Gold success in Punchestown for McHale brothers
Peter Thomas Keaveney sat down with brothers Padraic and Martin McHale, who picked up the prestigious FTMTA gold award at the show last week.

From time to time the FTMTA executive council presents a gold award to a person who has given a long or outstanding service to the association or the agricultural machinery industry.

This award is open to all working FTMTA member firms and its staff.

The Irish Farmers Journal sat down with recent recipients the McHale brothers to discuss their road to success.

Humble beginnings

McHale was founded by Padraic and Martin McHale in the mid 1980s.

Before Padraic started manufacturing, he sold used tractors and machinery from 1976.

He was later joined in this business by his younger brother Martin. Coming from a farming background and a family of 15, the brothers knew the value of hard work.

The manufacturing company evolved from a farm machinery retail outlet that is still in existence today.

During the summer of 1982 the McHale brothers built a Silage Block Cutter and the following winter tested it on the home farm while refining it.

The brothers explained how this background was an excellent foundation for the design and manufacture of farm machinery, simply due to its direct contact with the end user.

The brothers decided to get into manufacturing when they saw a gap in the market for machinery to cut pit silage in the west of Ireland.

The following year the brothers started to manufacture and sell their blockcutters locally

At the time, imported machines found it hard to deal with the long grass in the area. As a result the brothers opted to design a machine they felt would do a better job.

During the summer of 1982 they built a silage block cutter and the following winter tested it on the home farm while refining it.

The first product was a Silomac blockcutter. A range of slurry pumping equipment followed this.

The following year the brothers started to manufacture and sell their blockcutters locally.

Later, Martin began to establish a dealer network around Ireland and after this appointed dealers in Scotland and the UK.

Martin McHale with one of the early bale wrappers.

One of the first more unusual markets was Iceland.

In the early days Padraic looked after product design and manufacturing while Martin looked after sales and marketing.

Although the business has grown substantially since, both brothers are still actively involved in the business and still manage these areas.

In 1987, McHale manufactured its first round bale wrapper and a few years later in 1989 made a conscious decision to specialise in this area and grow the company through market development.

In 1987, McHale manufactured its first round bale wrapper.

Martin then travelled to the UK and began to develop a dealer network.

Today this network consists of 70 dealers, many of whom have been working with McHale for over 30 years.

Establishment of the McHale brand

Martin explained that, “in 1989 or 1990 before the first Smithfield show we had some concern about how Silomac would translate as it moved into export markets.

As a result, we decided to rebrand the range under the McHale name.”

Outside the UK, one of the first exports markets actively targeted was Australia in 1994.

Martin said: “Australia was a good move for us. The grass season in Australia started in August or September each year when the European season was coming to a close. As a result, we could keep the factory busy all year round. In addition, for a company of our size at the time all our promotional material could be used as the language was the same. Today we still follow the grass season around the world and when the season finishes in the northern hemisphere we do good business in Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Japan, China, South Africa and Chile.”

In 1995, Martin took the McHale name to Europe when he participated at the Agritechnica Show in Hanover in Germany

In the mid 1990s McHale started working on a range of square bale wrappers for field and static wrapping, unveiling the 995 linkage and trailed square bale wrappers and later the high-output 998.

In 1995, Martin took the McHale name to Europe when he participated at the Agritechnica Show in Hanover in Germany and sought distributors across Europe.

McHale achieved ISO certification for its quality standards in 1997 and also received numerous company awards for export and performance including the AIB export award and the Wang export company award.

New factory

By 1999, the company was shipping to 25 countries. To keep up with demand, McHale relocated from its home in Kilmaine and moved seven miles over the road to a 20ac greenfield site in Ballinrobe, building a 100,000 square foot manufacturing plant.

A new research and development department was later constructed.

Aerial view of the McHale Manufacturing Facility in Ballinrobe.

This is still run by Padraic and a number of key engineers who have been with the company since the R&D function was formally established in 1994.

Today, over 10% of the Mayo workforce are involved in new product development.

Over the years the plant has expanded and is now 320,000 square feet (8ac of roofed area).

Birth of the Fusion

By the turn of the century, many contractors had started to tow wrappers after their balers so that both jobs could be done with one tractor and one man.

The McHale brothers saw a niche in the market.

At this stage, the brothers had 20 years’ experience with manufacturing bale wrappers and selling balers in the harsh west of Ireland conditions, often described by other European manufacturers as the most challenging in Europe due to the difficult ground conditions and the heavy rainfall.

