Trade focus: ‘Infectious passion’ for the tractor business in Co. Cork

There is a growing appreciation within the tractor trade that the handful of ‘big name’ manufacturers are now facing a serious challenge from a company that was always dismissed as ‘odd-ball’ and ‘left-field’.

Nowadays, few apply such labels to Valtra – the often overlooked member of the AGCO stable – which is making notable inroads into the tractor market.

The company is on something of a roll at the moment. There is a growing sense that the product is rugged, reliable and mostly designed and manufactured in the forests of Finland; a way that gifts it a character unique amongst the crowd.

These are fine attributes to possess. However, Valtra has another arrow in its quiver that few others can emulate; that is the genuine enthusiasm of its dealers for the product.

This attitude is typified by Dan Buckley (see main/featured picture) of Paudy Buckley Tractors, Vicarstown, Co. Cork.

“When you buy a Valtra, you are buying a Valtra built by Valtra. Few others have any input into it,” he pointed out with sincere conviction.

We have a great product with the new fourth-generation series and they have been very well received.

This is due, he believes, to such features as: engines that are built purely for off-road use; a roomy cab having two doors that can both actually be used; and a build quality that is up there with the best.

The ‘solidity’ of the machines is another important factor. This was well demonstrated by an N114, which was set on axle stands while awaiting a new set of narrower wheels before delivery.

“Just look at the metal that has gone into that axle. I can show you other makes I have in stock of the same power that have half that!” exclaimed Dan; a point that carries over to the chassis and front axle mounting.

Besides the mechanical aspects, Dan notes that tailoring each sale to the customer’s needs is also very important. The days of buying a standard tractor at any given power rating are long gone; each sale has become a process rather than a simple bidding war.

Valtra has always been known for its ability to customise tractors on the production line. This legacy – along with highly flexible payment plans – is paying dividends in the modern market, he feels.

It was Dan’s father, Paudy Buckley, who established the business in the time-honoured way of importing tractors from the UK in the 1970s.

In the mid-1990s he was invited by Valmet to become a distributor (an offer he gladly took up) and they have been working together ever since.

Paudy initially ran the business with his wife, Christina, and both are still involved. Christina now job-shares the administration with Dan’s wife, Sharon. Besides the family members, they now employ three mechanics.

Looking forward, the family has firm plans for expansion. The trend for higher horsepower tractors pulling ever more complex machines is one that will require further investment in the premises.

Dan is a strong believer in encouraging the staff’s enthusiasm by keeping them involved in the business, rather than just working for it. Given the success, they appear to be enjoying it. The approach appears to be working.

Although primarily a tractor dealership, the firm also holds several machinery franchises. Chief among these are Weidemann, Quicke and Krone.

“Loaders are all about moving materials speedily about the farm,” remarked Dan. “Weidemann loaders have the advantage of rapid work cycles due to the more powerful hydraulics found on this type of machine.”

He admires Quicke front-end loaders for their build quality. “They are just unbeatable and are a great match for Valtras,” he explained.

Grassland machinery is covered by Krone, a make which he feels has improved tremendously over the years. He has nothing but praise for Farmhand – the Dublin-based importers.

However, it is the tractor trade that the firm is based around presently. Dan’s passion for the Nordic brand is infectious.

He is keen to point out that, despite the various awards that have been won for the integration of digital technology into everyday tractor operation, Valtra still produces some tractors that are free from anything but very basic electronics.

The A Series with a front loader is a typical example of a ‘fuss-free machine’ that dairy farmers prefer; the more sophisticated N214 is very much a contractor’s tool.

Both he and Valtra must be doing something right. As we were leaving, he took yet another enquiry from what he described as a “serious buyer”, saying: “That’s the fourth this week.”