Derek Johnston started off Johnston Farm Equipment of Longford with Massey Ferguson back in 1982 and, despite an interlude dealing with another marque, is as committed to the AGCO brand as he ever was.

Derek has built the business by doing what he feels is right for his customers, rather than jumping through hoops set up by major manufacturers – a belief which saw him returning to the MF fold just a few years after leaving it.

In the early days, the business did terrific trade in swapping out MF35s for 240s, or the larger 165.

The 35 was the farmers tractor of the time according to Derek, but some farmers upgraded, as many were keen to buy the older machines traded in.

Derek Johnston
Derek Johnston standing next to a MF 240, a model that did well for him in the early days

His son, Sam, is equally as keen, and that enthusiasm showed at the recent open day which was originally meant to celebrate 40 years of business.

This, however, was delayed, due to a combination of circumstances, the chief of which being that a strong sales performance soaked up the time needed to organise such an event.

Tractor bonnet at Johnston
Tractor sales may be down, but theere is still a demand according to Sam Johnston

With machinery sales being held back by the less than strong performance of the weather, it was decided to go ahead with the day now that there was the time to focus on the planning.

Presently, nobody is suggesting that 2024 is going to be a record year for sales, yet, as Sam Johnston points out, its customers have not stopped buying tractors altogether, it’s that they are not buying as many as before.

Sam Johnston is still selling tractors

There is also an element of farmers preferring to buy new equipment, rather than give money to Revenue, and it is this that has underpinned trading levels to a significant extent.

He also noted that smaller items, that is, those costing less than €10,000, are still selling in good numbers, it is the big ticket items that are stalling.

Used tractors in line
Having a good stock of used tractors is essential to any thriving dealership

There is, he feels, no need for any undue pessimism and there was none on the day for as one farmer noted, “there are always challenges in farming”, and the run of bad weather is just the latest to come along.

A further sentiment being expressed by visitors to the dealership was that farming is now becoming a more ‘nine-to-five’ job, with families being less tolerant of spouses being away all day and every day.

Tehnos mowers
Tehnos is a recent addition to the range of equipment offered by Johnston Farm Equipment

The machinery business is well aware of this, and in its marketing the family unit is now referenced to as having a value that goes beyond a convenient source of cheap labour.

Couple this with the recently issued advice that all farmers should be cutting silage during the same week in May, and there is little wonder that the manufacturers are offering ever bigger and more sophisticated machines to cope with an increasing peak work load.

Full yard in Longford
Smaller items are selling well and the yard at the yard carries a good range Longford

Massey Ferguson is certainly one company that is promoting the efficiency of larger machines and with the latest move by AGCO to bundle all its electronic offerings into a brand in its own right, named PTx, moves are being made to consolidate and simplify the digital side of farming.

Choice is a priority

Dealerships are not all about new tractors though, the implements and machinery that go with them has to be sold and attended to and here the Johnston family believe in offering a wide choice.

Staff line up at Johnston farm machinery
The staff at Johnston Farm Equipment line up for the occasion

Alongside the MF mowers sit machines from SIP, and so impressed are Derek and Sam by Slovenian engineering that they have now started selling Tehnos flail mowers as well.

Tanco also had its trailed twin mower prominently set out at the front of the yard where it was attracting a lot of positive comment. Stability, compactness and reduced strain on the tractor being the major talking points.

Veneroni pump from SlurryQuip
SlurryQuip had the latest addition to its range, a Veneroni pump that is said to provide a finer chop than other makes on the market.

It has been slow to catch on, but Tanco should have a winner on its hands with this model and it can’t be long before other manufacturers start to bring out there own versions.

Those looking for used equipment are spoilt for choice, for there are two further yards full of older machines to choose from.

Included in the melee, are implements ranging from two-row potato ridgers, to recent tractor trade ins that carry many of the features of the latest models.

MF165 in yard
Still looking strong after all these years, the MF165 gained a great reputation in its time

As with most dealers, there is a classic tractor or two to be had and of particular interest here was a Massey Ferguson 165, looking a little worn, but sporting good tyres and, if cared for, these old soldiers never die.

Johnston Farm Equipment is the epitome of a hardworking and successful family business that carries a good stock of what its customers want.

Used round balers
These three balers from sought after manufacturers should find a ready market

Farmers do appreciate a choice and this is catered for in its approach to supplying machines from competing companies.

This, and a range of used kit that attracts potential buyers from near and far is one side to its success, another is that the welcome is always warm, and that will go a long way to making a sale.