The McHale brothers harnessed their knowledge across their dealer network as most dealers also sold some brand of baler.

The brothers explained that when they put all the information together it became clear that the market wanted a more reliable heavy-duty baler with stronger shafts, rollers, bearings and heavier chains.

Padraic said: “Down through the years we have always got great support and feedback from both our Irish dealers and customers in relation to product development and testing. This provided us with a solid foundation for the development of products which could compete on a world stage.”

Unlike a lot of other players in the market, McHale did not have a baler to start with so it was not blinded by any traditional concept.

As a result, the team developed an integrated baler wrapper, which split like a clamshell where the lower section of the bale chamber transferred the bale.

This machine was unique in that it had a vertical wrapping ring instead of the more traditional twin-rotating dispenser formation.

When combined, the patented bale transfer and vertical wrapper ring resulted in a machine that could deliver up to 15% more output from a more compact machine.

This was highlighted when the McHale design team received the prestigious Royal Agricultural Society of England’s (RASE) Gold Medal at the 2005 Royal Show.

Padraic and Martina McHale with key members of the McHale R&D Team, James Heaney, Donal Collins, Patsy O’Connor and Gerry Sheridan accept the RASE Gold medal at the Royal Show.

The RASE machinery awards are unique in that they are based on a rigorous examination of machine performance by agri-contractors and farmers. These judges chose the McHale Fusion Integrated Baler Wrapper for its economy of operation, compact dimensions, its ability to work well on sloping land, high output and the company reputation.

Padraic said: “When the integrated baler wrapper was developed we described the concept to our dealer network and asked them to come up with a name and offered a trip to Ireland as a prize. Our importer in Greece came up with the Fusion name. Over time we have developed a strong brand around this name”.

Fixed chamber baler

In 2005, the company launched a standard fixed chamber baler.

The brothers explained that this machine was designed as a direct result of customer demand. They noted that the baler used 85% of the components used in the Fusion.

In 2009, the company launched the V660 variable chamber or belt baler which was targeted at drier climates

Due to its success, in 2007 a non-chopper baler, the F540, and a fully automatic baler, the F560, were also added to the range.

Over the years, the models have been superseded by the latest models in the fixed chamber baler range, namely the F5400, F5500, F5600 and F5600 Plus.

In 2009, the company launched the V660 variable chamber or belt baler which was targeted at drier climates around the world where there was demand for larger bales.

Today, McHale offers a total of nine balers in it range. This comprises three balers in the Fusion integrated range, four balers in the F5000 fixed chamber range and two balers in the V6 variable chamber range.

Fusion 3 Plus launched in 2013 – Innovative film binding results in better silage quality and easier to feed out bales.

In 2015 McHale widened its grass line range to include its Pro Glide range of front, rear and combination mowers.

The brothers explained that all mowers in the range have a number of key patents.

Pro Glide front and rear mower working on the factory test plot in Ballinrobe in 2015.

At the 2017 Irish Ploughing Championships McHale unveiled two models in its centre delivery rake range – the R62-72 & R68-78.

The McHale story is one of two brothers taking a voyage from humble beginnings and building a team helping to achieve worldwide commercial success.

Today, the company is one of the largest employers in the region, with exports accounting for 90% of sales.

Their products can be seen working in 55 countries around the world.

McHale sales team for the Agritechnica Show in Hanover 2017.

The brothers noted that their success can be attributed to the company’s philosophy of specialisation, intensive testing/product development with end users and a commitment to investing in research and development and the latest production technologies

Padraic emphasised that McHale is a team: “Many of the people have been with myself and Martin for between 15 and 30 years. As the business has grown these people have taken on new challenges, developed new ideas and grown the business. This team has been fundamental to our success and I would like to thank them for their continued hard work, support and commitment.”

“We are constantly looking for people to grow the team and have a number of exciting vacancies on our website which we need to fill over the coming months.”

McHale will be at the Agri Careers Expo in the RDS on 14 February.

Grimme fairytale: four-row doubles throughput and halves diesel usage
Peter Thomas Keaveney took a trip to Headfort Farm in Co Meath to catch up with the Sheridans, who recently made the move to a four-row Grimme potato planter.

Planting between 350 and 400 acres of potatoes each year means the Sheridan family need to run an efficient high-throughput system when it comes to planting potatoes.

When planting, the Sheridans aspire to plant every bit of ground they prepare on the day.

This means the same ground is ridged, bed-tilled, destoned and planted in the one working day, with the ridging usually taking place no more than an hour ahead of the planting.

