Buying a €400,000 piece of machinery demands a lot of consideration about the investment payback required and Mark Troy is well qualified to do the sums involved.
As well as being an agricultural contractor, Mark is also an accountant by profession so he had his sums well done before he purchased the latest addition to his fleet – the Claas Jaguar 990.
At 925hp it is the most powerful forager offering from Claas to date and Mark, who is based in Brinny near Inishannon, Co Cork, is the first contractor in Ireland to buy the Claas powerhouse.
“I bought the Claas 990 from Mc Carthy’s dealership in Carrigtwohill,” he told the Farming Independent.
“I ordered it before Christmas and it was delivered last week. I upgraded it from the 980 version, which was their previous biggest I bought in 2018. I upgrade my machinery every couple of years for warranty and for servicing.
“We swapped over to Claas in 2002 and haven’t looked back since. They’re a good quality machine and so there is no need to change. If they were giving trouble or there was poor output then we would consider a change but so far we can’t complain.”
Mark works as a financial controller for a car dealership in Cork, and he balances the day job with the demands of the silage season.
“I work as an accountant for most of the year. I am out of the office from when the silage season starts in the middle of May for a few weeks, then I’m back in for a few weeks until the second cut starts toward the end of June,” he says.
“I have four or five lads in the yard working in the spring who do the day to day jobs like spreading fertiliser or reseeding.”
As well as the Claas 990, the Troy fleet also includes a Krone Big M mower, one Fendt Tractor, five Massey Fergusons, one JCB loader two slurry tankers and umbilical cord system, a fertiliser spreader and two seed planters.
“I like to upgrade things every few years for several reasons. Because the silage season is so short, things need to be as efficient as possible so we can cut as much as possible. Also when I am trading in machinery, contractors won’t want to buy anything with too much mileage on it.”
One of the biggest changes Mark has noticed in contracting in recent years is the spiralling costs of machinery.
“The cost of machinery has gone through the roof. Tractors have gotten very technologically advanced and have seen massive increases in efficiency even though there is no need for the increase in many cases –especially in Ireland where field sizes aren’t as big as they are in places like the US and Australia. It’s not justified by the returns we’re getting.”
While retaining staff has been a problem for most contractors, it hasn’t been an issue for Mark.
“We have a good bit of work going on throughout the year such as spreading slurry to keep lads around.
“You have to treat them well and pay them as well. I have four or five lads in the spring and around nine during busy times around the first cut of silage. It is getting more difficult to keep staff though and it definitely will be more of an issue in the future.”
Between maize and silage, Mark cuts around 4,000 acres a year for farmers in his area, most of whom are long term clients. He believes that developing a relationship with farmers is the cornerstone of any contracting business. “Most of our clients have been with us for over 40 years when my father began contracting. We work in a partnership with them, they need us and we need them.”
Unlike many other businesses, silage contractors won’t be majorly affected by the coronavirus outbreak.
“We tend to socially isolate anyway,” says Mark, “but this year we’ll be extra cautious. Everybody will have to stick to their tractors and we won’t be taking any passengers onboard.”
Given the costs and long hours of agricultural contracting, many would question the wisdom of why Mark is still involved in the business when he has a well-paid job as an accountant to fall back upon.
The answer is simple: he says it is in his blood. “It doesn’t make sense from an accountant’s point of view, especially with the amount of money I have tied up in the business. If I was to replace my whole fleet in the morning it would cost over €2.5m. But I grew up with, it’s something I enjoy doing and I would find it very hard to walk away from it.”