Farm Ireland

Thursday 23 November 2017

Watch: Mapping out a new direction in contracting

O'Toole contractors are investing in top spec machinery that reduces costs

Derek Casey

Derek Casey

THIS week's contractor focus took me to a family run outfit based in Ballon, Co Carlow. Brothers Pat, Dinny and Ollie O'Toole have brought different types of expertise to the day to day running of the business.

Setting up the company was Pat's idea; his extensive contracting experience dates back over 25 years when he used to help out a local contractor.

O'Toole PFS operators (left to right) Pat O'Toole, Leeson Treacy and Ollie O'Toole with their Lemken Seed and Fertiliser sower. Roger Jones.
O'Toole PFS operators (left to right) Pat O'Toole, Leeson Treacy and Ollie O'Toole with their Lemken Seed and Fertiliser sower. Roger Jones.

He liked the way of life and quickly had the idea that, should he ever get the chance, he would one day set up his own operation.

"One of the first jobs I had was wrapping bales with a McHale 991 BE wrapper," Pat explained. "It was some machine - way ahead of its time in terms of design - and I suppose from there I just sort of got hooked to the lifestyle.

"I started getting a few of my own silage jobs as the years went on and the contractor I used to work for retired so opportunity knocked for me. I started off in silage, but recently we have bought a John Deere combine, a Lemken drill and a Bredal spreader to cater for the tillage side of the business which has been growing steadily for us."

While Pat brings contracting expertise, Ollie - who some of our south eastern readers may recognise - brings crucial machinery expertise and technical back up.

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O Toole Precision Farm solutions Ltd contractor cutting Oats for farmer Henry Nolan near Rathcrogue, Carlow. Photo by Roger Jones.

He works as the service manager for Templetouhy Farm Machinery in Kilkenny yet still manages to combine this with helping out the family business. The third brother, Dinny, also helps out when he can as well as working in the contracting industry.

Given the John Deere connection to the business I wasn't at all surprised to see a few green machines lined up in the yard, but it wasn't wall-to-wall John Deere.

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"We purposely like to keep a few different brands in the line-up," explained Pat.

"There are a couple of reasons for that. We always felt that certain brands have expertise in given areas - say Bredal for spreaders and McHale for balers - and that it is better to tap into that expertise where possible.

"Secondly, we have a couple of very good local dealers in the area with decent back up so we try to give each of them a shout if we can. And it gives customers a better choice as well if you have a few brands in the yard."

Aside from keeping a mix of brands in the line-up, this contracting outfit puts an emphasis on precision farming to help reduce farmers' fertiliser and spraying input costs.

This was the main reason why the O' Toole's recently bought a very clean second hand John Deere T 560i combine harvester from the UK worth €140,000.

It is an ex-demonstration model, four seasons old, and has the highest spec possible on offer including the full precision farming suite of Yield Mapping, Autotrac and HarvestSmart.

Highest spec

It is also fitted with the Hillmaster system for harvesting on inclines, special 800mm wide tyres and a premium chopper and chaff spreader.

Other machines in the O' Toole fleet that aid the precision farming model of the business include a Lemken Solitair 9 drill that the team bought for €57,000 last spring and a trailed Bredal fertiliser spreader. This machine helps sow the 800 acres of crops that the crew cater for, including 200 acres each of spring barley and beans. For Oil Seed Rape the Lemken usually goes straight in without the need for any plough.

The seven tonne Bredal spreader was bought from local dealer Joe O' Toole in Carlow (no relation), and is fitted with an AutoTrac spreader and weigh cells.

This machine provides a steady stream of income for the business as it is used to contract spread fertiliser for Connolly's in Kilkenny.

On the silage front there has also been investment; a McHale Fusion 3 Plus baler valued at €70,000 has been getting very good reviews from customers.

The latest Fusion features a net-free wrapping system that uses a film on film design. This makes for better shaped bales and easier handling over winter as the messy netwrap problem has been avoided.

Indo Farming