As the other halves of Killen Bros Contracting, these girls are no strangers to hard work or the odd challenge! The girls are all working day jobs, raising families and keeping houses whilst making sure that all the team at Killen Bros Contracting are kept fed and organised.
To these ladies, farming and agricultural contracting is a way of life that is relished and enjoyed 365 days of the year. Milking around 500 cows, the Killen family farm just outside the village of Newbuildings in County Derry/Londonderry. They began contracting back in 2007 and have grown from strength to strength since.
Mary, Mandy, Karen, Joanne and Lorraine each have highly successful careers which they balance with raising their young families. “Luckily, we have a crazy work ethic – much like the boys! We all just muck in and try to help out where we can”, said Karen. The contracting business starts to get busy from February onwards although with the cows calving and sheep lambing, the winter months can be just as hectic. Farming over 1000 acres as well as running an Anaerobic Digester, there really isn’t much downtime!
“Life is really busy, all the time” Mandy explains. “The contracting end of things carries a lot of organising and a lot of phone calls. Even on their very rare day off, the boys are still working in one way or another!”
The girls say that challenge comes with the territory of marrying a contractor. ‘Behind every good man, is a good woman’ comes to mind here. “When the boys are tied up, at least they know that the jobs at the yard are still being done. I think that’s half the battle for them and it saves a lot of stress”, Joanne said.
When the team is away contracting, more often than not it is up to the ladies to hold the fort at home in the yard. Milking, running for parts and feeding the workers are a few of the many tasks the ladies take charge of. With lambing also in full swing at the moment, Mary has taken the reigns in the lambing shed as Chris gets ready to start ploughing.
Collectively, the girls all say that their greatest achievement in life is their family. “It’s lovely to see the next generation taking so much enjoyment from farming. They are learning so much from getting out to the farm and hopefully, they will carry that same strong work ethic into their own future careers.” Joanne said.
On a personal level, Mandy and Mary are nurses working for the NHS who have worked tirelessly throughout the Covid-19 pandemic which is in a different league of achievement. Karen runs her own Killen Bro’s merchandise business and as well as working as practice manager in a Veterinary Clinic, Joanne has just started her own pedigree Dorset sheep flock and Lorraine runs a media and photography business alongside her job in the insurance industry.
“Sure, the boys only think they are busy!”
The business is currently running 16 Massey Ferguson tractors ranging from the flagship 8740S bought in 2020, to the 1990 2WD 390. The Killen family have been running Massey Fergusons for over 30 years now. They have been impressed by the back-up provided by local dealers and the versatility each tractor allows, coupled with the abundance of power and affordable running costs. The Killen’s are big fans of MF’s Dyna VT gearbox and have added a two further 7719S Dyna VT’s this year to the four they had currently.
Not to be outdone, the boys aren’t the only ones with the history of driving MF. Joanne learnt how to drive a tractor in a 135 and Lorraine drove a 6150 in her father’s contracting business before moving to Newbuildings. Needless to say, it comes with the territory when your other half is a contractor! We have all had the SOS phone call to come pump slurry or cart silage. A woman’s work is never done!