As part of this week’s Agricultural Contractor of the Week segment, That’s Farming, profiles M Kealy Agri. Michael completing 1,600-acres of tillage, making 2,000-acres of pit silage, rising input costs and hedge-cutting dates.
Mick Kealy from Slane, County Meath, founded M Kealy Agri over 20 years ago and began offering pit silage and a ploughing and sowing service.
He acquired a John Deere 6240 tractor, a John Deere disc mower, and KRONE mowers, serving his locality.
“In 1993, my father, Mick, passed away. They ran a dairy and corn tillage farm, which my brother and I took over,” Michael Kealy, told That’s Farming.
“Then, in 1988, I completed my Green Cert in Teagasc Navan. In 2006, the agricultural contracting business started, and I took it over in 2018.”
Today, the Kealy family also run a suckler herd.
M Kealy Agri
Michael employs one full-time worker and up to four machinery operators during peak times, serving a 20-mile-radius, including Meath, Louth, and the surrounding areas.
However, he explained that he may travel outside of the above areas- depending on customer requirements.
“My brother and I were together in business up until three years ago, and I am just at it on my own now.”
Kealy Agri offers pit silage, direct reseeding, ploughing, sowing, hedge-cutting, flailing and sawing services.
“We do slurry spreading but not very much because we are busy enough at hedge-cutting at that time of the year. We used to do some combine harvesting, and we gave it up.”
“Moreover, we got customers through word of mouth mostly. We have a Facebook page, and we found it ok, for getting customers.”
“Also, I buy business cards, and I felt that was a bit beneficial to my business. In my view, it was more of a benefit than my social media page was.”
“I cut around 4,000-acres of silage a year. It took me time to build up a customer base. We used to cut around 600 or 700-acres back in my father’s time.”
“Direct reseeding is also a popular service. We do 1,000-acres of reseeding and around 600-acres of ploughing and sowing corn.”
His tractor fleet consists of two John Deere 7810s, a John Deere 7530 Premium, a John Deere 6190R, a John Deere 6900, and a John Deere 3350.
“I fix a lot of the problems on the tractors myself.
So, I would be a bit self-taught in mechanics. I believe it is important to have the bit of mechanical knowledge in agricultural contracting.”
Other items include a KRONE BIG M Mark II, a VOLVO L90 wheeled loader, a John Deere 8500 self-propelled forage harvester, Kverneland front and back mowers, a CLAAS liner, a 22ft Broughan silage trailer and three 18ft Redrock trailers.
He also has an ACCORD seed drill, Moore Unidrill, LEMKEN compact disc harrow, an Overum plough, a McConnel PA7070T hedge-cutter, and a Wakely saw head.
“It is also going to be difficult for farmers to pay with the price of inputs. Fuel prices are double the price it was last year.”
“Machinery prices have gone out of hand. It is very hard to get any more money for the work you are doing. There is not enough money with the price of stuff gone that dear.”
“You also have a tight enough range with hedge-cutting dates. It all depends on the weather. We got nothing done in fields in 2020 because ground conditions were very poor.”
“In 2021, we did a lot of our work inside in the field, which we could not do the year before. In my view, you probably need the month of March for hedge-cutting.”
“However, if you get a year like the previous year, you could justify it as long as you have that weather. You were able to get into fields, stay at it, which usually you do not because ground conditions are too wet.”
Machinery maintenance policy
Maintaining your machinery is a “very important” element of running a successful agricultural contracting business in Michael’s eye.
“You have to keep machinery maintained, but it has nearly gone to the stage where it is nearly too expensive to keep everything.”
“For example, to change parts for machinery is nearly gone too dear to et a machine maintained, unless you can do a lot of work yourself because to get garages to do it is too dear.”
Plans and the future of Irish agricultural contracting
Michael intends to grow his business, branch into offering a slurry spreading service and continue upgrading and maintaining machinery.
“I have two boys and a girl. I was hoping they would take on the business. However, I would not advise them to take it on, to be honest, at the minute.”
“I do not know if I will be at agricultural contracting if things become dearer. The way machinery and diesel prices are going agricultural contracting is looking very poor.”
“Also, the wages for agricultural contracting is going to be very poor. So, in my opinion, it is going to be very hard to get help.”
“In my eyes, I am not seeing as many young people getting into agricultural contracting as there was.”
“There is an odd young person getting into it, but it would not be near what it used to be. I do not know if there is a viable position for agricultural contractors in Ireland for the coming years.”
“It is very hard to know whether it is viable or not,” the agricultural contractor concluded.
To share your story like this Meath ag contractor, email Catherina Cunnane, editor of That’s Farming, – [email protected]
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