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As the newly elected president of the FTMTA (Farm Tractors and
Machinery Trade Association, Jimmy Butler is more than willing to
devote time to the two-year role as he explained to Matt O'Kee e
recently. "The association has been good for our business over the
years and is very important to the farm machinery business in general.
It encompasses machinery retailers, manufacturers and wholesalers.
FTMTA does an awful lot of work behind the scenes in representing the
trade. The most important role is probably is dealing with regulations
and government and EU bodies. HR issues are a priority for the trade
and the FTMTA plays a strong role for us all in that regard."
The FTMTA is also instrumental in developing educational
opportunities for personnel in the sector: "We have been active
in promoting training. Apart from our in-house training facility, the
FTMTA has promoted a joint educational programme with Tralee
IT. The type of technological equipment in use on farm machines
today requires a high level of technical training and our customers
expect that machinery dealers have professional people who can
facilitate customers in getting the best possible performance from that
technology. So the degree course in Tralee IT, especially, is geared to
give our members and employees the technical competence required
in the machinery business now."
In addition, the trade representative body organises a series of events
annually: "This year it's the Farm Machinery Show at Punchestown
later this month. Every other year FTMTA organises the outdoor
Grass&Muck exhibition and demonstration at Gurteen in Tipperary.
Those events are important for both customers and for the trade itself."
Commenting the upcoming Punchestown event, Jimmy Butler
explains: "It is a good time of the year for our customers apart from
some dairy farmers who will have started calving. For the arable and
contractor sectors it is well timed at a relatively slack time. The location
is good as it is little more than two hours from most parts of the country
serviced by motorways. Entry and exit are easy and as it's indoors there
are few weather worries."
Jimmy Butler is steeped in the farm machinery trade. He began working
with Sherrards in Mountrath back in
. His brother Joe followed suit
two years later. Sherrards, then owned by Keenans of Bagenalstown
at the time, were main John Deere dealers. After that business closed
the Butlers moved to Fethard, gaining further experience
in the machinery trade. In
Jimmy and Joe set out on their own
establishing a dealership at Templetuohy. Their combined expertise in
sales and servicing respectively was to prove a winning combination.
From the initial branch operation at Templetuohy the business grew
over the years as outlined by Jimmy: "We became John Deere dealers
a year after establishing Templetuohy Farm Machinery (TFM). Then
we opened a branch in Clonmel in
followed by other branches in
), Portlaoise (
), and then took on the Comerford
dealership at Ballycallan in
" Latterly, TFM established a branch in
TFM has grown into a major business with a similar evolution in the
tractor sales profile: "A - horsepower tractor in
was a large
tractor by the standard of the time. Very few farmers now buy a tractor
of that HP. The grassland farmer is heading towards
HP in a
four-cylinder tractor while the contractor and arable farmer requires
While the John Deere brand remains central to the TFM business, the
sales profile has expanded over the years to include Lemken and the
Kramer brand, which is now part of the John Deere machinery o ering.
Shuitemaker is another brand in the TFM portfolio. Locally, Hi-Spec
machines are available at Ballycallan and Enniscorthy.
The great unknown
All of the Irish dealers are supplied directly by John Deere UK. That may
pose some problems if and when Brexit is finally sorted. The president
of FTMTA is as wise in this regard: "The uncertainty of Brexit is the big
issue right now. What e ect it will have on the farm machinery trade is
anyone's guess. We are hoping for as little disruption as possible."
Loyalty to the brand is an important aspect of the John Deere
dealership: "a business relationship has to be : . If you want a
relationship to work long term both parties have to be happy. I regard
our interaction with farmers as a partnership rather than a customer/
supplier relationship. If it is understood in that way then it will work
over the long term. The strategy in John Deere is to become a good
equipment manufacturer and the number one manufacturer of
technologically advanced equipment. That includes all the precision
farming technology that the company has developed."
Jimmy Butler has noticed significant trends emerging in tractor and
ancillary machinery purchases: "We are able to monitor developments
from year to year. There is now a trend emerging where more of the
business is moving towards contractors purchasing large capacity
machines to service their livestock customers who, in many cases, are
retreating from owning and operating machinery and are contracting
the work out so that they can concentrate on their core businesses.
This, I think, will increasingly become the case on many farms.
As a final observation Jimmy Butler is adamant that if rural Ireland
is to survive and thrive then it must support itself: "Whether it's a
newspaper, a pair of shoes or an item of technical equipment we have
to support local businesses. Otherwise rural Ireland will cease to exist
as an economic entity."
Serving the industry
FTMTA President Jimmy Butler outlines the important role that
the association plays in the sector and identifies key trends and
challenges coming down the line
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