Brothers in Arms: Hughes Duo Dominates Kilkenny Contracting Scene with Cutting-Edge Machinery

"Farm Contractors Ireland Chairman, John Hughes, Voices Concerns Over Skilled Staff Shortage in Agriculture Industry"

The future of farm contracting in Ireland is a concern for John Hughes, the chairman of Farm Contractors Ireland (FCI). In a recent interview with Agriland, Hughes outlined his worries about the shortage of skilled staff available to complete work in a timely manner. This is a difficulty faced by his own contracting company, Hughes Brothers Agri Contracting of Kilkenny.

Hughes Brothers offers a wide range of tillage services in the local area and has been doing so since their father, Kevin Hughes, started thinning out beet rows in the 1940s. Although the staff numbers now stand at four regulars, including John and his brother Brendan, the amount of work undertaken is magnitudes greater. This spring has seen 1,800 acres sown already, with another couple of hundred yet to go.

Investing in new machines which can cover ground at a faster pace has allowed the company to get so much work done in a timely manner. The ability to complete work on time is a priority for the Hughes team. The company has undertaken other types of work in the past, giving John a good grasp of the contracting scene. The brothers were, not so long ago, deeply involved in the straw business, and they still supply a mushroom company, although not to the same extent. Tillage is now the main area of operation, and for this season, a Horsch Focus 3TD twin hopper drill was purchased to give greater flexibility and enable them to offer direct drilling and min till services.

Farmers are turning to minimum soil disturbance in a big way, and the service was already being provided with a Claydon drill, which is being retained as a back-up. The Horsch, however, will give them greater capacity and is felt to be more suitable for a wider range of conditions. Yet, like all machines, adaptations can be made to make it better suited to particular operations, and minor adjustments are already in place to ease the flow of seeds and fertiliser granules.

John is something of a dab hand at these alterations, and numerous examples of his prowess with a welder are to be found around the premises. One of the most impressive is a spreader for small seeds he built from scratch. Other homemade items include frames for storing front-end weights, extra twine storage on big square balers, and the conversion of said balers to ball and spoon couplings.

John does have his own farm, but this is only a small acreage and is by no means considered a viable standalone enterprise. The brothers’ business is farm contracting, and the work keeps rolling in. This season they will be running two new Claas Trion combines, one for their own use and one on behalf of Glanbia and its organic oat-growing programme, which is a new venture for the firm. In the meantime, there is still the drilling to finish and the spraying to be done on customers’ farms with no time to wonder where the next job is going to come from. Good work sells itself according to John, and on time is better than cheap, two maxims which have kept the business busy and will continue to do so.

Categories: Agriculture