Hughes Agri: ‘Our diesel bill is going to be €140,000’

Agricultural Entrepreneur of the Week: Hughes Agri

As part of this week Agricultural Entrepreneur of the Week Segment, It’s farming, profiles Hughes Agri. Phillip Hughes discusses taking over the family business, selling animal feed, producing 5,000 bales of silage and 8,000 bales of straw, industry challenges and plans to expand the business .

“The harvester holds 1,100 litres. So you would burn 600 or 700 liters per day. The average tractor holds between 250 and 330 liters per day.

“Last year we burned 100,000 liters of diesel, and that was the guts of €80,000 and this year our diesel bill is going to be €140,000.”

“I remember in 2020 when the Covid-19 pandemic hit, green diesel prices were 32c/L and the carbon tax went up to 2c.”

“It’s not too much when you only buy a few hundred litres, but when you buy more than 100,000 litres, a few cents makes a big difference.”

These are the words of agricultural entrepreneur Phillip Hughes, from Bagenalstown, County Carlow.

He took over the family business, Hughes Agri, in its 47th year two years ago from his father, Phillip, and uncle, Vincent.

Hughes Agri

The brothers saw an opportunity in their area for hay baling and tillage services.

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Some of their early investments included a Tarrup 602B forage harvester, John Deere 550 baler, Massey Ferguson drill, Massey Ferguson 188 tractor, John Deere 955 combine (for £12,000) and a Ford 5000 (for £1 £000).

They then switched to a Kverneland 10x trailed harvester followed by a New Holland 1900 self-propelled harvester.

“There are pictures of me at home when I was four years old sitting on a tractor,” added Phillip Hughes (junior), who earned his Green Cert at Kildalton Agricultural College from 2009 to 2010. It’s farming.

“All I remember as a kid is being on the harvester and in the tractor cab with my dad. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. In 1999, my father bought his first new tractor, a Valmet 8550.”

From October 2011 to May 2012, Phillip worked for Reymer Ag Contracting Limited in New Zealand with his cousins, Damien and William Whitford, drawing silage and maize.

Additionally, Phillip operates a tillage and beef farm (on 120 acres) and purchases 60 Friesian calves a year.

The tillage aspect of the business includes 100 acres of corn, 50 acres of fodder beets, and 200 acres of corn, winter wheat and winter barley.

“In 2016, I took over the leased land from the farm when the Young Farmers Scheme (YFS) came into effect. I grow 100 acres of corn for sale to dairy farmers and 50 acres of beets for sale to dairy and cattle farmers. ”

Agricultural Contracts Service

Hughes Agri employs one full-time person, a second operator for 10 months and eight part-time workers during peak hours, serving a 30-mile radius of Bagenalstown.

His uncle and father built the business through word of mouth, with Phillip making his mark by showcasing the company’s work through Facebook.

Hughes Agri offers the following services: mowing, baling, raking, wrapping, wagon silage, pit silage, corn harvesting, beet harvesting, fertilizer spreading, slurry spreading, full service tillage (plough , harrow and sow).

“We always do our best to satisfy customers and try to be there when we say we are going to be there. We try to do the best job possible. »

“There have been customers in the business since my father and uncle started. I’m 30 and have had customers there for as long as I can remember.

“Silage is our main service. In addition, we make good silage with wagon, pit silage and bales. We do 1,700 acres of pit silage between the first and second cut with the forage harvester. »

“We make 800 acres of silage with the wagon between the first, second and third cut of silage. Thus, we produce 5,000 bales of silage and 6,000 to 8,000 bales of straw, depending on the year.

In addition, they plow and seed 1,500 acres of winter and spring grain.

Agricultural machinery

Their fleet includes two CLAAS ARION 650 tractors, a Valtra T191 tractor, a John Deere 7920 tractor, two John Deere 6920s tractors and a John Deere 6215R tractor.

