18 September 1998

Abbey stays with family heritage

Ireland boasts many major

names in the agricultural

machinery business –

several which have made

their mark in the UK. One

such company is Abbey Farm

Equipment. Andy Collings

visited its headquarters at

Nenagh, Co Tipperary

A DRIVE into Nenagh is to be met by a quiet unassuming town where life meanders at a pace that would envied by those unfortunate to be trapped in the bustle of urban UK.

Just off the towns only main road – which runs through to Limerick – are the remains of an ancient abbey, the origins of which lie steeped in Irelands history. And knowing that immediately opposite the abbey is the production site for Abbey Farm Equipment is to realise just how the company chose its designation.

Established in 1947, the companys history goes back a further 50 years when Charles Cavanagh operated a foundry and forge. Now, 100 years or so on and the company is still under the control of a Charles Cavanagh, the grandson of the foundrys founder.

Over the years, the company has endeavoured to produce farm machinery to match the needs of a changing industry. Based in a predominantly livestock area, it is no surprise that its current portfolio includes a range of grassland equipment – toppers, mowers and fertiliser spreaders – and, with the growing popularity of on-farm mixing, diet feeder wagons.

But it is the manure spreading business that Abbey has majored in, both in the slurry and solid departments.

A wide range of vacuum tankers along with side delivery models continue to be produced at Nenagh.

Export manager John Farwell says these products play a large part in producing the companys £6m turnover – 40% of which is earned from export

"Thankfully, the Irish agricultural industry has not suffered to the same degree as the UKs," he says. "Overall, the machinery business at least is still holding up well."

Abbey now exports to several European countries including, Germany, Iceland and Denmark, but the UK remains its principal export market.

"We have 48 dealers in the UK marketing our goods, most of which are in the western side of the mainland, where the livestock is."

Mr Farwell believes there is still a lot of changes to be expected in the spreading and disposal of slurry. "Sooner or later we are going to have legislation regarding how, where and when we spread slurry," he says. "I would like to think that, with our range of slurry injectors and other handling equipment, we are ready to supply equipment to meet any demands in this direction."

To date, at least, Abbey has resisted any invitations from larger companies to join them – Mr Farwell admits there have been overtures from more than one source.

"We are a family owned and run firm, and we are determined to stay as much," he insists.