Farm Ireland

Tuesday 24 October 2017

My week: 'The contracting business is running out of experienced men'

Maurice Gannon, Keelogues, Co. Galway - farmer and contractor

Farmer Maurice Gannon from Keelogues, Co Galway.
Farmer Maurice Gannon from Keelogues, Co Galway.

Ken Whelan

There is very little Maurice Gannon doesn't know about the state of farming on both sides of the Shannon.

The north Galway man - a tillage farmer from Keelogues near Creggs close to the border with Roscommon - also runs a contracting business for everything from ploughing to sowing, liming and applying fertilizer and slurry.

For good measure he will keep your trees or forest in good shape to avoid any worries about the forestry premiums.

He is also the designated contractor for Kepak in Athleague with his firm Gannon Agric removing waste generated at the beef processing plant and recycling it as fertilizer for local tillage farmers.

His contracting beat ranges across north Galway, Mayo, Roscommon, Longford and into Westmeath and his company carries out work for between 300 and 400 farmers in the region.

"It hasn't been a great year with the milk price dropping and the beef prices down. Even tillage was affected. I think the turn in the year came with the bad weather in July and August. That has had a knock-on effect on everything," he says

"But that's the way with farmers. If we have a good year in 2016 then we will forget about this year.

"But the bad weather in July and August did affect everything."

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Gannon Agri employs 14 men at the peak of the contracting season and six employees on a permanent basis, Maurice explains.

He describes his working rota as 24/7/365.

His wife Caroline does the office work and their three children - David (21), an agricultural engineering student at Tralee IT; Kenneth (18), an agri-business student at Mountbellew Agricultural College; and Connor (16) who is heading into his Leaving Cert, help out when the work gets tough during the summer months.

"The contracting business these days is beginning to run out of experienced operators," says Maurice, who recalls that he made his first square bale of hay when he was "10-and-a-half.

"Good workers are becoming scarce and the business is losing good lads to other jobs in the computer and hi-tech sectors. I'm lucky.

"My lads have been with me for the past 10 to 15 years and their experience counts because they know the land on all the farms where we work."

He completed harvesting the corn at his 350ac home farm in Keelogues last week.

"We were at it until 10pm on the last night," he says.

Given the workload, he must be due a holiday? "My wife Caroline always asks me when will we book our holiday. I say 'we will see'," he says.

The Gannons, who are married for over 20 years, celebrated their 10th anniversary in Rome and on their 20th anniversary they went to Dubai.

But they generally grab their breaks when the opportunity arises.

This can be tricky given his contractor's almanac which reads as follows: January-February, spreading slurry; March, ploughing; April, sowing; May, reseeding; May-July, silage; August, harvesting and reseeding; September-October, more slurry; November, remedial work on the trees; December, repairing and maintaining the machinery.

And then, magically, we are back to January again.

Indo Farming