As part of this week’s Agricultural Contractor of the Week segment, That’s Farming, profiles P Turley Agri Services. Paul discusses working overseas, juggling a beef farm, cutting 1,200 acres of grass with a zero grazer, making 7,000 silage bales and rising input costs.
In spring 2019, Paul Turley (30), from Clonfert, County Galway, established P Turley Agri Services from scratch when he saw an opening in the area for a baling and wrapping service.
Paul invested in a 110hp 1997 Valtra 6400 tractor, a Krone Fortima F 1250 (MC) baler and a Conor wrapper from working abroad and savings. He initially began using this machinery on his own farm first.
He farms a calf-to-weanling system of Charolais crosses and Simmental-crosses on 35-acres of owned land, which he runs alongside 15 store cattle.
“We always had sheep and cows, but we got out of sheep on the home farm in the last five or six years,” Paul Turley, who completed his Green Cert at Mountbellew Agricultural College, told That’s Farming.
“I always had a passion for agricultural contracting, and I travelled the world. I did a season in New Zealand and Australia and three seasons in England on the harvest.”
“Furthermore, I worked for B.A Murray Contractors in Christchurch and Neville Grennan in Matamata (an hour south of Auckland in the North Island) and then I went down to the South Island.”
“Also, I worked for a local agricultural contractor outside Birr, County Offaly for years.”
“Agricultural contracting has always been my childhood dream. I wanted to travel the world. When I left school, I served my time as a carpenter first, but my passion was always for machinery, so I set up my own agricultural contracting firm.”
P Turley Agri Services
The business serves an 18-mile-radius of Banagher, including east Galway, west Offaly, north Tipperary, and the surrounding areas.
Paul employs two part-time workers during peak times. He built up his customer base through advertising in his local co-operative, posting ads on DoneDeal, and word of mouth. Besides, 10% of his customers come through the firm’s social media page.
“It is funny how social media works. It is a young person that might see the Valtra tractor and zero-grazer working, and they say to their father/mother about it, he/she will ring a week later.”
“Also, if I go into an area and people see the benefits of zero-grazing, a dairy farmer will talk about it, and then, I would be back again.”
“I am the only person offering a zero-grazing service in this area. The average dairy herd around here consists of 80-100 cows; it is not that big around my area.”
“I started zero-grazing three years ago this coming autumn. Zero grazing is my main business, and that runs from March 1st to December 1st.”
Paul cuts 800-1,200-acres of grass with the zero grazer – compared to an initial 200-acres in his first autumn. He explained that 75% of his work revolves around zero grazing.
In addition, he makes 7,000 silage bales in contrast to his first year, starting with a bale count of 3,000.
Paul also assists farmers through slurry spreading services. He completes up to 100 loads annually, ranging from 3-bay to 6-bay sheds from just under 25 tanks.
“If a farmer is spreading slurry and is under pressure, I will go to them for 5-6 hours. I am a helping hand with a slurry spreading service when an extra tanker and tractor is needed.”
Other services include bale haulage, fencing, and plant hire services. Paul also drives plant machinery for other firms.
His current tractor fleet consists of a 2014 150hp black Valtra N143.
“I was self-taught in mechanics at home down through the years. We always did clutches and things on the tractors if they needed them, so I am mechanically minded.”
“I do all the maintenance work as best as I can, and if a tractor needs a computer, it is Swaine Agri, the Valtra dealer in Rhode, County, Offaly.”
Other items include a Broughan (red) 28ft bale trailer, a Krone Fortima F 1250 (MC), a Conor wrapper, a Conor slurry agitator, a HiSpec 2300 vacuum tanker, a ZG75 from Zero Grazer, a 3m Bridgeway aerator (with a tine harrow) and a 3m APV PS 800 M1 pneumatic seeder.
Challenges for agricultural contractors
Fuel prices, Ad Blue costs, part prices, contractor rates, and weather conditions are among the challenges that Paul faces..
“There is a big price hike if I had to go and change my tractor. For example, to replace my tractor in the morning is €150,000 and the zero grazer is gone up €20,000 to €22,000 – since I bought my one new three years ago.”
“Fuel prices are crazy over the last couple of weeks. The last order I got two weeks ago was 800 litres, and I had to wait five days for it. When I am busy zero-grazing, 800 litres of diesel does me for three to four days.”
“The supply and demand are very slow and hard at the minute. I hope fuel prices decrease going into the summer season.”
“You will see a lot of agricultural contractors going out of business if fuel prices continue to rise because they will not be able to meet their repayments.”
“My costs have increased for zero grazing. However, since last autumn, I am only passing on one-third of my increased prices to the customer.”
“If I were to pass on my full costs, I would not be in business, or the farmer would not be able to afford to pay for zero-grazing services.”
Business plans and the future of Irish agricultural contracting
Paul believes that to be successful in agricultural contracting, you “should try to do as much maintenance yourself, plan your day and do up your costs”.
He plans in five years to have a second zero grazer on the road, employ a full-time worker and continue offering the rest of his services.
“The future is very bleak. It is daunting. It is not a simple time to be contracting.”
“However, agricultural contracting is definitely a viable business, with the future with food and everything.”
“Also, I believe the war in Ukraine will play a huge role in the future with grain and food shortages.”
“I have just turned 30, and as far as I know around my area, there are not too many people getting into agricultural contracting in these uncertain times.”
“Moreover, I am a unique agricultural contractor in that I started from nothing. I started from hard work and long hours. I started agricultural contracting from nothing, and I built it to where I am today.”
“In my opinion, the agricultural contractor is just important as the farmer is. One cannot work without the other,” the agricultural contractor concluded.
To share your story like P Turley Agri Services, email Catherina Cunnane, editor of That’s Farming, – [email protected]
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