Based in Glynn, not far from Wexford town, Irvin Rothwell heads up the family-run business Rothwell Contracting alongside his wife Caroline and son Leonard.

Today, 95% of the company is divided equally between agricultural slurry and waste management, the latter involving the transportation and management of sludge. Meanwhile, hedge-cutting, grassland aeration and pasture over-sowing/stitching account for the other 5% of the annual workload.


This particular focus on slurry wasn’t always the approach. Irvin returned home to the family farm 40 years ago and decided to start contracting in a small manner. The business then grew and before long the main service was silage-cutting among a full range of operations from reseeding to slurry spreading and cereal harvesting.

The four tandem axle 3,000 gallon tankers are used for general road haulage and for ferrying to the umbilical systems.

After 15 years of struggling to make ends meet, there came a turning point, Irvin said: “Silage season was much longer then. First cuts ran right into second cuts and contractors had little time to spread slurry aside from on wet days and during the shoulders of the year.”

With no contractor specialising in slurry locally, Irvin felt there was an opportunity.

He decided to sell all his equipment and expand on the slurry side of things. Together with retaining all his previous slurry customers, he gained many more along the way.

“The idea is that in the summer, we enter the field as the silage contractor leaves. Farmers ring me up and tell me when their silage is being lifted and we’re there straight after.”

Starting out, he took on the haulage of slurry for a local pig farmer which provided a good initial boost to the business.

Irvin estimates that 60% of his agri customers are dairy farmers while the remaining 40% are beef farmers.

Today, Irvin and Leonard have over 100 customers on the books for slurry spreading, most of whom are within a 25-mile radius. The current customer demographic on the agricultural side of the business is 60% dairy farmers and 40% beef farmers. With umbilical alone, the team have the capacity to shift over 1.25 million gallons of slurry per week, not taking tankers into account.

Machines and methods

While umbilical systems have been a part of the fleet for almost 20 years, tankers still account for a large volume of the total slurry shifted.

Irvin explained that there are 14 tankers in total. “The reason for this is simple – different tankers for different jobs. We have four 3,000 gallon tandem axles with DCI arms and garda pumps which are used mainly for general haulage and to ferry slurry to the umbilical systems.

“There are four 2,500 gallon Abbeys and one 2,250 gallon, each fitted with 7.5m Mastek dribble bars alongside two 2,300 gallon HiSpec tankers with splash plates. The HiSpecs have a shorter wheelbase, leaving them manoeuvrable around the farmyard. However, they might not travel as well as the Abbeys on the road. We then have two tankers tailored for septic tank work as well as a small 1,600 gallon Abbey which proves useful early on in the year. The rest of the tankers are backup tankers.”

Two Claas Arion 630's made their way into the fleet in 2021.

Umbilical systems are a relatively new phenomenon and Irvin was one of the first contractors in the surrounding areas to provide the service.

Wanting to keep costs low, he fabricated his own reelers. Now in the era of low-emission slurry spreading (LESS) equipment, he runs two Mastek umbilical units and four Mastek 7.5m tanker-mounted dribble bars. Performance, reliability and low macerator running costs have been key for sticking with the brand for over 10 years, he said.

“Maybe I’m more traditional, but nowadays the craze is wider working widths, larger tractors and wider flotation tyres to combat the extra weight – but it’s not always the answer. The initial purpose of an umbilical system was to spread slurry with a lighter footprint, something we try to keep in mind.

“Our setup is a little different in that we don’t use the combined reeler/dribble bar backpack systems like most contractors do. We transport the reeler separate on the three point linkage and tow the dribble bar on a purpose-built trailer. The reason for this is so that once the hose has been rolled out, the reeler is left aside and the dribble bar is mounted. This way no excess weight is carried around the field. Not only this, but visibility is unrestricted while spreading and rolling back up. Our spreader tractors are fitted with nothing larger than a 650 tyre. The general rule of thumb is that if you can’t travel with a 650 tyre then we shouldn’t be spreading in the first place,” Irvin stated.

Both umbilical systems are equipped with 1,200m of hose. However, hose is often mixed and matched to suit a particular job. In recent years, with customers wanting to pump further distances, the Rothwells sometimes add a booster pump, mainly for jobs over 1,200m.

Just some of the 14 tankers within the Rothwell fleet.

Both Irvin and Leonard have seen a big benefit to using a booster pump and it’s something they intend on implementing more.

The result is a lower operating pressure, which Irvin believes helps prolong the life of both the hoses and the primary pump. The difference in fuel usage is only minor as two tractors can work at ease as opposed to one working hard.

When it comes to agitating slurry, the Rothwells have a solution for all situations. There are three propeller agitators for use in lagoons and four pump agitators varying in size. The lagoon machines are Pichon and Storth brands, while the traditional pump agitators are all Redrock. Irvin noted that he now tends to spend his time agitating when he’s not in the office.

Looking forward

In recent years the Rothwells have added flow meters and implemented the use of GPS on their umbilical systems. With the increased costs of chemical fertilisers, application can be more accurately monitored depending on a customer’s instructions.

The front-line tractor fleet comprises four Landini's and two Claas Arions while the back-line comprise five Landini's and one Ford.

