Keeping tractors working has been the family business since Pat Clifford set out on his own, repairing tractors back in the sixties. Repair soon gave way to refurbishment, which, in turn, saw the firm move to the supply of parts and workshop items. This is now its core interest, and Colm Clifford is confident that he can supply just about any part for any tractor, with a huge number of items held in stock for immediate supply.
This is still very much a family-run business, with Colm’s brother Noel and brother-in-law, Pat Manigan being the mainstays of the firm. Pat Clifford himself is often there when not tending to the family farm, while the next generation is also taking its place as Colm’s daughter, Jessica, regularly lends a hand in the shop. All are needed, for the shop can be very busy indeed during the summer months as bits of broken tractor are brought by nearby farmers for inspection and replacement. However, it is just not the local farming community around Castleisland, Co. Kerry that Clifford’s supply – their website has over 16,000 parts listed, and has become a large part of their turnover. Yet unlike many other such outlets, there is still a friendly and incredibly knowledgeable team at the end of the phone. Colm notes that customers tend to be happy ordering parts online up to around €100, but they would prefer to talk to someone first before purchasing more costly items.
Tractors with electronic controls are now reaching the age where early models are considered classics, and Colm sees several effects of this. Firstly, there is a growing demand for non-OEM electric components and test systems. The diagnostic tools they sell may not cover everything, but they can certainly help keep tractors going. The tractor manufacturers are also coming to realise that support for older models will be essential, and Colm recently supplied a refurbished electronic control unit from New Holland costing a not-too-extravagant €300. He also notes that the tractors from around the seventies onwards can still do the jobs that modern tractors do, and many farmers like to keep an older model to hand in case of failure of the frontline machine. Parts for these late, non-electronic tractors, and nearly all tractors, in fact, are readily available whatever the age, although some makes are becoming more difficult to find certain components for. ‘Stick to the main brands and you won’t have a problem’ appears to be the message here.
Although many people suspect the manufacturers of building in planned obsolescence in a bid to keep the tractor market going, the longevity of modern machines is there to be seen. Back in the day, Pat Cliiford would always have a workshop full of tractors requiring an engine rebuild – how often do we see that nowadays? “There is no part of an MF 590 that we haven’t sold” notes Colm, “but today we just sell bits like door catches and mirrors for the later equivalents”.
Whatever the make or age of tractor you have, it is at least reassuring that there is a small industry beavering away to keep it going. Clifford’s Tractor Parts is very much an important part of that here in Ireland, and even worldwide, thanks to the internet.
For information on Clifford’s Tractor Parts, based in Ballymacelligott, near Tralee, Co. Kerry, call 066 7137204 or log onto www.tractorparts.ie, where you will find their online shop.
By Justin Roberts, Photos Courtesy of Agriland.ie