In the heartland of Ireland’s southeast, and the townland of Muckalee, Co. Kilkenny, Tom Nolan lives with his wife Louise and his daughters Eva and Lily.
Having a background in suckler farming, tillage and contracting were not at the forefront of Tom’s mind until he was twenty years old and his parent’s farmyard needed some building work.
It was then that Tom decided to make his first big purchase of a Caterpillar 312.
As time progressed, he started to draw more work locally for neighbours and nearby farmers, which then prompted him to start baling and wrapping in 2008.
As further offers for work came in, Tom started agitating and spreading slurry and in 2015, he added making pit silage to his list of services.
Tom receives strong support from his family as his dad Richard does the majority the raking and some mowing for the business. “Dad would be raking up to 2,000 acres a year,” said Tom, “It keeps him busy for the summer anyway” he joked.
His brother Michael works off-farm as an engineer but he will operate machinery for the contractor on the evenings and weekends during the busier periods.
There are occasions where Tom will pair up with another contractor – Stephen Brennan, who is located in Ballyfoyle, in order to complete certain jobs.
The collaboration started when they both had extra work in baling, so they merged forces and worked together. The pair do pit silage together, even though both men have their own separate contracting businesses.
The thirty-four-year-old has upgraded his digger since 2004 and during the winter months, he uses it for construction work, building slatted tanks and sheds. There is occasional domestic construction work too.
Tom has the choice of five New Holland tractors to work with, that he purchased from Mike Garahy in Birr, Co. Offaly. “I started out with New Holland and that’s why I’ve stuck with them, they don’t give any trouble and I know them fairly well,” said Tom.
“I bought a tractor from Mike Garahy, the back-up and the service he gives is great, no matter what is wrong with the tractor, he’ll be able to tell you how to fix it over the phone”.
Although he has the choice of five, Tom’s top pick is his P7210. The Kilkenny man also has the choice of two McHale balers, one being a Fusion, that he bought to replace his old Welger baler. “It’s very handy that one tractor can do baling and wrapping, but when it’s busy, two balers is probably not enough,” he noted.
Mowing would top Tom’s list of favourite jobs, due to the fact that there is no distraction by other tractors working on the field and there are no obstructions to manoeuvre around. “With the mower, you can just get on and do your own thing,” he explained.
“Last year I bought a new McHales front mower so now I’m running the double mower, together with the single mower on another tractor and they will just flatten the field in no time”.
When he works on pit silage, Nolan Contracting uses a Pöttinger silage wagon and a JCB 414S loader. Due to the good grass quality, the pits have been somewhat higher this year but the JCB can make light work of it.
Tom said that he would find it difficult to start as a contractor now as machinery prices have soared while the contracting rates have stayed largely the same. “I’m lucky that I have some work behind me now, so I can upgrade machinery, but I would have struggled if I was just starting out,” said Tom.
EmissionsNolan Contracting has an umbilical slurry tank with a trailing shoe, that he is witnessing a growing demand for over the past couple of seasons. This will take up most of his spring as farmers are becoming more aware of farm emissions and are open to new technology.
The father of two also has a farm where he finishes approximately thirty beef cattle every year, and as such, he can empathise with smaller suckler farmers who find it too expensive to use the umbilical system.
“It works out cheaper than a tanker, but it’s difficult to explain that,” said Tom, “It seems to be dairy farmers that are using it most at the moment”.
He predicts that there will be a very busy slurry season ahead of him this coming spring as he has noticed that both the government and in turn, farmers are becoming further aware of their emissions and the consequences of climate change.
Tom is working hard at harvest at the moment, and the purchase of the new tanker shows that he is prepared for a busy spring, it's important to stay ahead in business and Tom is certainly moving in the right direction.