The Grimme four row potato planter has an output of around 25-30 acres per day.

Up to this year, the Sheridans, based in Co Meath, were running a 2017 Grimme two-row potato planter. In order for the two-row planter to keep up with the other machines preparing the ground, it had to be operated from early in the morning, through lunch and late into the evening. Cousins Noel and Mark Sheridan both agreed the two-row planter was definitely the weakest link in their planting operation. This led to the leap from the two-row machine to a four-row machine.

Noel and Mark Sheridan

Four-row planter

After carrying out some research on a four-row planter, the Sheridans soon found out there was only one four-row planter working in the country up to last year. The cousins said they were a little nervous as it was a big move but it has paid dividends.

The new four-row planter has brought many benefits. From a labour perspective, the move from two rows to four rows means the planter operator has time to load the planter with seed, rather than requiring an additional telehandler operator. This frees up Noel or Mark around planting time, an important factor at a busy time on farm.

60% less diesel

The four-row is being operated on the same tractor (John Deere 6175R) as the previous two-row machine. The move to the bigger planter has cut diesel consumption by about 60%, explained Mark. This is because the system used in the previous two-row machine had the fertiliser hopper mounted on the tractor’s front linkage, requiring the fertiliser to be blown back underneath the tractor to the drill where it was placed in the soil.

The two tanks on the tractor's front linkage have a combined storage capacity of 800 litres.

This system required a lot of hydraulic power, meaning the tractor was working harder and thus burning more diesel. The new four-row planter has a fertiliser hopper mounted on the machine. The fertiliser is fed down along using gravity, before being applied close to the seed.

The stainless stell fertiliser hopper has a 1,500kg storage capacity.

Noel and Mark also highlighted that the new planter has reduced compaction on their farm by 50%, as the four-row requires half the passes that the previous planter did. In addition, the planter has doubled throughput capabilities. On a typical day with the four row planter, the Sheridans would plant in the region of 25 to 30 acres.

On a large tillage operation in the spring such as the Sheridans’, halving the time required to sow potatoes allows the family to keep on top of other tasks such as spraying and applying fertiliser to cereals.

The four-row planter has sectional control, divided up into four sections.

The Sheridans explained the weather window for planting potatoes has and will always be a challenge, but the four-row planter will make it much easier. In addition, planting more ground as early as possible when the conditions allow also means the potatoes can be harvested earlier.

Sectional control

The Sheridans’ new four-row planter has sectional control, divided up into four sections. Linked in with the tractor’s GPS, each section, which includes spray, fertiliser and the potato tubers, will automatically shut off.

The tubers are fed through a belt system from the hopper and are placed into the bed

Although fertiliser storage remained the same with the switch to the four-row planter (1,500kg), liquid storage has increased from the 120l tank that was mounted on the two-row planter to two tanks on the tractor’s front linkage, with a combined storage capacity of 800l.

A support wheel runs on the outer right-hand side of the machine to help evenly distribute the weight.

The four-row planter also has a 3t seed storage hopper. The stainless steel fertiliser hopper along with the flow-board for bed cultivation are extras on the Sheridans’ machine.

The GB 430 is designed to work in both conventional planting and for planting in beds. The machine comes with the option of two different chassis to combine the various options of ridge shaping depending on requirements.

Typically, the Sheridans plant at a speed of around 7km/h, with the tractor running at around 1,200rpm, planting at a depth of 6-7in into the ridges.

How does the machine work?

The planter is pulled using a hydraulic steering drawbar attached to the tractor’s three-point linkage. As the tractor needs to travel between the pre-shaped ridges, the planter works in a slightly offset position to place the tubers centrally in the ridges. To keep the distribution of weight on the three-point linkage balanced, 12 50kg weights are placed on the left hand side of the drawbar. In addition, a support wheel runs on the outside of the right-hand side of the machine to help evenly distribute the weight.

Hydraulic depth control of the furrow opener and automatic shaping board steering ensures consistent bed formation.

A central hydraulic ram is used to set the working depth of the planter. Two-furrow openers sit in front of the main frame, beginning the bed forming process. Hydraulic depth control of the furrow opener and automatic shaping board steering ensures consistent bed formation.

Discs in each of the four rows slit the ground and fertiliser is placed in the bed.

Directly behind, discs in each of the four rows slit the ground and fertiliser is placed in the bed. Meanwhile, the four beds are constantly being formed at the same time. Behind the slotting of the fertiliser, the tubers are fed through a belt system from the hopper and are placed into the bed before eight nozzles (two nozzles per row) spray each of the beds.

