Based approximately 15-minutes outside of Athlone, but on the Offaly side of the border, O’Shea Agri Contractors are what the game is all about.
How it all Began -
A true family-run operation, they have been in business for a long time now and Michael is the son of Kieran O’Shea, the man who started it all.
“My dad was the one who started the contracting, a good few years now,”, Michael explained.
“He started off with a square baler and he bought his first round baler in 1991 and he has been round baling ever since then,”, Michael continued.
Kieran actually began his contracting adventure at the age of 19 or 20, having left school at a young age. His real first foray with the industry, was when he purchased a mowing bar and began mowing on neighbouring farms.
“Then he bought the square baler and a haybob and that took off from there. He made a good few square bales in his time”, said Michael.
The family also keep a 60-acre holding with approximately 20 Suckler cows, varying in breed from Limousin, to Charolais and, with a Limousine bull on the farm for breeding. The family recently began buying suck calves in a new farming venture, with forty bought over a two-year period, for sale in local marts as weanlings.
“We have enough to be kept on our toes the whole time”, Michael laughed.
Michael himself, aged 21, was always destined to follow in his father’s footsteps and left school with Pallaskenry his next destination. This was the next step in his long-term plan to return home and here he studied Agricultural Mechanics.
Life though sometimes has other plans and for Michael life pointed him home, whilst out on work placement.
“I went out on my work placement with WR Shaw in Tullamore and after that I never went back to finish it (the degree) out. We were too busy at home”, Michael said.
“I have been at home ever since and the last year I have been full-time”, he adds.
The team generally consists of Kieran, Michael and his younger brother Darragh, making them a real family-run operation. Darragh is also the man responsible for the video production duties, recording and producing content for the family’s Facebook and Youtube pages. (See video at bottom of article).
“Darragh is 16 now. He was wrapping last year and we have him on the baler and mower now this year”, Michael explained.
Keeping it in the family, the O’Shea’s draw on the help on nearby cousins to work during the evenings when the busy season begins.
“They (Cousins) would be with us every evening and at the weekends, but between the three of us we would be able to do the most of it,”, he said.
“We have another lad there that comes wrapping whenever we are stuck”, he continued.
Michael, having studied agri-mechanics for a period, helps out with the servicing of machinery when needed, as does his father.
“I learned a good bit in Shaw's and the course. Between myself and dad we get ourselves out of bother and keep us going,”, Michael stated.
Service-wise, the O’shea’s complete the full baling service, from mowing to baling and wrapping. They also spread slurry, carry out tillage work such as grassland reseeding and even hedgecutting.
“We do a bit of tillage work, Reseeding and that. It would be all grass though. We also do some of the GLAS requirements, wild bird cover and that”, Michael told That’sFarming’s Kevin.
Weapons of Choice -
Machinery-wise, the O’Sheas currently have four tractors in their fleet, varying in make and model.
“What we have no has no frills, but it does the job,”, Michael said of their fleet.
Tractors - New Holland 8260, Massey Ferguson 4260, Massey Ferguson 399, Ford 7610.
Grass - Class 255 baler, Class 254 baler, Conor Wrapper. John Deere 1365 mower, Kuhn 8ft mower plus a fold up mower for busier periods. Two rotavators. Three-furrow plough. Lely 600 tedder.
Slurry - Belmac 2250 + Belmac agitator.
Hedgecutting - McConnell PA93.
“We did up the Ford a few years ago, we resprayed it and the whole lot. We then did up the 399 the winter gone by”, the contractor said.
Michael says the hedgecutting side of things ensures there is work all-year round.
“We are busy enough with the hedgecutting. We probably do the most work in that, than any other outfit around,”, he said.
“There are plenty of other lads at it (contracting) around us, but we just keep doing what we’re doing,”, he added.
What does the future hold for O’Shea Agri -
Not ones to splurge any income on top-of-the-range machinery, the O’Shea’s are quite content with how things are gradually progressing.
The only major plan for the coming years might be some minor upgrades, such as purchasing a new hedge-cutter or the upgrade of a tractor or baler.
“We bought that in 2003 and that has seen a lot of ditches now. We are due an upgrade next year hopefully”, Michael noted.
“At the end of the year, we might look at upgrading a tractor or baler or something...Or maybe a rake as well,”, he continued.
Otherwise, the O’Shea’s will aim to continue providing that much-loved service to their loyal customer base, which has served them well thus far.
Why they do what they do -
If Michael has his way, the O’Shea’s will be involved in contracting until the end of his days. Michael does what he does, to continue the proud tradition his father created on his own and will work hard to ensure his hard work was not in vain, not that Kieran is handing over the reins anytime soon.
“My father started it himself from the ground up...He worked hard for years and if I take over in a few years time, I’ll be taking over something he worked hard form”, he said.
“I would never like to let it go...after all the hard work he put into it...He isn’t gone yet and won’t be for another good few years anyway...He’s the boss,”, Michael laughed.
Deeply embedded into his DNA, it was never a case of ‘If’ Michael went into contracting, but rather ‘when’. Doing what he loves most in life, Michael is well and truly living his dream, with family pride driving him forward.
You can visit the O’Shea Facebook page here.
Video below - Filmed by Darragh O’Shea.