For Matthew Bradley, a future within agriculture was always a sure thing in his mind.
The young contractor hails from near Carndonagh in Co. Donegal, where he and his uncle run both a farm and the family contracting business, A&M Agri Contracts. The pair run their own mixed farm, keeping both sheep and Suckler cows.
“My uncle Adrian has a farm. He runs the farm and I run the contracting (business), but we work them both between us.” Matthew told Kevin of That’sFarming.
Adrian has been involved in the running of the farm from a very young age and he is the man responsible for Matthew’s passion for the industry. Together the pair keep approximately 110-ewes in total, breeding them to produce lambs from March onwards. This is due to the colder weather experienced in the higher parts of Carndonagh. The family keep a mixture of horned hill ewes and some Suffolk cross and Texel cross types.
“We lamb about 110 ewes and keep a few beef cattle, just ten cattle...We keep horned, hill sheep and we have some Suffolk and Texel crossbred ewes as well.” Matthew noted.
“We don’t lamb our ewes here until around St Patrick’s Day so they are summer lambs. It’s very cold up here,” he added.
The cattle kept on the farm are a variety of continental crossbreeds, such as Shorthorn, Simmental and Aberdeen Angus, and the farmers rear any calves to 300-350kgs before selling them on. They also have their own stock bull on site, bred from a local farmer’s 5-star LM bull and 4-star LM cow.
“We keep ten cows and a bull...We bring them (calves) to 300-350 kgs and sell them on.” said Matthew.
History of A&M Agri -
Having started contracting when he was just 16, Matthew’s uncle, Adrian, has now been contracting for over 35 years and began his contracting venture with a Massey Ferguson 165.
“He started off with a 165 Massey Ferguson and it all went from there.” Matthew told Kevin.
Adrian began with some haulage work, mowing, hay contracting, carried out for farmers in the locality, as well as some other jobs as his contracting enterprise began to take shape.
“He also had a small tipper trailer, so he could cart stones to the quarry for people and stuff like that.”
Before long, things got progressively busier and the list of services provided by Adrian grew even bigger. This is where Matthew himself developed the passion for the industry and machinery in particular and it wasn’t long until the young Donegal man realised that Contracting was what he was destined to do.
“My two uncles were always at it (contracting) and if I wasn’t in school, I was with them.” Matthew said.
Upon finishing school, the 25-year-old went straight home to Cardonagh, on a mission to prove his worth to his uncle’s team.
“I left school and did some contracting in the spring and summer with my two uncles. I slowly worked my way up and decided to start at it myself alongside Adrian.” said the contractor.
“I’m in 'Co' with my uncle now. That’s where the ‘A&M’ comes from, he’s Adrian and I’m Matthew.” Matthew explained.
Matthew has now been back and working alongside his uncle, Adrian, for what is approximately eight years and he truly couldn’t be happier. This is not the only involvement Matthew has with machinery either, as he also helps his uncle Victor out with turf-cutting duties during the early parts of the summer.
“I wouldn’t be doing what I am doing today if it wasn’t for them,” said Matthew of his uncle’s.
“My uncle does turf-cutting too at the start of the summer, so i usually drive for him before we start at silage.” he said.
The main core of A&M Agri Contracts as one may expect is Adrian and the main man himself, Matthew. They are also helped out during the busier summer season by Matthew's brother and another couple of drivers.
“It is mainly myself and Adrian and a couple of lads come in to help.” Matthew explained.
The list of services provided by the team is quite extensive. The focus the majority of their efforts of pit silage from start to finish, carrying out the mowing, raking, tedding and collection, while they also offer Power Harrowing, ploughing, Slurry, Dung Spreading, Bale haulage and stacking, hay and dump trailer work.
“We also do bale haulage, we have two double bale lifters and a 27-ft flatbed trailer.”
The team also offer land drainage services, reseeding and crop spraying, covering the whole of Inishowen area. The family had up until recently offered fencing services, usually hiring in an outside contractor. That was until a tragic accident in recent months, saw Kevin McElhinney lose his life.
“He was our main man. You would never meet a man like him. If it was snowing rain or hail, it didn’t matter to him he was go, go, go.” Matthew recalled.
“He was a really good friend of ours and a real gentleman,”
The team of A&M are currently operating with a fleet of four tractors and a Massey Ferguson 35 for ornamental and sentimental reasons.
“We run four tractors really.” said Matthew.
Tractors: Massey Ferguson 6475, New Holland TM155, Landini Legend 130, Fiat 880-6 2WD. Massey Ferguson 35.
Grass: Kverneland 4228 conditioner mower. Johnson Silage Trailer. Marshall silage Trailer. Deutz Fahr tedder. Kuhn Rake.
Others: 800 Litre sprayer. Abbey tanker 1,300-gallon, Abbey tanker 1,600 gallon. SlurryKat umbilical system. RedRock slurry mixer. Major Dung Spreader (side delivery). Kuhn Power Harrow. Kverneland 3 furrow plough (x2). Dump Trailers (x2). 27-ft flatbed trailer. McKenna Land Leveller. Hitachi digger - 10 Tonne. Two double bale lifters. 10ft buttrake.
“We used to have a Taarup 10x harvester and a JF900, but I got rid of them and I have a lad who lifts the grass for me.” Matthew explained.
“We also get another contractor to stitch in the grass for us.” said Matthew in regards to reseeding.
Future of A&M Agri Contracts -
In terms of the future, Matthew and his uncle Adrian are not ones to bite off more than they can chew and they are more than content with their current level of progress.
“We are basically just going to keep going. We aren’t planning on expanding too much.” Matthew said.
The main aim, as is always the case, is to continue providing a service to their long-standing customers that they are proud of, a core principle of A&M Agri Contracts.
“We are happy with where we are and our customers are happy with our service. We have customers with us since 1995 and they have shown no signs of wanting to change or leave.” said the contractor.
“We just try and offer them as good as service as we can.” he continued.
Matthew does hope to add a new tractor to the ranks over the coming twelve months, among other additions, and admits that the family won’t be abandoning the farming portion of their escapades in the coming years and will continue to keep both sheep and cattle.
“Hopefully in the next twelve months, we will have a fresh set of wheels on the street. Something with less hours and that’s a bit more comfortable for me to sit in” Matthew laughed.
Why Contracting -
Why does Matthew do what he does? Well for one, it’s firmly embedded into his DNA and flowing through his veins. For Agriculture, is all Matthew has ever known and all he ever wants to know.
“It’s just in my blood.” said Matthew.
“I have been around this my whole life and I honestly couldn’t see myself doing anything else.” he added.
Although Matthew admits there are some dark days, he says the good firmly outweigh the bad and the good days make it all the worthwhile.
“There is nothing better than it (contracting)...I’m very happy doing what I’m doing,” Matthew explained.
“There is just a draw to it, it’s an addiction. It’s like a drug,” he concluded.
Would you like to contact the team of A&M Agri or keep up-to-date with their contracting antics? You can do so via their official Facebook page here. Are you a contractor like Matthew or working behind the wheel for one? Fancy sharing your story and being featured in our weekly series? If this sounds like you, drop us an email on firstname.lastname@example.org with a short biography.