The planter is pulled from a hydraulic steering drawbar, attached to the tractors three point linkage.

Stainless steel shaping boards leave each of the four rows with a loose-to -firm ridge with a smooth surface. The chassis is fitted with two wheels (270/95 R44). It has a hydraulic steering axle with a large steering angle of up to 42°, making the machine agile and manoeuvrable in the field.

Machine spec

Model: GB 430.

Seed hopper capacity: 3,000kg.

Weight empty on basic spec: 4,000kg.

Number of rows: Four.

Row width: 75-91.4cm.

Tyres: 270/95 R44.

Throughput: 25-30 acres/day.

Transport width: 3.9m.

Prices starting at: €110,000 plus VAT.

Living on a sprayer: the SAM Vision 4000 self-propelled sprayer
Now that spraying is in full swing on tillage farms, Gary Abbott caught up with Eugene Headon, Co Kildare, to see how his recently purchased SAM self-propelled sprayer is working four months on.

Eugene Headon operates a silage contracting and tillage enterprise alongside his son Garrett on the outskirts of Naas, Co Kildare. Spraying up to 9,000ac each year leaves Eugene and Garrett busy on the sprayer from the time crops are planted until harvest time.

The SAM Vision 4000 sprayer was bought to replace an older Househam self-propelled sprayer.

Eugene made the move to self-propelled sprayers a number of years ago for several reasons. One of the reasons was that there was less headland damage when turning as all four wheels steer, leaving the sprayer more manoeuvrable than a trailed sprayer.

It is clear the sprayer has been built with the end user in mind

Eugene also noted the better ground travelling capabilities of the self-propelled sprayers, having owned both variants, trailed and self-propelled.

“Self-propelled sprayers eliminate the need to drag an extra axle around the field which would have to be done with a trailed sprayer,” he said.

The 25l stainless steel induction hopper.

This extra axle may seem like a good idea but it is the pulling force exerted on the tractor’s back axle that causes it to sink into soil when gripping. The hydrostatic drive of a self-propelled machine, on the other hand, keeps on travelling, on leaving less damage to the surface.

Sands Agricultural Machinery

Sands Agricultural Machinery Ltd (SAM) has been involved in the application of agrochemicals since the 1960s and has been designing and building self-propelled crop sprayers since 1975. The British-built machines are relatively new to the Irish market, although since being appointed main Irish agents, Furlong Equipment Services Ltd has sold a number of both new and secondhand machines throughout the country.

Eugene and Garrett made the decision to buy a SAM sprayer after seeing the strong build quality of the machines.

The sprayer's manual controls are simple and straightforward from an operator's point of view.

“It is clear the sprayer has been built with the end user in mind,” noted Eugene when discussing the sprayer’s construction and neat layout out of cables and pipes throughout its body and boom sections.

The Headons were on the market for a straightforward, reliable sprayer with a backup service that could be relied upon.

They bought a secondhand 2010 Vision 4000 equipped with a 24m single-line boom with triplet nozzles and automatic section control. It has a 4,000l tank with a 400l fresh water tank for rinsing.

The sprayer is powered by a 180hp six-cylinder Deutz engine which is very easy on diesel in comparison with his older Househam self-propelled sprayer, according to Eugene.

The sprayer is fitted with 24m booms and automatic section control.

The sprayer is fitted with 380/85 R30 Continental row crop wheels but early spraying is done using the wider 600 tyres to give the sprayer a larger footprint. A rear mounted stainless steel induction tank allows for the easy straightforward intake/mixing of chemicals.

Switching between suction, rinsing and spraying settings is simple using the handles located to the rear left hand side of the machine. Once folded up, the induction tanks sit away neatly and can only be pulled out when the booms are lifted.

Eugene Headon spraying wheat near Naas, Co Kildare.

A feature Eugene particularly likes about the sprayer is its mounted pressure washer for cleaning purposes. This along with the tanks’ rinsing feature makes cleaning up after a day’s work that much easier, he noted.


Inside the cab are the sprayer’s controls. An RDS terminal controls the sprayer operations. Operators can view each section of the boom’s seven-part section control, litres/ha, km/h, tank level, etc.

GPS information is provided by the Hexagon touchscreen GPS terminal, which Eugene noted is very easy to use.

Boom controls, such as end nozzle shutoff and rinse functions, are turned on and off using the pneumatic switches on the armrest-mounted console.

