Nicholas and the Thompsons, are based approximately 9 miles from Enniskillen, in Co. Fermanagh. It is here he and his father run Thompson Hay, straw and Haylage.
Nicholas comes from a deep farming background, with an extensive head of stock at the moment. The Thompsons keep suckler cows, as well as a few sheep. Operations are run, mainly by Nicholas’ father, who farms full-time these days. They have approximately 160-acres, with some of the land in Donegal, inherited from Nicholas’s grandfather.
“We used to finish cattle for beef, but we got out of that in the mid-90’s”, Nicholas told Kevin.
“This hay and straw business has just grown over the years.”, he said.
This means they have three plots of land in total, all farmed by the family. The cattle consist of a rage of continental breeds, mainly Aberdeen Angus and Charolais breeds. Meanwhile, in the sheep department, they keep roughly 150 ewe lambs, varying in breed.
“We are not lambing any ewes, just grazing to sell on again,” he stated.
How it all began:
Nicholas said it was never the families intention to get into the haulage side of things, it just sort of happened. He said neighbouring farmers began to come to the family, looking for hay and straw, and things grew quickly from there.
“Our straw comes mainly from the South of Ireland. We have contracts in Wexford that we have been dealing with for 15-20 years,” he told Kevin.
The team started off hauling round bales, but quickly moved onto square bales, after noting it is much more cost-effective to transport.
Nicholas said he never himself intended to get into haulage.
“Not really”, said Nicholas when asked if he always planned on a career in haulage.
“It is just something that just built up with neighbours asking for straw. We always would have had good quality hay and straw and word spreads very quick.”, he said.
The team deliver roughly three to four artic-sized worth loads every single week, work which is contracted out. Nicholas and his team, complete all of their loads, with a tractor and Toyota Hilux pick up.
“A lot of our hay and straw would go to the likes of Killybegs, Glenties...down that end”, he said.
“We find an artic lorry wouldn’t work up there, because they are narrow roads. We use the tractor as we have a front loader on the tractor." he continued.
Nicholas finds that this system is not only more convenient for him and his team, but also farmers they are delivering to, especially those without a front loader themselves.
“We get it unloaded and put it in where he wants, rather than presuming he has some way to unload it” he informed Kevin.
Making the customer happy is what Nicholas describes as Key, with their good service rewarded with loyalty.
The fleet consists of the one and only tractor, a Massey Ferguson 5713 SL, year 2016, with just over 2,100 hours on the clock.
The driving duties are split between Nicholas and his father, Victor, as he works full-time for a window manufacturer, delivering PVC windows in Ireland and the UK. This means Nicholas is out on the road in the evenings and at the weekend and it enables him to travel the length and breast of the country, to source hay and straw, as well as meeting new suppliers. For the haulage company, he drives a 2017 Volvo FH4 500bhp.
At the moment, the team are quite content where they are, having expanded a lot in 2017.
They used to haul with a single axle trailer, but recently got a trailer custom made, by Beall, so they could carry heavier loads.
“Because the haulage was getting so busy we needed a proper trailer”, he explained.
This is where Nicholas’ degree in agricultural engineering came in handy, with Nicholas helping design the trailer, to the families use.
The new trailer has opened a lot of doors for the team and ensures they are working as efficiently as possible.
“It's giving the customer the best service we can. That is why we went up from 100hp tractor up to 130hp tractor and a single axle up to a twin axle.” he said.
The next option Nicholas admits would be to again upgrade the tractor, as they are travelling 45/50 miles on a regular basis and hopes to upgrade to something capable of 50kms per hour.
With the weather this year, which Nicholas says is one of the worst he has ever seen, has seriously affected proceedings.
He loves what he does, simply because he loves the job satisfaction and helping out fellow farmers. He so enjoys watching the business grow.
Although the Thompsons may have inadvertently landed into the haulage game, they certainly haven't rested on their laurels.
Working tirelessly to give the customers the best service and best quality product which is also Cost-effective for the consumer and supplier. Nicholas and his father Victor will continue to strive and move forward.