“Looking forward, while weather windows shorten and the closed spreading period lengthens, our challenge is to encourage farmers to spread more slurry during the summer. But, the drought in recent years has hindered this. So, for this season we intend on offering customers the choice of injecting their slurry. We have bought a 5.1m Joskin Solodisc injection unit which we will be retrofitting to a 3,000 gallons tanker in the spring. If this is something that works we’ll look at adding another system in the future.”

Within the tanker fleet there are two machines adapted for emptying septic tanks.


Without doubt Rothwell Contracting has the country’s largest fleet of modern Landinis. The family’s fondness for the Italian brand is clear, having purchased 34 new tractors (soon to be 35) to date. Today, the fleet comprises 12 tractors, nine of which are Landini, two Claas and one Ford.

Before the arrival of the Italian brand into Ireland, Irvin ran a fleet of Fiat and Ursus tractors supplied by Duncormick Tractors, his local dealer at the time. Sometime later Duncormick Tractors took the agency for the Landini brand which was officially imported by D&S Machinery. Irvin followed suit and gave the brand a go. Today, Duncormick Tractors is owned by Brogan Tractors, with which Irvin continues the good working relationship.

Between the two umbilical systems the Rothwells have the capacity to shift over 1.25 million gallons of slurry each week.

Uniquely, Irwin and the team run a range of six frontline tractors, comprising two Landini 7-160 models, one 7-180, one 6C145 and two Claas Arion 630s. The back row comprises six tractors also, two Landini 6-160L models, two Landini Legend 185s and a Legend 125 as well as a Ford 8240.

“The frontline tractors are the newest tractors that do the bulk of the daily work. Each driver is assigned their own tractor which they stick with until it’s time for an upgrade which tends to be in or around the three year or 6,000 hour mark,” Irvin noted.

Grassland aeration is one of the other minor aspects of the business.

“Traditionally, Landini were known as a straightforward simplistic workhorse. This was one of the reasons we liked the brand so much. However, then they moved to the ZF transmission and introduced a whole host of electronics and a notable price increase, effectively doing away with the traditional levers – what I feel the brand built its success on.

“We took a chance and bought three of the early ZF models. They had a few issues which took some time to solve. Once they were out of warranty we had them mapped and it made a huge difference to them.

Redrock, Storth and Pichon make up the agitators brands used for both lagoons and traditional slatted tanks.

“It was around this time we gave Claas a go and bought two Arion 630s. They’ve served us well to be fair but we’ve since returned to Landini. The last couple of new Landinis have been a big improvement in terms of power and reliability – they seem to be back on track again.”

Irvin says his go-to tractors are the old school Landini Legends given their simplicity.

Irvin is a firm believer that if floatation tyres are required then it's too wet to spread slurry.

“In our situation, the cost of replacement is an important figure and to be fair Landini can’t seem to be beaten from my experience. There always seems to be a customer for our tractors secondhand. The service we get from Brogan Tractors coupled with the fact that I can pick up the phone and talk to the head people in the UK proves a huge benefit,” Irvin stated.

The business

When it comes to running an agricultural contacting business, Rothwell Contracting is one of the more professional out there. Having completed his studies in Salesian Agricultural College, Pallaskenry, Leonard has now joined the family business full-time.

Each umbilical system has its own purpose built trailer kitted out with a quad, an air compressor and a clean water tank.

A total of seven staff are employed full time including Irvin and Leonard, with three seasonal staff helping out during the busy spring and summer periods. Irvin tends to balance his time between organising jobs, office work and tank agitation.

Having purchased over 34 new Landini's over the years, Irvin's go to tractor is one of his older Landini Legends.

He believes a consistent working week is important for both the business and the employees.

Staff tend to work 40-45 hours during daylight hours where possible aside from peak times of the year.

Irvin believes that knowing one’s costs is essential to any business. For the past 10 years he’s been using the Kingswood Computing accounting software tool to help manage all aspects of admin which takes place monthly.

“This way we know our income and outgoings on a monthly basis. We can see how the year is headed and therefore make buying decisions on the back of this information. As it stands, fuel, labour and tyres are the greatest expenses.”

Leonard and Irvin Rothwell.

Loyalty is another large part to the Rothwell business model both within customers and machinery buying habits. The consistency across the chosen machinery brands is proof of this.

“I find a machine I like and I stick with it. I’ve always been a believer that if it’s not broke then it doesn’t need fixing. By running the one brand it’s easier when it comes to repairs and carrying spare parts. If I can cut out dealing with multiple people and deal with one person for a particular service then all the better. This way my business means more to them and their service means more to me,” Irvin stated.

Attention to detail among the dedicated team at Rothwell Contracting is obvious. Each umbilical system is kitted out with a purpose-built trailer which is equipped with a quad, compressor, clean water tank as well as couplings and other spare parts – all to make the daily tasks that bit easier.

Tractor fleet

  • Landini 7-160 x2
  • Landini 7-180
  • Landini 6C145
  • Landini 6-160L x2
  • Landini Legend 185 x2
  • Landini Legend 125
  • Claas Arion 630 x2
  • Ford 8240.