Born and raised in Aughafad near Fintona in Tyrone county, Shane Sweeney was always destined for a future behind the wheel. In fact, the 19-year-old has been working behind the wheel under his own name for three years this year.
“I’m based near Fintona in Co. Tyrone,” Shane explained to That’sFarming’s Kevin.
“I’m 19 and I started contracting when I was 16.” he added.
He gained the love for all things agricultural related from his grandfather, Michael McCarroll, whom Shane helped on the family farm on numerous occasions during his younger years. His grandfather runs his own herd of approximately 40 cattle, 10 of which are Pedigree Simmentals adn the rest are calves and stores.
“I always worked on the farm with my grandfather.” Shane noted.
“He has about 40 head of cattle...He taught me everything I know.” The Tyrone man continued.
The family never actually showed their cattle, instead focusing on breeding, rearing and selling any bulls as breeding bulls.
“We never bothered showing them, just raised them and sold them on.” said the young farmer.
“We sell on bulls to other farmers as well...We still have the same amount of livestock, all Pedigree Simmentals.”
Shane’s grandfather actually dabbled in the contracting himself back in the day and he is quite possibly the reason why Shane had to urge to get involved in the industry.
“When he was younger he did a lot of square baling, for family members and that.” Shane explained.
“He’s the man that got me into square baling.” Shane adds.
Shane’s journey -
For Shane, his true journey into the world began upon the purchase of his first round baler, a John Deere 575 chopper, which he bought after his second last year in school.
“I bought my first baler in 2016 and it all kind of all took off from then.” Shane said.
This led to the Tyrone man offering baled silage work for local farmers in the area, though this was not just a random leap into the industry as Shane had previously tried his hand at silage whilst working for neighbouring contractors. As a youngster, he also operated the family’s own wrapper, wrapping their own silage.
“I worked with other contractors, helping them out with baled silage, a few years beforehand to get the experience.” The Contractor told Kevin Forde of That’sFarming.
“I just always wanted to go contracting from a young age.” He continued.
The Fintona man gradually built-up and added to his fleet, allowing him to expand on the list of services provided. He has now been working on his own right for what is three years this year and he couldn’t be happier. The first tractor he ever purchased was a Valtra 8150.
“That was my first tractor. I was 17 when I bought it.” Shane said of the Valtra 8150.
In Shane's first two years of business, he purchased a John Deere 3050, which enabled him to offer baling and slurry services. Now, Shane currently splits his time between contracting and a job outside of contracting, with a local structural steel company. He aims to someday have enough work on the rota to ensure he can fulfill his dream of driving on a full-time basis.
“Hopefully in the next couple of years, we will have the pipe system going and be able to go full-time.” Shane stated.
At the moment, Shane carries out operations alongside another contractor in the area, with Shane helping him with slurry duties and his fellow contractor helping Shane out with baling work.
Shane also hires in another regular driver during the busy summer period to help keep things moving. Although 75-years-old, his grandfather is still going strong to this day and even helps the team out during the hectic season.
“My grandfather also helps out when needed.” said the contractor.
Service-wise, the main focus of Shane’s work is baling and wrapping services. In fact, the 19-year-old is one of the only contractors in the region who can offer small bale making and wrapping services. He usually makes up to 7,000 bales each year, 4,000 of which he produces himself for sale.
“I am the only person in my part of the world that does small baling, especially the haylage.” He said.
The team also offer slurry spreading, fertiliser spreading and reseeding services. Other services provided include mulching, power harrowing, post-driving and dump-trailer work, whilst they also offer tractor hire too.
“We do a bit of dump trailer work, a lot of hay and haylage as well.” Shane said.
“I do any sort of tractor hire as well, where I will come with a tractor and a man...I help out a lot of other contractors drawing silage during summer too.” he continued.
The team of Sweeney Contracts cover distances up to 15-miles within the locality, though if the job is right they will make longer journeys and they have done many times in the past.
Shane is currently working with a fleet of three tractors at the minute, with further tractors hired in when needed.
“The lad I hire in normally has a John Deere 6610 or a Massey.” Shane noted.
Tractors: Case MXM 140, Ford 7610, New Holland 8340.
Grass: Lely Welger 235 Profi baler, John Deere 1360 (hired in), Kverneland T8 satellite wrapper, Kuhn Twin disc spreader. New Holland 376 small hay baler. Claas 20ft Rake.
Others: Redrock 1,600 gallon slurry tanker. Dump Trailers (Hired in - usually 16-tonne), Power Harrow (Hired in).
“The machinery I have at the moment are nothing fancy.” Shane admitted.
“But, I wouldn’t be a man for finance and whatever I have is my own.”
Future of Sweeney Contracts -
Not one to rest on his impressive success in three short years of business, the main aims for Shane and Sweeney Contracts is the consolidation of the work gained thus far and improving the business in any way possible.
Shane admits that his fleet is not the biggest at the minute, though he does have big plans to make some new additions over the course of 2019. The first item on the agenda is a new wrapper, with Shane undecided between a Tanco or a McHale.
“Hopefully, before this season starts we will buy a new Tanco or McHale wrapper...It’s not a definite yet, but it’s in the pipeline,” said the contractor.
Next, he will look into getting an umbilical slurry spreading system, an enterprise bound to increase business. Shane will also look into adding a 6-rotor tedder at some stage down the line and has recently added a 20ft rake to the fleet.
“I plan in the future to get a pipe system and maybe a silage wagon.” He said.
“I have already bought a lot of equipment for next year, but a lot of it is hay equipment...There is possibly another 276 (hay baler) on the way,” said Shane.
Otherwise, Shane will continue what he does best, providing a service to be proud of and keeping his customers happy.
“The main thing is to keep the customers happy, provide a good job at a good price.” Shane states.
Why Shane loves what he does -
Addicted to machinery and proud of a job well done, Shane was always destined for a career in contracting. To him, it is not a career but the way he lives his life and he genuinely wouldn’t trade it for any other career.
“There is just something about it. I would never quit it.” Shane admits.
“I just have a love for contracting and machinery as well, I don’t know why.” He concluded.
Although only three years into business, the progress made by Shane and Sweeney Contracts is certainly impressive. If he has his way, he will continue this progression for many more years to come, under the watchful eye of his proud grandfather, Michael.
If you would like to contact the team of Sweeney Contracts or follow their journey, you can do so via their Facebook page here.
Are you a contractor or working behind the wheel for one? Fancy sharing your story and being featured on our weekly series like Shane? If so, contact Kevin at firstname.lastname@example.org