There are two foot pedals. The left pedal engages and disengages the sprayer’s four-wheel steering. Once disengaged, the wheels will automatically align to their straight position.

The foot pedal to the right of the steering column shuts on and off the nozzles.

Eugene noted that the sprayer’s hydraulic suspension allows for a smooth ride both on the road and in the field.

Engine revs are adjusted using the linear sliding switch compared to the pressing of a button as was the case with his previous sprayer, a small feature that makes road travelling easier. Greater control can be achieved to slow the sprayer down without pulling back the hydrostatic joystick.

The specs

  • Engine: 180hp six-cylinder Deutz.
  • Working width: 24m boom.
  • Mixture tank capacity: 4,000l.
  • Fresh water tank: 400l.
  • Induction hopper: 25l.
  • Steering: selectable two- and four-wheel steering.
  • Suspension: Hydro-pneumatic.
  • Max road speed: 40km/h.
  • Section control: seven-section cut-offs.
  • Boom: Single-line steel boom.
  • Fuel tank: 270l.
  • Ground clearance: 1,000mm.
  • Unladen weight: 8,000kg.
    In pictures: retiring Laois farmer set to sell all
    On Saturday 11 May, a farm retirement auction will take place in Clough-Ballacolla, Co Laois at 11.30am. Both farm machinery and dairy equipment are up for grabs on the day.

    Hennessy Auctioneers are holding an on-farm retirement auction this Saturday on behalf of Laois-based dairy farmer, Canice Hyland.

    Hyland has made the decision to retire from dairy farming leaving the farm with no use of the impressive collection of machinery he had built up over the years.

    John Hennessy of Hennessy Auctioneers said: "All equipment on the farm has been exceptionally well minded which can be seen clearly in the pictures, we hope that interest on the day should reflect this.”

    The auction will take place on the Hyland farm at Clough-Ballacolla, Co Laois (Eircode: R32 KX70) starting at 11.30am sharp.


    This 2016 Claas Arion 630 CIS fitted with a 50km/h Hexashift transmission, 600kg weight block, full suspension, 650 rear and 540 front Trelleborg tyres. This is one of the stand-out lots, the tractor is being sold fully serviced and has just 1,800 hours on the odometer. Claas finance is available subject to terms and conditions.

    This 2010 JCB TM310s telescopic wheel loader has 6,900 hours on the clock, fitted with a pin and cone headstock. A large range of pin and cone implements are available on the day which includes shear bucket, pallet and dung forks, bale handlers and a sweeping brush.

    These two Case IH tractors, an 856XL 4WD and 885XL 2WD respectively are set to go under the hammer, both in original condition.

    Both these Belmac machines are up for grabs, a 2014 Belmac 700 zero-grazing machine and the 2,100-gallon slurry tanker, both in good working order. The tanker is hydraulic drive and is fitted with a Moscha swivel spreading plate.

    This 2015 20-foot Tuffmac tandem-axle cattle trailer is in mint condition.

    This fresh 2017 Claas Volto 52 four-rotor tedder will be on sale Saturday.

    This 2012 Lely Splendimo 320 classic disc mower has a cutting width of 3.2m (10.5ft) and is in good working order.

    This 600-litre galvanised Carraro mounted sprayer is set to go under the hammer.

    This 2012 Amazone ZA-M 1200 3.5t fertiliser spreader is seated on a trailed Bogey and is for sale.

    This 2018 ProDig shear bucket is fitted with a bale plastic retainer and comes on pin and cone loader brackets.

    This 2013 Fleming 10-foot land roller is for sale.

    Some of the other lots set to go on sale on the day include:

  • Fleming galvanised yard scraper.
  • Nugent 12x6 plant trailer.
  • Abbey super 350 galvanised slurry agitator.
  • Trailed Bale carrier.
  • Ifor Williams 10x5ft cow trailer.
  • Feedall 12cu/m tub feeder with discharge conveyor.
  • 28kVA PTO driven generator.
  • John Hennessy told the Irish Farmers Journal that the auction will include a range of dairy equipment. “Various dairy equipment will be on offer including a DeLaval 10-unit double-up milking parlour and a Packo 10,000-litre bulk tank all of which are immaculately maintained.”

    Viewing is on Friday 10 May, 1pm-5pm and on Saturday the morning of the auction from 9am.

    It is worth noting that all bidders must register to bid and pay a €100 refundable deposit on the morning of the auction.

    VAT doesn’t apply to any of the equipment going on sale on the day.