As part of this week’s Ag Contractor of the Week segment, That’s Farming profiles Dan Flood Plant Hire & Fencing. He discusses his journey from farming to agricultural contracting, offering fencing services, industry challenges, and the industry’s future.
While Dan Flood from Baltinglass, County Wicklow, is not a farmer in his own right, he is no stranger to the industry.
He turned his hand to farming, sheep shearing for hire and “much more” from a tender age.
At sixteen, he left school to undertake forestry work and later established a mobile welding service as a side-line.
He gathered capital over the course of a number of years and, in January 2019, he made the leap to invest in his first digger, a Hitachi Zaxis 135.
Forestry played a “considerable” role in the next chapter of Dan’s life and is the reason why he became an accidental agricultural contracting.
Notable demand for fencing services after the completion of each forestry contract led to the establishment of his own business.
Wicklow agricultural contractor
Today, Dan is a full-time fencing contractor serving Dublin, Kildare, and all the south-east, travelling up to a 60-minute radius from his base to carry out work on farms, residential buildings and for organisations.
Other services include general plant hire, forestry, and mulching.
The agricultural contractor said the services he offers “were not my decisions but rather keeping up what farmers need”.
“Repeat customers are important to me, and to have customers coming into the business,” Dan told That’s Farming.
“I feel the most satisfying thing is to do a job for a new customer, and they get you back two or three times as you know you are doing something right, delivering a good service.”
“In that case, they are happy to pass your name around and get you back again.”
“Honestly, I put more time into my standards in the last two years than making money.”
“I am never happy with a job and always try to pick something I can improve on.”
“I try a new method of a job, keep my ear to the ground on what other agricultural contractors are doing and learn from people fifteen/twenty years longer at it than me. So, if there is anything to improve, I improve it.”
“I would like to thank my customers because if you do not have them, you do not have a business.”
“You can have the best machines in the world, but if you do not have good customers, you have nothing,” he remarked.
Fencing is the firm’s “bread and butter”, as it occupies Dan’s agenda daily as plant hire takes a “backseat”.
The fencing service also involves Dan consulting with clients considering their preferences, requirements and ground conditions.
Dan operates a busy schedule all year round, with winter and spring projects revolving around agricultural and TAMS grant work and summers are spent carrying out residential and domestic fencing contracts.
He uses a Massey Ferguson 6475 tractor and owns a CASE CX130B excavator, a flail, and a Pro-Tech P200S post driver, undertaking his maintenance.
“I started with a Massey Ferguson 35, then a Massey Ferguson 165, but the first tractor that did agriculturally was a Massey Ferguson 6118, which I bought at the end of 2018.”
“This tractor started bringing the digger on the low loader, but with labour hard got, I decided to put the post driver on the Massey Ferguson 6180.”
“I must admit it served me well for a couple of years, and then I changed it on December 20th, 2021, to a 03 Massey Ferguson 6475 tractor.”
Challenges he faces include increasing material prices, the discontinuation of creosote from Irish shelves this spring and uncertainty around what its successor product is, as his fencing work is mainly creosote (a popular timber preservative) based.
“Unfortunately, rates had to go up, and prices, such as diesel and insurance, have become so dear with everything. However, I feel rates could still do with coming up another bit.”
“As it is now, there is no fencing organisation in Ireland as such, but we have played with the idea to get something going and are still in the early days of seeing how many contractors would be interested in it.”
“Also, I would like to note that the TAMS grants could be better for fencing. For example, we do a lot of grant work but not as much as we would like to see going.”
“It is something that could be done with fencing, especially with ever-rising costs,” he remarked.
The future of agricultural contracting and fencing
Looking ahead, Dan does want to expand his business “massive” and, as a sole operator, feels he is limited to the scale of contracts he can undertake unless he employs further operators.
While the Wicklow agricultural contractor believes, “I do not think there will ever be a quiet day as a fencing contractor”, he feels solo operations will be the future for this area of work.
“I feel it is a viable business because for me to run a post driver and tractor, diesel and running costs are not high, and you are not putting massive hours on machines.”
“I will admit that you have sizeable inputs to go into it with capital/investment and keeping your insurance, training and everything up-to-date.”
“My view is uncertain about the future of Irish agricultural contracting. The next couple of years is a case of battling on and trying to keep the best side out until we see what is going to happen with it.”
“I think farmers will always require an agricultural contracting service, but the nature of the service might be different.”
“With material costs rising so much, we could see a lot more repair work,” the agricultural contractor concluded.
To share your story like this Wicklow agricultural contractor, email Catherina Cunnane, editor of That’s Farming – [email protected]