Why this 24-year-old contractor says there is no point working for the banks
Joey Conroy's contracting business is not for the work shy . There are 4am starts and 8pm finishes and a whole season of slurry spreading, zero grazing, hedge cutting and other jobs in front of him.
"We're spreading the slurry for local farmers at the moment and with the good weather we have 700 acres done already of the 2,500 acres we are contracted to do, so it will be full steam ahead over the next week or so," says the 24-year-old.
Joey farms with his parents, Aiden and Eleanor, on the 115ac home farm at Knockbridge outside Dundalk in Co Louth where they run a herd of 160 Holsteins providing milk for Glanbia. "It's good grazing ground, a little bit rocky with 20 acres used for silage," is how Joe describes it.
The current price they are getting from the Glanbia hits the "okay" mark on the Conroy's milk price register, but "it can always be better", he adds.
Joey set up his own contracting company a couple of years ago after completing his Green Cert in the Ballyhaise Agricultural College in Co Cavan and a stint in New Zealand where, as he says, he learned the business of driving a straight line on a tractor.
He now spends 80pc of his time contracting and the other 20pc helping his dad on the home farm.
He admits to being "machinery mad" since he first hopped up on a tractor as a five-year-old.
He tells a great story from last year's contracting season when he saw an old rusty slurry spreader in a remote field of a local farm where he was doing the hedging.
He told the farmer he would take €300 from the hedging bill in exchange for the dilapidated spreader. The farmer told him he was welcome to it but added: "You're robbing yourself".
Joey took the spreader home to Knockbridge and started restoring the machine over the following two weeks or so at a total cost of €1,600.
He immediately put the spreader on Done Deal and netted a cool €3,200 for his trouble within 48 hours.
His contracting business is concentrated in Louth, though he also works in counties Meath and Monaghan. He plans are to expand the enterprise slowly, and within budget.
He is happy out with his New Holland and Case tractors at the moment and what new equipment may be required in future will be paid for through turnover.
"There is no point whatsoever in working for the banks," he says.
Joey is helped out by his brother Stephen. The pair are the farmers in the Conroy family. Their sister Clare is off in Dublin studying engineering, and Michael and Sean are in plumbing and computers respectively.
Joey's girlfriend, Hannah, is no stranger to tractors, coming as she does from a local farming family.
Joey's on-farm work at Knockbridge involves getting the dairy herd ready for milking before embarking on his contracting work and then milking in the evenings and weekends. He would do more, he says, when the contracting permitted.
Off farm his sole interest is fishing. He fishes the local rivers by boat but his favourite spot is Lough Muckno in Co Monaghan.
He used to have a passing interest in the GAA, but he packed it in when it started to interfere with his farming and contracting work.
In conversation with Ken Whelan
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