For those looking for an extra tractor and trailer for a short period of time, renting is now a realistic option.
During busy times on the farm like silage harvesting, resource are stretched to the limit; traditionally, neighbours might offer machinery to help out, but that option isn't always reliable.
Contractors also rent tractors and trailers if they need to bring in extra power or numbers for a given job. It is useful to have an idea of rent prices for various tractor and trailer sizes because, if done correctly, renting can be a short-term solution to a short-term horsepower problem.
A purchased tractor or trailer is a fixed asset that will depreciate in value sharply, with the rate of depreciation frontloaded onto the newer years of ownership.
We all know that if a tractor isn't working, it isn't paying for itself so, unless you have year-round extra demand for work, hiring could be the smarter option. When it comes to this time of year and harvesting silage, I know a lot of contractors who are fans of the renting approach.
Typically they take out an extra tractor or two to increase work rates and keep up with farmer demand as it arises.
The idea is that the extra tractor is rented in for a few weeks at the busy shoulders of the year in spring and late summer/autumn.
In this way the contractor will get the benefit of the extra work the hired tractor will get through when the weather suits and demand is high.
Crucially, the contractor also doesn't have to deal with the opportunity cost of turning any jobs away for fear of losing further potential work from a new customer.
And the best part of the deal is that when things are quieter, the renting party can hand the tractor and keys back to the lease company and settle the bill.
The asset doesn't have to sit idle in a shed through quieter months while the owner worries about making repayments.
It isn't difficult to find out what typical daily and weekly hire costs are.
Some of the largest and most progressive tractor dealerships in Ireland are offering comprehensive hire packages for tractors alongside their existing tractor sales business.
Agents like Templetouhy Farm Machinery (TFM are multi-branch John Deere agents), WR Shaw Ltd (New Holland dealers based in Laois) and Fingal Tractor Hire in Dublin all offer tractors of varying size for hire in either short or long-term packages.
There are also now specialised trailer hire machinery companies in Ireland, again offering various forms and sizes of trailers such as grain trailers, silage trailers and round bale haulage trailers.
The good news for those looking at taking on extra tractors is that hire rates have generally come down from six or seven years ago. According to the very useful TFM website (which lists all tractor hire prices), the firm has 100hp tractors like the John Deere 5100M available for weekly hire rates from as little as €500 plus VAT.
There is a significant discount for those looking at longer-term deals, where you can hire that same tractor out for a lower rate per week negotiable depending on the lease length.
Those hiring should be aware that there is usually a surcharge payable if you put more than 1,000 hours on the clock per year.
Meanwhile, WR Shaw Ltd are also in the tractor hire business with 13 years of experience of running a hire fleet; they tractors out to a lot of contractors in the surrounding area.
The company currently has a fleet of over 70 New Holland tractors.
One of the most in demand models by contractors doing silage work is the 145hp-rated New Holland T6.175 tractor. This tractor is available for weekly hire at a price of €600 plus VAT or a 52-weekly annual price of €11,000 plus VAT.
For all hired tractors, WR Shaw stipulates that the hirer must provide comprehensive insurance in addition to those prices.
Jack Kelly of Fingal Tractor Hire in Dublin hires out a range of models as well, with John Deere being his most popular choice.
He said he has customers who come back each year and hire out the same tractor for anything from one month to a three-month period.
"Some customers take out a tractor for two three month periods at a time during busy parts of the year.
"Fingal Tractor Hire typically lease tractors out all over the country, even leasing down as far south as Cork. Our rates would see us hire out our John Deere 6175R on hire for €600 per week plus VAT.
"We prefer to hire out for a month at a time if possible but we do shorter-term leases for a week here and there as well if we know the customer and they are nearby."
For those looking for a smaller tractor Fingal Tractor Hire have a Landini 10,000 (105hp rated) that is available to hire for €400 per week plus VAT.
Kieran Plant Hire in Dundalk is another company that has a range of tractors available for hire in Ireland.
They have a variety of makes ranging from Fendt, Deutz and New Holland and their tractor hire fleet has a good range in power from 130hp to 300hp.
They also have a range of agricultural equipment available with the tractors such as big square balers, bale chasers, hedge cutters, ploughs, sowing machines, rollers, trailers etc.
The key question contractors or farmers who are thinking of going down this route should ask is: if I only need the tractor for a limited number of weeks or hours per year, can I justify the capital and depreciation cost involved in buying the tractor outright?
It certainly provides food for thought.
‘Each brand has its fans — there is great brand loyalty’
Brand loyalty is a big issue when it comes to renting trailers, according to John Stafford, who runs a hire business in Co Wexford.
“The concept of the business is to give fellas an option where they maybe need a good size trailer for three or four weeks in the year for hauling bales or drawing silage or grain, but who don’t want to have the trailer sitting depreciating in their yard for the other 49 or 50 weeks of the year,” he says.
The Stafford hire fleet, based in Enniscorthy, consists of 16 trailers. This includes four bale trailers, six grain trailers, three grain and silage trailers, two dump trailers and a potato box trailer.
As can be seen from the pictures, it’s an impressive line-up and there is an option there for most lines of farming or contracting work.
There is no preference in terms of brand for Mr Stafford – it simply depends on what the customer wants.
“We have trailers in the fleet from Broughan, Thorpe, Smith, Deery, McCauley and Predator,” he says.
“Each brand has its own particular fans and I’ve noticed since I started the business that there is great brand loyalty – a Broughan fan will generally stick to Broughan for their good finishing, while Smith trailers would often be in demand by silage men due to their axle being further back and helping to place more weight on the tractor drawbar.
Those looking for a good grain trailer would often look for an axle that is slightly further forward, thus keeping more weight off the tractor’s drawbar.”
Prices for trailer hire generally range from €150-€300 per week depending on the trailer, the customer and the length of the hire period.
The price would be on the lower end of that range if the hire period is longer. The price is also lower for a known, trusted customer looking for repeat business and who previously returned the trailer in good condition after the hire period was up.
A new trailer in the fleet will command a higher hire price, for example a new Broughan silage trailer would be charged at around €300 per week. Similar to the tractor hire set up, the customer must insure the trailer as part of the hire agreement.