As part of this week’s Agricultural Contractor of the Week segment, That’s Farming, profiles Ryan Agri Services. Justin Ryan discusses how he began his business with €16,000, selling 3,500 bales and the importance of providing a key service and employing your own mechanics.
Justin Ryan established Ryan Agri Services in Cooraclare in County Clare 17 years ago by providing baling and slurry services.
He completed baling with a Zetor Crystal 1245 tractor and wrapping with a CASE International 855 tractor until later investing in a New Holland 7840 tractor.
He purchased a 220 Pro ARC 220A Inverter welder, a John Deere 6600 tractor, and two slurry tankers the following year.
“I went working with an agricultural contractor, John Vaughan, in Ennistymon for a couple of years, and I built up some money,” Justin Ryan, who is married to Aimee, told That’s Farming.
“John Vaughan got out of agricultural contracting, and I bought a mower from him. The machinery I had for the first year was troublesome.”
“I paid €6,000 for a baler and wrapper, €4,000 for a Zetor tractor and €9,000 for a Kuhn mower.”
“It was a handy outfit starting, but I knew I had to spend money to get bigger. I started the business with very little money.”
“We always completed baling and wrapping. My mother, Noeleen, was at it before me. She died of breast cancer in 2001.”
“She had 120 cattle, so I was always interested in them. I even had my own few cattle when my mother was alive.”
Ryan Agri Services
Ryan Agri Services employs up to two full-time workers and three operators at peak times, serving Cooraclare Kilkee, Miltown Malbay and Doonbeg and the surrounding areas.
Justin secures most of his customers through word of mouth and the power of social media.
“Customer retention is hugely important to me. I have built up a good customer base in my local area since a few contractors got out of the field in the last couple of years.”
His services include baling, bale haulage, slurry spreading (with a dribble bar), land reclamation, mulching, dump trailer hire, site clearances, and septic tank installation alongside selling fodder to farmers.
“We sold 3,500 hay and silage bales last year. We draw the bales straight from the field into the farmer’s yard. They buy the bale off us wrapped and stacked in their yard.”
Justin’s most extensive service is baling. In 2005, he produced 2,800 bales, and in 2006, he made 8,500 bales.
Justin’s tractor fleet consists of six CLAAS ARION 610 and a CLAAS ARES 657 (with two CLAAS FL120 tractor loaders).
“I maintain the tractors myself, and Breen’s Farm Machinery complete some repairs. However. you have to complete a good bit of it yourself.”
“My father, PJ, often gets a call from me late at night to head to Offaly or Galway to collect parts. He often spends the night driving to get parts for us for the following morning.”
His slurry equipment includes three Mastek dribble bars, two Redrock 2,000 slurry pumps, a HiSpec tanker 2,000 SA-S, a Redrock 2,100-gallon vacuum tanker and an Abbey 2,000-gallon tank.
His silage equipment includes four Krone Comprima HD 155 XC balers, two McHale 991 high speed round bale wrappers, two CLAAS Liner 2600s, a Fendt 671 20ft rake, two Kilmore 18x8ft bale trailers, a CLAAS mower, and two KRONE mowers.
Other items include a Hyundai HX145LCR digger, two NC 300 Series Powertilt dump trailers, a low loader, a Tehnos mulcher and a SEPI mulcher attachment for the digger.
Machinery maintenance policy
Justin believes that “you should draw the line on purchasing equipment” when you provide a good service, have good workers, and when your machinery is in good condition.
“In my view, the secret is keeping the machinery fresh. If you break down inside a field for a day, that is no good to the farmer.”
“It could be raining, but you cannot afford breakdowns.”
“You have to provide a good service, and workers are key to that. I have good employees with me the last four to five years that know every inch and breadth.”
“They are good, confident, fully licenced operators that can work on their own. One of them is an aircraft mechanic, and the other is a qualified mechanic.”
“The two employees would take apart one of my tractors and put it back together in a day; that is key to the business.”
Justin faces the challenges of rising input costs and increasing machinery prices.
“In my eyes, fertiliser costs are only one aspect as we have net, bale wrap, and machinery prices and wages going up.”
“Diesel prices have gone from 40c/L this time two years ago to 97c/L on February 15th. We have to cover our costs too, and there is no massive margin for us out of it.”
“The cost of everything has gone up 20% since last year, and it is not affordable, so you either go up or get out; there is no point being a busy fool.”
“In 2014, a new Krone baler was €30,000+VAT and a new Krone baler today is €44,000 to buy six years later, so, it is nearly up 50% in six years.”
“The bale price has only gone up €1+ VAT since 2016.”
Business plans and the future of Irish agricultural contracting.
Justin intends to continue upgrading machines and invest in an umbilical slurry spreading system.
“I have a good young person, my son, Ian, coming along. He has been working full-time with me around tractors since he was young, and he would not want to go home at 4am.”
“He has an awful appetite for baling silage, and if it stays that way, I am hoping Ryan Agri Services will be in existence in fifty years.”
Justin shared his view on the future of Irish agricultural contracting.
“If everything keeps going up in price, where is it going to stop? Is there going to be intervention from government to come in and say, right people, we will have to subsidise some costs?”
“Are they just going to close the gate on farming in a massive playing field for everyone, or are they going to let everyone go broke?”
“In my opinion, agricultural contracting is not for the faint-hearted. You would want to be well able for it. I do not think any young people coming up are going to take it over any time soon because it is down to pressure.”
“A lot of young people coming up do not want to be put under that pressure; however, I suppose they will be put under pressure if they choose agricultural contracting,” he concluded.
To share your story like this Clare ag contractor, email Catherina Cunnane, editor of That’s Farming, – email@example.com
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