As part of this week’s Agricultural Contractor of the Week segment, That’s Farming, profiles Moloney Agri and Tree Care. Thomas Moloney discusses working with his parents, completing in-house maintenance, branching into tree surgery, sector changes and rising input costs.
Jim Moloney, from Clogheen, County Tipperary, established his business, Moloney Agri and Tree Care, over 55 years ago by offering hedge-cutting and baling services.
He invested in various Ford tractors, which he used to run a Fisher Humphries hedge-cutter and a New Holland square baler.
“Machinery was scarce, and there would not have been many agricultural contractors around back then, so there was an opening there,” his son, Thomas Moloney, explained to That’s Farming.
“I grew up around machinery. I was always working with machinery when I was off school or in the weekends.”
“In 2002, I completed an agricultural mechanisation machinery course for two years at Kildalton Agricultural College and then I went back home to work full-time.”
Moloney Agri and Tree Care
Thomas and his father work in partnership and employ several workers enlisting the help of additional operators at peak times.
In addition to this, their employee, Patrick and Thomas’s mother, Maureen, completes the firm’s bookkeeping.
The business built up 90% of its customer base through word of mouth.
“We did use business cards, but we found word of mouth was the best method. If a customer recommended you, it would get you somewhere else, and that was the best way to get us more work.”
“There are some customers that would be with us for 40 years. They are clients my father initially did work for, and they are still with us today. So, it is important to hang on to the same customers.”
Agricultural contracting services
The company serves a 50km radius of Clogheen in Tipperary. However, it completes hedge-cutting for companies such as Irish Rail outside of this limit.
Their services include hedge-cutting, mowing, tedding, raking, baling, wrapping, slurry spreading, excavator work, mulching, tree surgery, and general farm work.
“When we started baling originally, it took a few years for customers to move to round baled silage and then it would have peaked. There is more equipment around now. The number of bales we make is holding its own.”
The business is offering a tree care service for over thirty years.
“We were cutting hedges for different people, and they asked us about cutting trees, and one thing led to another.”
“So, we went more down that road and naturally progressed into providing a tree care service. We did not set out to do it.”
The family’s tractor fleet includes two New Holland T6.180s, a New Holland T6080, a New Holland T6040, a New Holland T6.140, a New Holland T7.185, two New Holland TS115As, two New Holland TS115s, a New Holland TS110 and a New Holland 7740.
“We do most of the maintenance and tractor repairs. We get a mechanic in if we are too busy to do the repairs.”
Their mowing equipment includes three sets of Pöttinger mowers (a NovaCat 302 10ft Mower, a Pöttinger Novacot 301 Alpha Motion ED PRO front mower) and two 10ft Pöttinger Novacat 305 10ft mounted mowers.
Other equipment includes a LELY LOTUS tedder, a LELY 745 HIBISCUS rake, two LELY WELGER 545 balers with a McHale HS2000 high-speed round bale wrapper and a LELY WELGER RPC 245 Tornado – Contour Edition baler.
Their slurry equipment includes an Abbey 2,250-gallon tanker (with a splash plate), an Abbey 2,500-gallon tanker (with a trailing shoe), an Abbey agitator and an Abbey slurry pump.
Other items include two McConnel 6500T, a McConnel 6585T, a McConnel 8085, three Moffett hedge-cutters, two New Holland BE940 square balers, and a Dooley triaxle 25t low loader.
They also use a SEPPI mulcher, a Forst woodchipper, two NC 300-series Powertilt 14T dump trailers, a JCB Js160 excavator, a Versalift cherry picker and various other equipment.
Increasing machinery and part costs, fuel prices, and weather are among the challenges they face in the sector.
“Machinery prices have gone crazy over the last year. For example, some tractors are up €15,000 to €20,000 in the last two years.”
“Fuel prices have gone bad with the war in Ukraine, but over the last few months, prices have increased a lot.”
“Contractors have to increase their rates to cover the cost of machinery with the rising costs. Therefore, the rates for doing the work will have to increase a lot.”
“We do not worry too much about other agricultural contractors. We do our own thing and try to price the job as best as we can.”
“You cannot price too far ahead because fuel prices are constantly rising. You could not quote a price for a job and hold it for four months; it is nearly a price for now.”
Thomas pointed out that the most significant sectoral changes are machinery increasing in size and becoming more complex.
“Machinery is getting bigger, expensive, more complicated, and not everyone can drive them efficiently. So, in my view, you need a good confident driver.”
“From an operator’s point of view, some of the machines with trailing shoes are more complicated compared to splash plate slurry systems.”
Future of Irish agricultural contracting
Thomas believes the key to success in agricultural contracting is maintaining your machinery, having good trained and competent drivers and “making a profit from what you are doing”.
The Moloney family plan to continue providing an agricultural service, maintain their machinery and upgrade three to four machines annually.
“In my opinion, contractor rates will have to go up more to compensate for machinery prices.”
“The costs are rising so high that the price of work will have to go up, which is the same for all agricultural contractors. It will not be a profitable business other than that.”
“In my eyes, if they do not put up the rates to match the rising prices, a lot of agricultural contractors will not survive because the costs are increasing so much.”
“From my experience, there are not too many younger agricultural contractors in my area. So, it would mostly be agricultural contractors who have been here a long time.”
“The agricultural contractor offers a vital service to a lot of farmers. They are under pressure, and they do not have time.”
“So many of them depend more on the agricultural contractors to get the work done on their farms,” the agricultural contractor concluded.
To share your story like this Tipperary ag contractor, email Catherina Cunnane, editor of That’s Farming, – [email protected]
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