O’Donovan Engineering is synonymous with livestock handling equipment and are a well-liked family brand that you will come across on farms all around the country and indeed, the world.
Emerging from a small farm in Coachford, Co.Cork, Deirdre is the daughter of the company founders, Damien and Marion, who, in the seventies were farmers.
“My dad was always tinkering away and making bits and pieces for the farm,” she told That's Farming.
People would often approach Damien and ask him to create something for their own farms and so he decided to make a business out of it. In 1978, the Cork couple put the idea into action.
As the company grew, there became less time for the farm and Damien eventually had to part with it.
He wasn’t a formally trained engineer; however, he possessed imagination, drive and an ability to see things differently - all qualities needed for an innovative enterprise such as this.
His wife Marion proved to be an ideal partner in the business. She had previously worked in a bank and she began the daily running of the operation.
“They make a great team,” smiled Deirdre, “you have the crazy inventor on one side and the logical one on the other so I think that they suit each other really well”.
Deirdre recalled that there would always be a number of staff sitting around the kitchen table at home.
"It was like an old farm, you’d go in for lunch at the middle of the day and all the lads would be in for the cup of tea”.
The O’Donovan’s home is located directly beside the business as this is where Damien first started creating his products.
“We had a great upbringing, seeing such hard and loyal workers,” said Deirdre, who explained that some of their current staff members have been with O’Donovans Engineering since the company’s inception back in 1978.
“They’ve been here since before I was born” laughed Deirdre. Her uncle Dermot has been the sales director for many years but she made sure to mention all the staff who have stayed with the company throughout her lifetime.
Her brother Damien is also highly involved in the business as the technical sales manager, working with R&D and suppliers developing products for the agri-tech sector.
Fifty people are currently employed by the company that encompasses many different departments. This is a rural firm that can face the challenge of having to choose staff from a smaller pool of people.
However, instead of seeing this as a negative, the entrepreneurial spirit of Deirdre’s parents shines through. “It actually suits us ideally. A lot of our guys are farmers themselves so they understand the sector and they know the needs of the customer”.
It is clearly an advantage to have the customer base working with the creative team, as people are able to speak up and voice an opinion on what is needed or could be added to a product.
This is a customer-driven business and they rely on the feedback that they receive from farmers to provide the utmost quality and reliability that is needed for a quality product.
“It’s great, it isn’t all down to one person to innovate, we try to promote a culture of innovation throughout the company,” explained Deirdre.
The engineering company has it’s own research and development farm, and to have animals back again is a great joy for Damien Snr.
“We have pedigree Herefords and Aberdeen Angus so he is a happy man now,” said Deirdre.
It is on this farm where products are trialled and developed. They are installed on the farm and extensively tested for a couple of seasons before being manufactured.
There is a closed circuit camera system in operation throughout the farm so the engineers can see how everything is interacting, both during calving season or other times of the year.
One of their most notable creations is the ‘Cowpow’ - a moving feed rail that allows a farmer to fill the back of the barrier with as much as three days feed and as the silage gets pushed farther away, the cows themselves can push the rail along to assist their reach, so the farmer doesn’t need to go in and fork the feed to the animals.
This product has been a huge success over the past 25 years after being launched on the Late Late Show all those years ago.
The company continues to be a prolific employer in Cork and the family are working to continue its growth and success into the future.
The award-winning firm is celebrating forty years in business by holding an open day on Friday, July 19th, from 3 pm – 9 pm.
For more information, click here
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