throughout his life.
He rented land, grew malting barley for around fifteen years and helped a farmer in his native Offaly since he was 16, and at 53 still assists during the farm’s busy times.
He also noted throughout life that he undertook a farm apprenticeship scheme for three years and attended Multyfarnham Agricultural College to achieve his Green Cert.
“We have a lot of repeat customers coming back to the business,” Enda told That’s Farming.
“I suppose when you put out fertiliser, you see what it is physically doing whereas maybe to a certain extent with the aerator, you do not see it there and then or in a couple of weeks.”
In his eyes, the advantage of aerating your land is it opens the ground up.
When you apply slurry or fertiliser, it travels to the roots quicker, helps roots strengthen and penetrates water down away quicker from the top of the soil from the ground and assists grass swarths.
He also claimed that applying slurry or fertiliser over time is like a pan or film of material that sits on the top of the ground. Aeration helps break that up or crack the pans and soil.
Enda pointed out that it is better to aerate land when the ground is hard, which will get a cracking effect as well as the open ground.
“If aeration is done at the right time, it increases worms and activity in the ground, and it is a way of improving the health of your swards and the soil.”
In their experience, the job provides good results after first/second-cut silage before you apply slurry or early spring before spreading slurry or fertiliser if ground conditions are right.
It is important to note that he walks the land before aerating, and farmers hire him, or you can hire a roller from him if they wish to undertake their own work.
The growth of one service led to another service establishing, with him buying an ERTH Agriseeder in late 2020.
He invested in an ERTH Agriseeder because he feels stitching of grass and crops will become more common with the green agenda.
Enda investigated the market and invested in the ERTH Agriseeder.
“I suppose with costs involved and, in particular, in the dairy end with the intensification of the industry with the ERTH Agriseeder, you can go in and reseed several pastures if it becomes trampled on during grazing rather than plough.”
“It is easy and efficient and works well in that situation and after the silage is cut.”
“I also feel farmers going down the multispecies route can stitch in existing swards. However, I will admit it is a learning curve for me in relation to the agri seeder.”
“There is also an importance of lime when you are working with the agri seeder.”
“It has not been widely used over the last number of years, but we find where lime has been spread anywhere we go, and soil conditions are good; you have good results with the seeder.”
“Also, with fertiliser costs, it needs to be getting into the roots of where it should be, and that going forward, is a massive plus for any farmer who can aerate.”
“You hope your fertiliser is getting where it should be and maximising the effectiveness of it.”
In addition, the company stitches around 130-acres. It uses a Trimble GPS for this and other services to achieve accuracy and efficiency and provide its customers with the “best” possible results.
Enda and his son Conor (17) operate the business, offering rolling/aerating, seeding, grass tedding and aerating.
The business is also involved in hedge-cutting and garden maintenance.
The company serve a 20-mile radius of their base and built up its customer base through digital media, distributing business posters or flyers, and word of mouth.
His tractor fleet consists of a John Deere 6820, a John Deere 6320, a Lely tedder, Watson 3m aerator, and an ERTH Agriseeder.
Enda services most tractors, contracting Tinney’s Agri and Agripower in Lifford for further maintenance.
Conor owns a double bale lifter and helps other farmers and agricultural contractors with bale haulage.
They undertook around 350 to 400-acres of tedding between hay and grass silage.
Challenges he faces include machinery and diesel prices.
“It is hard to justify spending massive amounts of money on tractors when you are only in agricultural contracting in a small way. But, in my opinion, if you look after them, they can do the job just as well.
They are looking at other services for the upcoming year, such as mulching.
“My son, Conor, is saving to buy a bale trailer, and we might look at different services and possibly go down the hedge cutter route. So, we are looking at different things to fill the seasons for us.”
He aims to get enough “traction” for the services he offers, strive to undertake “good” work for farmers and said no matter how much you are doing, you want to be busier.
“I kept contractor rates as they were in 2022 and tried to absorb the costs.”
“You have to be mindful that, in particular, your beef and sheep farmers are coming under pressure in relation to costs, so I try to be fair.”
He feels agricultural contracting is viable for the more established contractors offering a broader range of services.
He said that in the current situation, in the face of rising costs, “you have to cut your cloth to measure,” the agricultural contractor concluded.
To share your story like this Donegal agricultural contractor, email Catherina Cunnane, editor of That’s Farming – [email protected]