Edenderry man lives childhood dream at Massey Ferguson

Edenderry man William Judge’s earliest memory is of sitting with his father on a Massey Ferguson 178. Little did he know at the time that he would go on to become Manager of National Sales of Massey Ferguson for the UK and Ireland.

That early exposure to the brand, he recalled, led to the building up, with his brother, of a healthy collection of Britain’s toys including the MF2680 and MF760 combine which now hold pride of place in his home office.

Spending time during his youth on the farm of a family friend also left a lasting impression. “Having that experience in my life is something that I will always be grateful for. It mainly involved dealing with livestock. I spent my time after school milking cows, and during the summer, helping out in the usual ways.

“Working on a farm and being outdoors always appealed to me. One of the great benefits of being around a farm is the many skills you learn daily, from dealing with animals to operating and repairing equipment.”

After leaving school, he studied agriculture in Warrenstown and Edinburgh, with the intention of becoming a farm manager. “My interest in machinery really came from an interest in engineering at school. And I guess the agricultural machinery business brings those two interests together quite nicely.

Massey Ferguson
Image source: Shane Casey

“While studying at Edinburgh, I got a different view of agriculture, and indeed business, which set my career goals on a different path, and into farm machinery.”

He worked with RF Colton, Tullamore, for six years. “This was very hands-on, and the dealer principal, Ronnie Colton, did a lot to steer me in the right direction, and help to form a sound foundation for my understanding of the industry.

One of the keys to the future viability of this industry will be the types and calibre of young people that we can get into the industry at all levels, from sales to after-sales, dealers to distributors and manufacturers. Having businesses that will train young people, and keep them in the industry is crucial.

While working at RF Colton, he could see that more than an agricultural qualification was required to move through the industry. “I saw that a business degree would help give me a broader view of not just the agriculture industry, but also other industries.

“It was then I decided to pursue a degree in business at Tallaght IT. This was part-time, in the evening, three days a week, and lots of weekends doing project work, so it did eat into my social life, but it was definitely worth the time invested.”

Between his studies in Warrenstown and Edinburgh, he relished the opportunity to roll up his sleeves and work on a harvest crew in the US. “The idea of driving big equipment appealed massively, as it has done to others who have done similar work. I was a combine operator, and also did some truck driving. The experience was amazing. I was 18 years old and in the US for eight months. Big equipment, and a huge culture shock – what was there not to like?”

Massey ferguson
Image source: Shane Casey

A career with AGCO, which specialises in the design, manufacture and distribution of agricultural equipment then beckoned. In September 2007, he took up a job as area sales manager, Fendt and Challenger, Ireland, with AGCO at Stonleigh, Kenilworth (England), a position he held until October 2012.

He then became national sales and business manager, AGCO Harvesting, UK and Ireland. In March 2015, took on his current role as manager of national sales for Massey Ferguson, UK and Ireland.

Working with a world leader that most recently had a turnover of $7.4 billion, puts him at the cutting edge. “Massey Ferguson, as AGCO’s global brand, accounts for €2.1 billion of this, which is about 200,000 ‘MF’ branded tractors globally,” he said.

The 37-year-old revels in working for such a major international brand. “There is always something new, and lots of different people,” he said.

My favourite part is still dealing with farmers and the agricultural community although I do seem to spend less time doing that.

The biggest challenges, Judge said, are trying to stay on top of an ever-changing agricultural industry. “But that is also what makes it exciting, and we all need to move with the times.”

He constantly gets to be part of innovation, and said that ‘Research and Development’ is an area on which AGCO spends a lot of time and financial resources to ensure its customers have the right products for their businesses in the future. “We have just launched the new IDEAL combine which is a game-changer in the harvesting industry.”

Automation is having a big impact. “Automation is constantly growing and an ever more prominent feature in the design of our products from grass equipment to combines and, of course, tractors. With the use of AGCO’s ‘Fuse’ technology, we bring all of these products together to create a fully automated package that incorporates guidance, telemetry and farm software packages through AgCommand,” he said.

Many deaths on Irish farms have been associated with accidents involving machinery. “Farm safety has and always will be at the top of Massey Ferguson’s agenda. At the National Ploughing Championships this year, Massey Ferguson and Macra na Feirme joined forces to launch the Harry Ferguson Driver Safety Award,” said Judge.

Massey Ferguson
Image source: Shane Casey

“A set of tasks had to be completed correctly and safely, allowing young farmers to demonstrate their skills. This initiative not only highlights the importance of farm safety but we hope it will ensure a safe future for young farmers in our industry.”

The Irish market is, he said, unique. “Everybody has a real connection with the countryside. The dealers have closer relationships with their customers and always seem to be willing to go that extra yard.

“This is more than evident within the MF dealer network which is not just the most professional network within the country but also the most customer and service-focused. This has led to Massey Ferguson being the number one tractor brand in Ireland – north and south,” Judge said.

For anyone interested in following in his footsteps, he has this advice: “It’s hard work. Take the opportunities as they come. Training and skills development will be ongoing. It can be a great industry for anyone who wants to travel and broaden their horizons.”

He met his wife, Arantxa, who is from northern Spain’s Basque country in an Edenderry pub when they were both students. She is head of architecture for Irish company, PM Group, and they live in Warwickshire, close to AGCO’s offices at Abbeypark where approximately 350 people are based. “We have one son, Fionn, who is seven and, for now, wants to be a rugby player or a Lego builder; time will tell.”

Judge, who enjoys travelling and country pursuits, gets home regularly to visit family and often drops in on businesses. He also relaxes watching rugby and coaching his son’s team. This all ties in nicely with Massey Ferguson’s new brand ambassador for Ireland – Leinster and Ireland player, Sean O’Brien.

As they say; love what you do and you will never work a day in your life.