“The two CLAAS tractors are regularly upgraded. They have a 5,000 hour warranty on them.

“We try to swap them out every three years to keep them fresh so we know what our costs will be and just to have the payments on them. So we won’t have any unexpected repair bills with them.

“We service the other tractors unless there is an electrical problem. My cousins, Damien Whitford or Michael Dunphy, maintain John Deere tractors.

Other items include two Strautmann forage trailers, a CLAAS JAGUAR 880 forage harvester, three 24ft Smyth tri-axle trailers, two 20ft Smyth Super Cube trailers and a 20ft tandem axle Dooley grain and silage trailer.

In addition, they have a 2015 McHale Fusion 3 Plus integrated baler, New Holland Roll-Belt 560 round baler, two Taarup butterfly mowers, two Taarup 10ft mowers (front and rear), CLAAS Liner 2800 and 2700 rakes , a JCB 435s AGRI wheel loader and a JCB 414S wheel loader.

Tillage equipment includes a HORSCH seeder, two Kverneland 150 B five-furrow ploughs, a Kuhn Accord seeder with a 3m pass, an Armer Salmon beet harvester (two-row) and a NAVIGATOR – 24m trailed sprayer by HARDI.

Slurry and manure equipment includes a 2,750 gallon NC tank truck (with trailing shoe) and a Bredal 10T spreader.

The equipment he harvests with includes a John Deere CTS 9780i (with a 25-foot tiller) and a New Holland TX32.

Hughes Agri offers the following contract services: mowing, baling, raking, wrapping, wagon silage, pit silage and corn harvesting.

Challenges

Fuel prices, Ad Blue (diesel exhaust fluid) costs and oil expenses are some of the challenges that Hughes Agri faces.

“I think entrepreneurs should be able to claim back the carbon tax because they’re doing hard work.”

“He/she can recover the diesel tax, but if the price increases, it is more difficult for the entrepreneur to pass the increase on to the farmer.”

“I would like the carbon tax to be removed because all tractors have Ad Blue or filters. So there would not be a lot of emissions.

“Every contractor has a new, modern tractor with Ad-Blue or GPS while the farmer might just have a 1980 Ford tractor with no GPS or Ad-Blue or anything in it.”

Business owners believe that a “good and reliable” backup service, a “good” customer relationship, and being on top of everything are the keys to running a successful business.

“If you work hard, you will reap the rewards. In my opinion, hard work is the main thing; agricultural contracts are not for the faint-hearted.

Hughes Agri offers the following contract services: mowing, baling, raking, wrapping, wagon silage, pit silage and corn harvesting.

Plans and future of Irish agricultural contracts

Hughes Agri intends to continue upgrading some of its machinery each year, aiming for 2,000 acres of pit silage and 700 acres of corn and increasing whole crop acreage.

“I really think it would be helpful to charge here that if a farmer goes more than a month without paying you will be charged interest on your account.”

“In New Zealand, they charge interest on your account if it goes over a month.”

“It’s like any other business; if you go somewhere to buy anything, it’s put on an account. So we, too, provide a service, and agricultural outsourcing is a business.

“I have noticed in recent years that the dairy farmer is increasingly busy with calving. So we do a lot of cleaning the excreta from the sheds and removing it because the farmers don’t have time to do it. »

“We can come in and do it in half the time they do, and you bring bigger loads with the wheel loader than they bring.”

“Plus it saves them the hassle (if they’re busy calving, they don’t need to leave with a load). It could take them three days to extract the dung where we would in half a day or a day.

“It was done well because the agricultural contractor does it and knows what he is doing in tillage and silage or any service.”

“In my opinion, the war will have more impact on commodity prices with agriculture and grain prices; it could make Ireland more self-sufficient, producing its own food for animals and people,” the agricultural entrepreneur concluded.

To share your story like this agricultural entrepreneur from Carlow, email Catherina Cunnane, editor of It’s farming[email protected]

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