Donal Monaghan is a contractor and sheep farmer who shares a home with his wife Nessa and daughter Yasmine in Ballyvaughan Co. Clare, but does a lot of his business between there and the Claregalway area of Co.Galway, where he originally grew up.
However, this is no ordinary contractor, he is the ‘Grass Seed Man’.
Specialising in – you guessed it – re-seeding, ploughing to sow and supply of specialist seed, the 'Grass Seed Man' will take the farmer on a journey from initial soil testing right through to planting.
Donal’s business grew quite organically as he had initially bought machinery for personal use before providing his services elsewhere.
The fifty-two-year-old acquired his unusual moniker when people would call for his services and would initially ask “Are you the Grass Seed Man?”
When those close to Donal advised him to set up a business, he contemplated going by his Christian name, but the Grass Seed Man won out. “It was just one of those things that sit in your head” he smiled.
It all started when he was looking for specialist grass for sheep; short and dense. Wherever he went, he was being presented with the same mixes.
The Galwayman has some pedigree Texels and a commercial flock of Texel-cross-Suffolk sheep that he keeps on low lying ground, although he does have hillier grazing land in the Burren.
He ended up speaking with a seed company and asked them to make up a special mix for his own use and they were happy to oblige.
“I started getting my own mix for my farm that has very light ground rather than using the normal seed,” he explained.
Using his father Patrick’s tractor at first, Donal bought an Einböck grass seed harrow. As more people became more interested in the services of ‘The Grass Seed Man’, he decided to purchase a new Güttler GreenMaster three metre, two years ago.
Now nearly ten years in business, his main interest was with supplying farmers with specialised seeds for their farms and the contracting crept into that business very gradually.
It was through talking to other sheep farmers in the local area that Donal realised that there was a market for a more specialised seed mix.
Now, he mixes for farmers who want grass for silage, dairy farmers and other various uses.
“Last year we got into what they call ‘Species -6’ it’s ideal for sheep farmers for cutting down on worm problems and increasing lamb weight,” said the farmer. “Some dairy farmers use it too, it’s got chickaree and red clovers, grain and rye grasses, it’s great for the lambs,” he added.
Most of the farmers that Donal lays seed for would do the spraying themselves and on a rare occasion he might get in a sub-contractor, other than that, he does the entire job.
He will go out to assess the field and identify what the farmers want for their land and then suggest the correct mix for their soil type. Then he will go to the field with the Güttlerto spread it.
These days, Donal drives a New Holland T5105 and a Wobistal disk harrow, that he proudly purchased in Claremorris just three weeks ago. He also comes equipped with a plough, roller and leveller to re-seed any field to perfection.
The busiest time of year for seeding is from mid-April to mid-June and again from August to mid-September.
“In early April I tend to use ProNitro a lot - it’s a coated seed for using on damaged ground. I would use it again in August after the last cut of silage when I’m back in stitching” said the father of one.
Gleninagh Burren Lamb
A farmer would ‘stitch-in’ grass to forage going forward. “It’s for grass that would already be there, it wouldn’t have been burnt off or anything,” said Donal, “It increases quality and volume, we do a lot of that now, it would be a big thing”.
Donal is sub-contracted by DLF, where he enjoys meeting merchants and clients on a one-to-one basis, and the sheep are also keeping him busy. From lambing time, the ewes stay in Galway while the lambs go to the Burren in Co. Clare.
The Monaghan’s supply Gleninagh Burren Lamb direct to customers in a lamb-to-fork system. “We get them butchered in Kincarra or in Peterswell and the customer would come and collect them there,” said Donal, who said that they are completely grass fed and vaccine free.
The Grass Seed Man has a Green Cert from Teagasc in Tuam and has learned a lot over the years through attending meetings and events. He thoroughly enjoys meeting other farmers and is happy having gained invaluable experiences.
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Image source: Gleninaghh Burren Lamb \ Facebook