As part of our Contractor of the Week segment, That’s Farming speaks to Padraic Coogan of Coogan Agri Services, zero-grazing specialists covering the greater Navan region.
Contracting was never in Padraic Coogan’s blood, but that never deterred him from following his passion.
The 27-year-old from Dunmoe, Navan, Co. Meath, always had an interest in machinery and began offering zero-grazing contracting services by “pure luck” in April 2020.
When he was 20-years-old, he gained valuable contracting experience with Farrelly Brothers in Carnaross, Co. Meath carting silage, and doing site clearances.
Hailing from a beef and dairy farm, Coonan farms 300-acres, 250 of which are leased with his father, Pat, and, brother, Seamus, on their grandfather’s holding, whilst running an agricultural contracting business.
A dry spring with little grass growth coupled with a visit to Hand Engineering in Oldcastle as part of the Meath Macra na Feirme, paved the way for his zero-grazing venture.
Niall O’Reilly of Zero Grazer equipped him with the knowledge and informed him of the benefits of using a zero-grazer in a farming enterprise. This advice was game-changing at a time when the young farmer had limited options.
“Milk was dropping at the time. Forty-eight hours after we got the machine, our milk shot up like there was no tomorrow; it was fantastic.”
“People’s initial thoughts when it comes to zero-grazing, is farmers need to have cows housed all-year-round, which I think is morally wrong; cows should be out to pasture.”
Services and fleet
The firm works alongside Mohan Agri, who has provided zero-grazing customers to them, and this has worked very well.
From humbling beginnings, services have widened to include slurry and dung spreading; the young farmer owns a Ruscon slurry tanker and ZG75 zero grazer.
His fleet comprises a McCormack X760, McCormack MC115, McCormack X7.660, Case 4230 2wd and John Deere 3400.
“In August, I joined social media and made up business pages on Facebook and Instagram. We are getting a nice few followers, likes and tags from the manufacturers. We were the only ones in the greater Navan area, and word of mouth got out.”
Padraic’s father, a metal fabricator, by trade, oversees the service of machinery and tractors.
“Before we did contracting, most of our tractors would have done 100-250 hours in the year. My father services them twice-a-year to keep things right.”
“Unfortunately, in the current climate machinery is not getting cheaper; if money was better, of course, you would buy brand-new for a better warranty and backup. You couldn’t justify over €100,000 for a tractor when everything has been going up. This is one of the main reasons we have stayed with McCormack.”
“Compared to other main brands, we are saving about €30,000 to €40,000 in the difference with a tractor with the same horsepower and equipment.”
Besides, he keeps a herd of beef cattle, 85 milking cows and 30 Angus-cross-Friesian calves. The Coonans keep all their replacement calves and sell Friesian bulls.
“We stuck to being small, simple and steady; it works well for us. We are starting to calve this week. Hearing people say they shoot Friesian bulls is complete and morally wrong. I know you cannot get much for them in terms of weight and price, but it’s better that they’re alive.”
Looking ahead, Padraic hopes to continue offering and expanding his services, whilst investing in a GPS to record acre management and identify zero-grazing losses.
“In a year, we might look into doing other agricultural work where having GPS would have a greater benefit to us.”
“Contracting will be the future. I think in a couple of years, a lot of farmers will move away from machinery, and will have everything contracted out,” he concluded.
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