Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Sunday 24 September 2017

Watch: The Galway contractors making hay and a lot more besides

M&M Fleming Agri are successfully covering the full gamut of farm contracting services

The Fleming Agri combination of a Claas 650 and McHale Fusion 3 hard at it in the field
The Fleming Agri combination of a Claas 650 and McHale Fusion 3 hard at it in the field
M&M Fleming Agri's Martin Fleming
A Fendt 820 equipped with double Krone mowers can tackle most mowing jobs

Jamie Casey

Grass crops of all descriptions were mowed down and saved in prime conditions during the last month's mini heatwave.

I took advantage of the sunshine to catch up with Martin Fleming of M&M Fleming Agri, based in Mountbellew, Co Galway. Specialising in baling, slurry, reseeding and subsoiling, the Flemings are three days into a baling marathon when I travelled west.

With two Fusion 3s gaining ground behind him, Martin was busy keeping silage knocked ahead of the balers. The oldest tractor in the fleet, a 2011-registered Fendt 820, was charged with this task. "The Fendt is the king of tractors on tasks like mowing and one-pass drilling," said Martin. "The controls are perfectly precise and to your fingertips, allowing you to focus on the job at hand."

Attached to a pair of Krone Easy-Cut double mowers, the Fendt munched through 10 acres per hour with an average forward speed of 10km/h. The mounted mowers proved no hassle for the Fendt 820 to carry and drive, and you'd get the impression that it wanted a third mower to quieten it.

M&M Fleming Agri's Martin Fleming
M&M Fleming Agri's Martin Fleming

"I'll need to examine my options, but I'm keen for trailed double rear mowers to reduce the stress on the rear end of the tractor," Martin said.

He rates the Krone mowers highly for serviceability, cut quality and ease of driving. The quick-change flails are a major benefit, and this became apparent when quite a large stone was stuck in the headland of one field.

"Stones and wire are more of an issue now than they used to be - the day of the farmer rolling the field is almost over," explained Martin.

One of the Fusion balers was busy in a neighbouring field, being powered by a Claas 650. I asked Martin about the composition of the fleet consisting of a pair of Claas 640s, a Claas 650 and the Fendt 820. "No doubt, the Fendt is better suited to some applications, but it's very hard to justify the price tag," he replied.

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"The farmer doesn't pay me any extra if I show up with a new Fendt or a Claas, or an old Zetor, for that matter, yet the transaction has cost me an extra €30,000."

Investment

One of the biggest issues facing contractors is the massive capital investment required to keep fleets up to date. When M&M Fleming Agri bought their first Fusion back in 2002, it cost €40,000. The most recent Fusion 3 Plus model set the company back €85,000. That's a lot of money before you buy a tractor to put in front of it, or pay a man to drive it.

Interestingly, M&M Fleming Agri had the first Fusion off the production line, with the serial number 0001.

Before the introduction of the Fusion, three Krone Round Packs were the choice of the day, along with supporting wrappers and three trailed mowers. The advent of the locally built Fusion really streamlined the business, according to Martin.

"We went from six men and six tractors to three men and three tractors."

A Fendt 820 equipped with double Krone mowers can tackle most mowing jobs
A Fendt 820 equipped with double Krone mowers can tackle most mowing jobs

One set of double mowers and two Fusions can cover the same acreage as the previous set-up but is considerably easier to manage and maintain. M&M Fleming Agri recently invested in a new Keltec self-loading bale trailer, which is proving to be very popular.

"On a short draw, say 1.5 miles, the Keltec can handle up to 500 bales per day. We should have bought one years ago!" The Keltec deposits the bales in the yard, and the stacking is normally undertaken by the farmer.

During the quieter months of the year, M&M Fleming Agri undertake slurry spreading, reseeding and subsoiling work. Recent investment in the slurry side of the business saw the addition of a new 3,000-gallon, tandem axle-recessed tanker from Hi-Spec.

Equipped with a raingun, a dribble bar, load-sensing electro-hydraulics and shod on four 750mm-wide 30.5 tyres, the tanker can practically float on soft ground. "We were keen to have the tanker equipped with the load-sensing option - it's much easier on the hydraulic pump of the tractor over the life of the equipment," said Martin.

Subsoiling

The subsoiling side of the business has really taken off in recent years. Originally, interest was quite low, but as the years went by, farmers saw the huge benefits of ripping the heavy lands around Mountbellew. With the outfit subsoiling up to 500 acres per year, wear parts on the Earth Engineering Panbuster need regular replacement to keep the machine in top operating condition.

"We were going through so many wear parts at one stage that my supplier thought I was selling parts to other guys in the area."

All subsoiling is undertaken by one of the Claas 640s, which is equipped with auto-steer. All the ripped lines are perfectly straight and parallel, and the job looks much tidier and more professional.

The Claas 640 comes in for particular praise on this front. It has clocked up over 6,000 hours of heavy draft and road work, and has never had a spanner put to it except for regular maintenance.

I asked Martin for his thoughts on contracting in the current agricultural climate. He stressed the importance of two factors - a good working relationship with your bank or credit provider, and the back-up provided by the local machinery dealer.

"The service provided by our local dealers, Quigleys Garage of Ballinasloe, is second to none. We also deal directly with McHales for the balers, so parts are never too far away. I would advise anyone starting out to find a good local dealer that you can trust."

Recalling the early days of the business which was established 27 years ago, Martin said he was offered these wise words by a local man: "In this game, you need good weather and good luck on your side.

"Without them, all the work in the world is no good to you."

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