As part of this week’s Agricultural Contractor of the Week segment, That’s Farming, speaks to Ultan Carroll of U Carroll Agricultural Contracting about binding an agricultural contracting and engineering firm.
In 1978, Ultan Carroll, from County Cavan established Ultan Carroll Engineering jointly alongside an agricultural contracting firm.
From humble beginnings, Ultan’s very first kit included a 180-amp welder, an angle grinder, and a drill.
Now, U Carroll Agricultural Contracting employs seven Carroll family members alongside two employees at peak times. Working alongside Ultan are his three sons James, Rory, and Paul, the firm’s next generation.
“When I was going to national school, I use to make little trailers for other children and bring them to school and sell them,” Ultan Carroll told That’s Farming.
“I started welding and serving my time with Denis Brady from Multi Fab Limited before I was 15. I got my licence at 16 for the tractor, at17 for the car and bought a brand-new Honda 50 motorbike in 1971.”
Furthermore, Ultan noted that some of his early silage outfits included a Ford 7600 tractor, various JF harvesters, a PZ rotary mower, and various Welger balers since 1979.
“I am on my third self-propelled harvester, a CLAAS Jaguar 860. I had a CLAAS Jaguar 870 before that and a CLAAS Jaguar 850.”
Tractors and farm machinery
Today, its services include silage cutting and baling alongside plant hire. However, Ultan explained that the County Cavan yard does not offer a complete agricultural service, with engineering being its core.
Today, Ultan runs a tractor fleet consisting of a Massey Ferguson 6465, Massey Ferguson 6480, and two Massey Ferguson 135 tractors.
Outside the AGCO branding, he runs nine New Holland tractors. These are a New Holland 7840, a New Holland TM125, a New Holland TM120, a New Holland T6050, a New Holland T7185, a New Holland T7200, a New Holland TM140, New Holland TM155, New Holland T7220.
“Tractors give trouble. All you would have to do is drive around to the different dealerships, and they are ripped down; they are all working at them. There is no proper tractor designed to be on the road yet like a lorry. They are not designed for the field or the road.”
9,000-10,000 silage bales
Other items include a Kuhn trailed mower, a John Deere trailed mower, a CLASS 320 front and rear mowers, a Maragone mower, Carroll silage trailers, JCB 435 loading shovel, JCB 320s and a Manitou telehandler.
Furthermore, he possesses a Carroll 12ft fold-down rake, Carroll 14ft fold-down rake, Lely Welger baler, KUHN FBP 3135 combi baler, Massey Ferguson 245 baler, Hitachi EX120 digger, IHI mini digger, three GÖWEIL wrappers, Carroll bale handler, Abbey 2250-gallon slurry tank, Abbey 1600-gallon slurry tank.
“I cut about 1,500-acres of silage, and we make between 9,000 to 10,000 bales a year. We have very reliable customers. When we started, it got bigger and bigger all the time. We try to treat our normal customers and hold onto them.”
Changes in agricultural contracting
According to Ultan, he has seen significant changes in recent years with the development of time-saving high-tech machinery. He recalled some old memories from his earlier years.
“When I was going to school, there was not even a transport box behind a tractor. It was 1967 when we got the transport box, and that was a big change.”
“I never saw horses at our house, but there were horses here. But, I saw a person coming out of our house drawing in cocks of hay with a horse and chain.”
“I saw an uncle of mine cutting hay with a scythe, and then we shook it out, turned it and cocked it. Then, we came on with the mowing bar and mowed it. Then the rotary mower came in and the baler, which are an awful advantage over the older system.”
According to Ultan, “there is a challenge in everything”, citing soaring machinery costs as one he faces as an agricultural contractor.
“Machinery is getting dearer, and oil has got very costly since last year. So it is all a tough game.”
On the other hand, owning an engineering business means battling the inflation charge on machinery for the Carroll family. “We always make our trailers, keep them for a while, sell them off and make another new one and sell it off.”
“Machinery is a huge price, and I do not know how any contractor is fit to buy machinery, whatever little thing is in it for us. I do not know how anybody else can see it because there is not much money benefiting.”
“If you were not fit to do that, you would not be in it because everybody is so busy. We come home here at 6:00 pm or 7:00 pm to split a tractor and put a clutch in it and are away the next morning with it. No garage would facilitate you that fast.”
Looking ahead, Ultan commented on the changes that are on the horizon for the business he founded over four decades ago.
“The future is that my young lads will take it over; I am 65. There is more expansion in engineering, more so than contracting.”
“The plan is we buy a laser cutting machine instead of the plasma cutter, but that is big money. We will buy a CNC brake press holder, a CNC laser and a CNC metal machine.”
“To note, we keep buying something new every year. We might buy a new New Holland tractor next year if the thing went all right. I would probably let the young lads do that. You have to keep machinery updated. Machinery gets very worn out,” the owner of Ultan Carroll Engineering concluded.
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