Down Car­low way

Irish Independent - Farming - - MACHINERY -

and fur­ther suit­able leases arise.

The plan is to al­low con­trac­tors to har­vest the maize; he has no in­ten­tions of buy­ing maize har­vest­ing ma­chin­ery just yet.

In­stalling so­lar en­ergy pan­els on some land is an in­ter­est­ing new devel­op­ment for Nolan Farm­ing this year and clearly out­side of the core tillage busi­ness. But what was the idea be­hind the move?

“We did a lot of re­search into pay­back pe­ri­ods and have de­cided along with a lo­cal busi­ness­man to in­vest in so­lar farm­ing. It means we are putting so­lar pan­els over 30 acres of ground which will be ca­pa­ble of pro­vid­ing around 5 Megawatts of power to the grid. They will pay for them­selves in about eight years and have a life­span of 25-30 years. I see it as a way of de-risk­ing the busi­ness by bring­ing in an al­ter­na­tive rev­enue stream sep­a­rate to the tillage side. God for­bid if things went wrong or we get a few bad years in tillage it is good prac­tice to have other sources of in­come.”

Trac­tor talk

Nolan Farm­ing uses three trac­tors to run op­er­a­tions; a 131-reg­is­tered Fendt 828 Vario with 5,000 hours and ex­tended war­ranty is charged with do­ing most of the heavy tillage work; while two 09-reg­is­tered John Deeres, one a 6630 with 6,000 hours on the clock and the other a 7430 with 7,000 hours on the clock, have proven hugely re­li­able over the years.

The op­er­a­tion uses re­li­able lo­cal deal­ers as far as pos­si­ble in­clud­ing the likes of Ke­hoes in Camolin, Kellys of Bor­ris and the TFM Kilkenny branch. “The back-up from deal­ers these days is just in­cred­i­ble,” he says. “There are some bril­liant young me­chan­ics in the coun­try these days that don’t get enough credit.”

Kevin is open to try­ing new brands in the fu­ture, but he ad­mits to hav­ing a weak­ness for Fendt and the tech­nol­ogy level it brings. “I can’t see a time when I don’t have at least one Fendt and a John Deere on the farm if I’m be­ing hon­est. Hav­ing said that, I’m al­ways open to look­ing at dif­fer­ent brands. The JCB Fas­trac is a ma­chine I could see be­ing use­ful here at some point in the fu­ture as we do a lot of road travel between farms.

“For a job like spread­ing liq­uid ni­tro­gen on crops it could re­ally come into its own. I like to buy demon­stra­tor mod­els and that helps a lit­tle to keep costs down. My ad­vice for any­one buy­ing new trac­tors is to opt in for ex­tended war­ranty cover; not do­ing so is mad­ness be­cause break­downs and re­pairs are so ex­pen­sive these days.

“We love to look af­ter our trac­tors and ma­chin­ery here; when we get stu­dents in I make a point of teach­ing them how to re­spect and look af­ter kit by giv­ing them their own tool­box and tools. A lot of stu­dents from Kil­dal­ton that passed through Nolan Farm­ing have since gone on to set up their own farm­ing and con­tract­ing op­er­a­tions and I know for a fact many of them still have the same tool­box!”

All com­bin­ing is cur­rently done with a 162-reg­is­tered Claas Lex­ion 760 that is fit­ted with a 40kmh trans­mis­sion, shod on Terra Tracs and work­ing with a 30ft wide Vario header. The ex­pe­ri­ence to date has been very good with this com­bine and fea­tures like the CEMOS Claas sys­tem and yield map­ping are start­ing to prove them­selves with lo­cal farm­ers. Terra Trac gives the edge for trac­tive per­for­mance and “isn’t too heav­ily wear­ing on the road” ac­cord­ing to Levin.

One down­side noted by the Car­low man are that the di­viders on the Vario header could be bet­ter; he is think­ing of opt­ing for a MacDon header next time af­ter be­ing im­pressed by a re­cent trial. The com­bine har­vester is the big­gest sin­gle in­vest­ment in any tillage busi­ness but Kevin has learned that you sim­ply need scale to get the job done. He pulls out a cal­cu­la­tor from a stor­age pocket in the trac­tor cab and taps a few but­tons be­fore showing me a num­ber. “If you do the maths it ac­tu­ally works out as 59 acres of crop har­vested per foot of com­bine width — which I think is pretty ef­fi­cient,” he smiles.

Kevin’s ap­petite for us­ing the most cutting edge ma­chin­ery to drive his op­er­a­tion and in­crease out­put has be­come a sort of trade­mark and led to big fol­low­ings on the com­pany’s Face­book page (Nolan Farm­ing). But is this a weak­ness for ma­chin­ery that could lead to over­spend­ing on the lat­est kit?

“I wouldn’t say that,” he re­marks. “Yes I like hav­ing good kit and ev­ery­one knows I love ma­chin­ery. How­ever, the dif­fer­ence is that I have ev­ery­thing costed on this farm and re­pay­ments are down to a fine de­tail. We tend to keep our machines over a good few sea­sons to make them pay for them­selves. The com­bine is the clas­sic ex­am­ple.”

Fam­ily life

When it comes to fam­ily life Kevin is mar­ried with three young kids aged 12, nine and six. He tries to keep to a rule whereby Sun­days are marked out as a fam­ily day off. That isn’t pos­si­ble 52 weeks a year, but it takes some­thing ex­cep­tional to make him get into the cab of a Sun­day.

“Maybe one or two weeks I might have to miss out, such as when we are in the thick of the har­vest, but by and large it is a down day,” he ex­plains.

“I’m turn­ing 40 this year and life is just too short to miss out on the kids grow­ing up; I meet loads of older con­trac­tors and they of­ten tell me they re­gret not spend­ing more time with their kids. I don’t want to make that mis­take.

“I don’t know if they will fol­low me into this busi­ness but I can’t wait un­til they reach an age where they can help out on the farm. My daugh­ter will be a fan­tas­tic driver; girls al­ways look af­ter ma­chin­ery bet­ter than boys in my ex­pe­ri­ence!”

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