Fresh into his first year on the agricultural contracting scene, Darren Gallagher is hoping to become one of the bigger outfits, as he begins his journey in the sector.
Hailing from near Ballygawley, Omagh in the O’Neill county, Darren comes from a background steeped in agricultural heritage. He was born and raised on a farm holding of approximately 80-acres, where he and his family keep both sheep and cattle.
They keep on average 100 crossbred ewes, while any cattle kept on the farm are bought in during the spring and sold before winter. These consist generally of continental crossbred weanlings, which are fattened on grass before resale.
“We buy cattle in during the Spring and turn them on again towards the end of the year…They would consist of Limousines, Charolais and Belgian blues.”, Darren said.
Where did the adventure begin?
It all began at a very young age for 22-year-old Darren, who became obsessed with machinery and the industry, with his father having worked as a contractor himself. He says he was always around machinery from a young age, which is what pushed him to get his place behind the wheel.
“My dad did a bit of contracting as well…I was brought up with it, until Dad stopped,”, he said.
Darren’s father had been working in baled silage until he made the decision to retire, which is ultimately what encouraged Darren to make his start within the sector, setting up Richmond Agriculture Contracts in his home county. As soon as he finished his secondary education, Darren began his venture into agriculture by working on a local dairy farm. He stayed here for a total of four years before the farmer in question gave up on the profession.
“He (the farmer) stopped with the cows and then I decided to start up myself and this is our first year out,”, Darren said.
“I just said I would try and get back into it again...It takes time though,”, Darren admitted.
Darren, fresh into his first year, runs his business alongside Neil of Watson contracts.
The team is made up of a fleet of five tractors on the Watson side and Darren’s own Massey 6480. Darren takes on all of the mowing, topping and slurry tanker work, while the Watson’s take on the silage side of things. This enables the two contractors to work side-by-side, whilst also having the time to run their own farming enterprises at home.
“We kind of work together…They keep a dairy at home and we have the ewes at home, so we kind of bundle all together,”, Darren noted.
“I just do the mowing and the round bales…There is talk of getting a silage wagon in the future, but its baby steps for the time being…We will see how this year goes first,”, he added.
Hedgecutting duties have also been added to the list of services, something Darren is responsible for and hopes will ensure the tractor has work all year round.
“This is the first year for the hedge-cutting, so we will just have to see how it goes…It is to try and keep the tractor working all year around or near enough…There is no point having it sitting in the shed,”, he said.
On the slurry side of things, Darren carries out all the slurry tanker work, while the Watsons carry out slurry spreading with a pipeline. Darren feels the system they have in place, sharing contracting duties with the Watsons, suits both parties down to the ground and enables them to provide a better, more valued, service to customers.
“If you try your best and do your job, that’s the main thing isn’t it,”, Darren said.
Fresh into his maiden year as a contractor, Darren’s list of machinery is quite impressive. He is currently working with one tractor on the road, with plans for more in the future all going well. Though for his first year within the profession, he already has quite the set-up.
On the Watson side, they have currently four tractors on the road, making five in total altogether. Watson Contracts, like Darren, run with a Massey 6480, among other machines.
Tractor - Massey Ferguson 6480.
Grass - Rake 20ft, Tedder, Kuhn FC 302G mower - 10ft,
Slurry - 1500 gallon tanker. 8ft Redrock mixing pump Superflow.
Hedgecutting - McConnell
Aspirations for the future -
The plan is to get bigger and better, gaining as many customers as possible over the coming years.
Darren has big plans, ambitions and dares to dream. He hopes to one day be one of the bigger contracting outfits in the region, something that may not be as far into the future as one may think.
“The plan is gain as much customers as we can and get the business built up as big as we possibly can,”, he said.
As mentioned, Darren and his co-workers at Watson’s also hope to purchase a silage wagon before the end of the year, but this is all dependent on how the first year in business goes. Other than that, Darren hopes they gradually build up not only their customer base but also their service list.
“We will wait and see how it works out.”, Darren explained.
On the home-farm side, Darren admits to holding the hope to one-day reintroduce a 100-Suckler-strong herd back onto the home farm, though for now, his focus is solely on contracting.
Why he loves what he does -
To put it bluntly, Darren is obsessed with contracting. In fact, there are very few aspects of the job which he does not enjoy.
He admits to getting great satisfaction from a job well done, happy customers and the freedom of being his own boss. Not only that, but he admits that contracting flows through his veins, whether he wanted it to or not.
“It just flows through your blood…I was involved in farming from a young age and it sort of grew on me,”, he said.
“If you do a good job and you have happy customers, isn’t that all that matters,”, he noted.
Striving to follow in his father’s footsteps and continue the family contacting tradition, Darren Gallagher may only be in his maiden year but has already achieved more than some us could ever hope for.
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