Originally from Co. Laois, contractor Shaun Saunders moved with his parents Robert and Mary and his three sisters to Co. Roscommon when he was eight-years-old. He has grown up in an area between Ballahadereen, Castlerea and Charlestown where he owns and operates Saunders Agri.
“My parents were running a farm in Laois before they moved to Roscommon; they continued suckler farming here in the West and they keep bullocks and beef cattle with calves," Shaun told Marcella Connolly - That's Farming.
He has always liked farming and he intends to complete the Green Cert very soon, before taking up a partnership with his father. The thirty-year-old was never a stranger to machinery as Shaun’s uncle used to work with Robert doing pit silage for many years.
There was always machinery around the yard in Laois, and as soon as he was old enough, Shaun worked with a neighbour who also operated as a contractor.
“I used to be up and down to an uncle in Laois with his machines helping him out. The edge was always there to get going on my own,” he said.
Shaun stated that contracting was always in his blood and when he was 17 or 18, he and his father bought a small 90hp Case that was capable of mowing and providing slurry services, “I progressed from there really”.
When he decided that it was time for an upgrade, he traded his Case in for a Fiat 190. He bought his first baler in 2006 and eventually took the plunge and bought a new Case IH MXU115.
The contractor provides several services including; baling and wrapping, mowing, slurry, hedge cutting and turf cutting.
“We have a Hitachi 120 track machine with a hedge cutter on it and we do land work and load turf with it as well,” he said.
His slurry tank has an umbilical system and dribble bar to cut down on emissions; however, that may have to be upgraded again shortly as new regulations have changed.
“I only bought a dribble bar because it met all the specifications at the time, but now they’re talking of getting rid of it,” said Shaun, who thinks that with the typical ground surface in the west, it might be more difficult to use a trailing shoe, but if that’s what is required, then that is what he will get.
It was a very good year for crops and contractors this year, with plenty of rain, sun and growth. Luckily, Shaun’s father works with him during busier times and Jason Kilkenny has also joined them for the past three or four years.
Keeping it in the family, Shaun’s cousin Fergal Tynan is always on hand with his tractor to help out during the summer months.
The contractor enjoys working with the mower and he bought a new 10ft Krone mower with a grouper last year. Jason is permitted to operate his McHale Fusion baler, while Shaun will usually take the standard McHale 5500.
In the years since the contractor started, his fleet of tractors has grown to include; three Cases and a New Holland. However, there is a special farm tractor that nobody can drive – an International 885 “That’s my father’s and it’s his pride and joy, nobody else is allowed to drive it in case they break it,” smiled Shaun.
Shaun helps his father on the home farm when he is not too busy and together, they make a good team.
The contracting business is going strong and Shaun insists “We’ll try and hold down the work that we have at the moment anyway, we’ll aim to build on it a little and hopefully we’ll be able to expand into more of the farming side of things”.
He plans to keep providing the best service that he can to his customers and continue forging strong relationships with them.
The young contractor notes that he has hopes for an upturn in the beef sector because if the industry continues its current decline, he is afraid that the outlook is very bleak. “To buy any land at the moment is very difficult because the cattle aren’t paying for it, it’s just hard to see any future in it.”
Shaun is a big rugby fan and he plays with Ballyhaunis Rugby Club in Co. Mayo. "Everyone needs something to take their mind off things for a while and unwind," he commented.
His future in suckler farming might be uncertain at the minute; however, his home life is moving forward, with a big change on the way – he is expecting his first baby in November with his girlfriend Aisling, who is a nurse in Kilkenny.
“We’re all very excited for the new adventure and everything that it will bring,” concluded Shaun.
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