Valtra is one of the few mainstream tractor manufacturers whose roots lie beyond the typical farming remit as we know it here in Ireland and the UK, building tractors suited for use in forestry environments. Steel diesel tanks, high ground clearance, plated underbellies and factory-fitted reverse drive systems are all factors that position the Finnish brand ahead of the rest for work in such environments.

Valtra’s philosophy has always been to build a tractor suited for farm work in the summer and forestry work in the winter. Today, Valtra continues this heritage, offering customers the option of tailoring a tractor to their needs from the factory through its Unlimited studio.

This was the reason Cork man Noel Kelleher opted for the Nordic tractor brand. His Macroom-based company specialises in tree and site clearance operations.


Having grown up as one of three brothers on the home dairy farm, Noel was never afraid to diversify. In 1993, he bought his first McConnel hedge cutter in the hope of taking on some contract work.

Around the same time he spotted an opening to provide local poultry farmers a service of clearing the litter out of poultry sheds.

Fast forward 29 years, Noel now operates at a much larger scale, employing four full-time staff alongside himself and his son Evan. Site clearance/tree care account for a large proportion of the business.

Surprisingly, Noel still finds the time for his 50-cow spring-calving suckler herd as well as carrying 40 head of Angus heifers through to finishing annually.

As part of the land reclamation and site clearance, Noel runs two McConnel hedge cutters along with two diggers operating tree shears and mulchers.

“Work tends to be split almost evenly between private and contract. We work on a lot of site clearance jobs for the council. One of the bigger so far was clearing the route for the new Macroom bypass here in Cork.”

The T193 is fitted with an 8m double extension Botex crane.

Sourcing a tractor for the job

“In 2009 I decided to buy a wood chipper. There was none working around here at the time so I felt there was an opening to buy one. Although it was a substantial investment it was a good opportunity to expand the business.”

Noel said biomass had become a popular topic too, which was later quietened to an extent by the recession. However, he still gathered up quite a bit of work with local tree surgeons and private customers given the fact it was the only machine with such capacity nearby.

“I had decided on a Jenz HEM 360 mounted chipper but this was only half of the puzzle as I needed a suitable tractor to drive and feed it, something in the region of 200hp. Valtra straight away came to mind having seen a few with timber cranes. I thought this would have been the ideal combination for loading the chipper.

“The fact Valtra designs tractors for forestry applications left it pretty much in a league of its own. So, I priced a T191 from Paudy Buckley Tractors in forestry specification which added an extra €20,000 roughly to the price. This included the reverse drive option, belly plate, strengthened glass, glass roof and the steel diesel tank. I briefly looked into a reverse-drive Fendt but I couldn’t justify the price and the lack of forestry spec compared to what the Valtra offered.

Both tractors provide great visibility of the rear implement when in reverse drive working position.

“We did a deal with Buckleys and had the tractor delivered and then sent to Jas P Wilson Forest Machines in England to have an 8m Botex double extension crane fitted which took six weeks.”

The Botex crane works off two proportional joysticks positioned on the armrests in the cab. Noel outlined that once in reverse drive position, the visibility of the job in hand is very good. In 2015, he replaced his T191 for his current T193.

The T193 according to Noel now has just shy of 6,000 hours clocked up. He said that all it ever does is power and feed the chipper which he operates himself. The original Jenz chipper is still in use and has proved a great machine, he explained.

“The T193 has enough power but the blades need to be sharp. Aside from wearing parts such as blades and the shear-bar, its cost ownership has been low. I’ve refurbed the blower box and a few other components which is to be expected for a machine almost 13 years old,” Noel said.

Valtra T255

As part of the business, Noel runs a 13t and 21t Hitachi digger which mainly operate a tree shears and mulching head. However, with the workload increasing, Noel decided to invest in a Greentec stump grinder in 2020 to help expand his services. Like most mulchers and reclamation machinery, it is quite power hungry, requiring in excess of 200hp.

When buying the grinder, Noel had intended to buy a large forest mulcher in the not so distant future. This meant he needed to buy a tractor for the task.

“The comfort and suitability of the T193 left it almost impossible to go back to consider a standard tractor. I can’t fault the Valtras for reliability or performance. I was also recommended to buy a tractor with a CVT if going down the route of a large mulcher, given the precise control of transmission speed.

“I went with a new T255 Versu in the full forestry specification with heavy-duty rims and the reverse drive option again. It’s only been here since May but it’s proved a serious machine to run the stump grinder. The reverse drive is a great comfort for this type of work and saves any neck strain not having to constantly look backwards,” he said.

Noel outlined that the cab in the new T series is much more spacious and comfortable than the T193. However, the large armrest and terminal leave entry in reverse drive position somewhat harder than it is in the T193.

Noel and Evan Kelleher.

Noel’s tractor fleet also includes a Valtra T163, New Holland T7060, TM155 and a TM120.

Since the arrival of the stump grinder, he has bought a FEA forestry mulcher from George Murphy in Ferns which he expects should arrive in January. Once the mulcher arrives, Noel said the T255’s sole purpose will be to power it and the stump grinder.

“Investing in the stump grinder has brought on a lot of new work and I expect the forestry tiller to do similar given the ongoing issue with ash dieback. We have already a few jobs lined up for it. What it’s capable of doing is impressive.”

Fleet profile

  • 2022 Valtra T255 Versu.
  • 2015 Valtra T193.
  • 2014 Valtra T163.
  • New Holland T7060.
  • New Holland TM155.
  • New Holland TM120.
  • 2009 Jenz HEM 360 mounted chipper.
  • 2020 Greentec stump grinder.
  • Hitachi Zaxis 130.
  • Hitachi Zaxis 210.