As part of this week Agricultural Entrepreneur of the Week Segment, It’s farming, Bobby Doherty Agri Services profiles. His son, Alastair, discusses taking over the reins of the business, simplifying their slate of services during the financial crash, making 11,000 bales, cutting 2,500 acres of pit silage, and increasing input costs.
Bobby Doherty started his agricultural contracting business over 50 years ago providing a manure spreading and tillage service to farmers in Donegal.
The tillage service involved undertaking soil preparation work for farmers before planting potatoes.
Bobby used a Fordson Major tractor and a Massey Ferguson TVO tractor with a Fleming 500 gallon slurry tanker and a KRONE rotavator.
He is now semi-retired and his son, Alastair, runs the business at the same time as he runs a Holstein Friesian dairy herd of 130 cows on a 250 acre business.
“I had a passion for machines and tractors when I was young. I spent most of my childhood sitting in tractor cabins with everyone,” said Alastair Doherty. It’s farming.
“Agricultural subcontracting was definitely a path I was going to take. It was a no-brainer that I was going to because every time I wasn’t in school I was in the tractors.
“I went to Vocational School in Letterkenny, and worked from home for many years when I moved there. Then in 2007 I went to Teagasc Letterkenny to complete my Green Cert, and received the National Student of the Year Award.
“When I came back from there I became a full-time farmer, and in 2012 I got into the dairy business.”
“My father had a dairy farm years ago, but he shut it down and I started it again. However, we also did cattle farming for many years.”
Bobby Doherty Agri
Bobby Doherty Agri employs two full-time employees and additional workers during peak hours, serving a 35-mile radius of Ramelton.
The company provides services such as slurry spreading, plowing, harrowing, reseeding, full pit silage service including mowing, raking, tedding, wrapping and balls.
The company built its customer base through word of mouth and advertised its septic tank emptying service on social media.
“We used to keep diggers, but we don’t anymore. In 2006/2007, we stopped factory hire work when the accident happened because there were pieces of work available, but there weren’t enough to hold me back.
“We simplified the business and said we would stop the work of the diggers and focus more on sorting the dairy farmers.”
“It works well for us because we are dairy farmers ourselves and have a good understanding of what’s going on.”
“Customer retention is important. I like to know my clients. 95% of our customers are repeat customers.
Umbilical Manure Spreading System and Baling Services
The Donegal-based contractor manufactures up to 11,000 bales and 2,500 acres of pit silage annually and has just under 120 customers who take advantage of its slurry spreading service.
Alastair introduced an umbilical system slurry spreading service to the business and purchased its first system in 1996.
In 2010, he invested in a second fleet umbilical slurry system.
“Many farmers want to use the low-emission slurry method because it has low emissions and low nitrogen uptake. It gets busy.
Alastair says Bobby Doherty Agri was one of the first entrepreneurs to offer silage and slurry spreading services in Donegal in the early 1990s.
“20 years ago we were cutting 4,000 acres of pit silage. There were only two self-propelled harvesters in Donegal then, and now there are probably 22 harvesters.
“We bought our first self-propelled harvester, a CLAAS Jaguar 840, in 1999 because we had a lot of work.
“A lot of farmers used to cut their own silage here, but they all stopped then because they had no help.”
Its tractor fleet includes a Massey Ferguson 6290, Massey Ferguson 6465, Massey Ferguson 6470, Massey Ferguson 6480, Massey Ferguson 7485, Massey Ferguson 6616, Massey Ferguson 7718 and Massey Ferguson 698 2WD.
“JS Farm Services in Donegal does most of the maintenance work. Some maintenance work is also contracted out to Donegal Tractors in Letterkenny and D&M Farm Services, Derry.
“We also do a lot of the maintenance ourselves. We service some older tractors and fix any external issues such as hydraulic pumps. »
Other machines include a CLAAS 890 self-propelled forage harvester, a VOLVO L90 wheel loader, a KUHN – FBP 3135 round baler-wrapper combination, two Kane 20ft halfpipe silage/grain trailers and two Kane 14 tonne trailers.
He also has a classic 18 foot silage trailer, a 12 ton 16 foot Kane trailer and a 16 foot Redrock grain/silage trailer, several Kverneland butterfly mowers, KUHN rakes, a JCB 414s wheel loader and an NC 300 series dump trailer.
In addition, he has a Herbst low-loader, an Amazone ZA-V spreader, a Kverneland 4-share reversible mounted plow, a Kverneland rotary harrow and a Watson earth roller.
Its slurry equipment includes three Abbey 3000T tandem axle tankers, a HiSpec 3500 gallon tanker, a Redrock 3000g and two umbilical slurry systems (with 3000m of piping between the two sets).
Other equipment includes two Doda HD35 pumps, one BAUER pump and two Redrock Mega Flow pumps.
In Alastair’s eyes, the challenges facing agricultural entrepreneurs include the rising cost of fuel, parts, machinery, fertilizers, the government’s introduction of the government’s carbon tax, environmental regulations and contractor prices.
“We have increased the price of our slurry spreading by 10%, and we are studying it to try to see what it is, but everything is going up in front of us.
“When you raise your price this week, next week it might not be good enough. We now realize that when we do a job, we count our costs before we put our price first and try to do it that way.”
“The biggest worry is that farmers are paying so much money for fertilizer that sometimes we worry that we are not getting paid when we should. In my opinion, that is a serious challenge this year.
“Plus, the extra amount of money it takes to fill a tank of fuel is double the price of twelve months ago.”
“It must be a psychological thing, but it doesn’t seem to last as long as it used to either,” he laughed.
“I don’t see many farmers staying in business this year. The costs are going to be too high and it will not be possible for farmers to try to pay us 10% to 15% more to do the work.
“I think dairy farmers might be fine as they get their price for the milk. However, it is a different story with pig and cattle farmers.
Alastair plans to keep his machines up to date and said if he expands he would do so with care – due to contractor rates.
“I don’t see many agricultural entrepreneurs doing this in the near future with the amount of machinery and money needed.”
“For example, the price of a tractor is €150,000 to €160,000 and the prices of slurry tanks increase by 40%”.
“I believe that a person embarks on an agricultural contract; they would have to make no sense. I don’t see too many people starting it, and I don’t see any agricultural contractors stopping it.
“Besides, I’m not looking too far into the future. I take it year after year to see what happens. If you had asked me that question 12 months ago, it would have been a different story, but that’s where we are today.
“I believe that agriculture will change considerably. That old attitude of doing a farmer’s job, and they pay you in November when they get their basic payment scheme envelope, is going to go away.
“A lot of small contractors with a round baler and no other machines are also going to feel the pinch very soon.”
“Also, a lot of farmers who buy their own machines and do some neighbor work, you’ll see that disappear because the machines have become too expensive.”
“It was not strange that a farmer bought a round baler 5-6 years ago. However, that will not happen now because the investment is too big,” concluded the agricultural entrepreneur.
To share your story like this agricultural entrepreneur from Donegal, email Catherina Cunnane, editor of That’s Farming, – email@example.com
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