Catherine herself hails from the Shannon Harbour in Co. Offaly, but marriage to her husband William has her now residing in neighbouring parish of Ferbane.
Catherine Farrell comes from a deep farming background, with her parents having a Simmental herd. Having completed her Green Cert from Mountbellew Agricultural College and a degree in Agri-Business from GMIT she has taken to the breed herself establishing her own “Heather-View” Simmental herd of pedigree cows. Catherine is a qualified cattle judge with the Irish Simmental cattle society and judges at shows and sales throughout the country in her spare time. She also just so happens to dabble in the contracting game.
Catherine married into the contractor game and into a family with a deep history in the profession. Her husband, his brothers and his father, Padraig, all work together for P Farrell and Sons, which has been in operation since the early 70's.
“Padraig has been doing it pretty much all his life and now he’s in his 70’s and showing no signs of slowing down”, Catherine informed us.
During the peak silage season, the team is made of up to 12 people, some of which are seasonal staff. The group mainly consists of William, his father Padraig and brothers, Declan and Joseph, as well as Catherine.
They carry out every and any task a contractor may be employed to do, whether that be pit silage, making bales, slurry, dung spreading, spraying, groundworks, and even hedge cutting. Baling duties are usually carried out by William, with between 18,000 to 20,000 bales made this year.
“He would make between 18-20,000 bales a year...He’s a busy man, I become a silage widow”, Catherine chuckled.
They have recently upgraded some of their machinery, buying a brand new New Holland Harvester FR600 in 2015 and a new Volvo L90G the year previous. This summer the team covered approximately 2000-2500 acres, during pit silage harvesting.
The team also run two “Big M” mowers, M1 and M2 as well as a range of top spec New Holland tractors, T7’s and TM’s. On the baling side, the team run two McHale fusion balers and a Claas 2900, 2600 and a Krone761 rakes at the moment, keeping them very busy.
“On top of that there is slurry spreading, hedge cutting, dung spreading, digger and ground works and the lads also have a concrete plant. They supply concrete and scaffolding for sheds”, she said.
“Increase the Simmentals”, jokes Catherine when asked about future plans.
She said the main aim, as it always is, is to maintain the customer base which has served them so well. She said the team always look to keep up with the latest emerging technologies in the industry and have recently even purchased a new slurry tanker, rake and hedge cutter.
“Keeping ahead and being able to compete and provide that top service for the customer is always the aim”, said Catherine. “There’s always new technology you have to move with it and keep on top of it”, she adds
One of the only, and perhaps the biggest challenge facing the company is margins.
“The margins are so tight. All of the advances in new machinery and costs and the expectancy to have a top of the range fleet, it leaves the margins very tight.” she said.
She said these margins have become even tighter, with prices customers paid staying the same and the expectancy of customers to have the latest innovative machinery working on their farms.
“The outgoings are getting higher with fuel and all of that, but you’re getting the same price all of the time, or even less!”, she added.
Why they do what they do:
The team do what they do as it’s all they know how. The Farrell’s have been born and bred machinery men, with their father going for over 40 years.
“It’s really part of their DNA and bred into the family. The sons have all followed suit in their father’s footsteps”, she says.
“They are so well known and respected in the area, that they literally know nothing else” she exclaims.
When questioned as to what is the strangest happening, Catherine simply laughed before recounting the summer where she had to go out on the tractor and turn her own hay and have her brother bale is as her husband was too busy.
“I have ended up having to turn hay myself”, she chuckles, “It does get very very busy during the summer, there would be a lot on. If you have a spare hour during the day you could be called on to do anything or go anywhere”, she said.
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