Auctions are the lubricant of the machinery business; they help to keep the trade running smoothly – by matching machines to buyers.

They are the most straight-forward and no-nonsense method of establishing the value of an item at a specific moment in time.

Hennessy Auctioneers and Valuers – of Stradbally, Co. Laois – has been performing this valuable service for well over 40 years.

Every month, it holds a machinery sale at Portlaoise mart which regularly attracts a good variety of surplus farm equipment.

Its latest auction was held on Saturday (March 25); the proprietor of this family-owned business – John Hennessy – was keen to show AgriLand the latest lots and give an insight into trends and developments in the second-hand market.

The most striking entry in this particular sale was a Smyth tri-axle silage trailer. Being by far the largest item present and freshly painted, this bright red unit could hardly be ignored.

It appeared to be well kept and in good order and was equipped with a steering rear axle, plus a roll-over load cover. It came from a contractor who felt it was just too big in certain circumstances and, so, had decided to move it on.

Not quite so colourful but still very much a trailer in demand was an Ifor Williams 10ft tipping trailer.

“These are far more popular than the usual 8ft versions,” remarked John who noted that, with the pick up in trade, landscape contractors and the like are willing to spend on upgrading their equipment.

Other trailed implements included a couple of Keenan and Kuhn diet feeders. “All the diet feeders sold by Keenan go through its workshop before being sold,” he pointed out. “They are usually ‘trade-ins’, which it doesn’t want hanging around.”

There was also a Keenan orbital spreader, the likes of which are still popular in some circles despite not being manufactured any more.

A brand new Abbey side-discharge muck spreader had been entered as well; it was apparently bought for some work that never materialised.

The front-end loader still rules the roost when it comes to material handling in Ireland; yet telescopic handlers are starting to make inroads. “They are becoming more affordable, as the price has dropped over the last couple of years,” explained John.

Looking at the line-up ahead of Saturday’s auction, he felt that the JCBs would go for better money than the Matbro – mainly because Matbro machines are no longer in production and spares might be a worry.

Interestingly, the front-end loaders passing through the auction were all sold unreserved.

Two 24m trailed sprayers were also up for sale – a Berthoud and a Hardi. The latter had been tested, which John says now makes a significant difference to the value. However, like much of the tillage equipment, such machines do need the right buyer to be out looking for them at the right time – if the expected price is to be met.

Several fertiliser spreaders had been placed for sale, including a tidy-looking Bogballe, a Sulky (with spinner plates for a 12m or 24m spread) and a Kuhn M420 (complete with a Major bag crane).

“Bag cranes are not as popular as many believe; they don’t add much to the price,” remarked John, although he is not entirely sure why this is so.

A pair of big, trailed mowers posed another interesting contrast. John suggested that the larger 3m-wide John Deere 1365 may not be as popular as the 8ft-wide Taarup.

Farmers like an 8ft mower because of the narrow gateways in so many places. With a 100-120hp tractor being the default machine on many stock farms, they also better match the available power.

Ford tractors enjoy a tremendous following amongst both collectors and those looking for a low-cost working tractor. Two were available at the auction; one was an 8210 (Super Q) with a much later (New Holland) engine fitted – either from a TM or TS model.

Buyers can be wary of non-standard or converted machines it seems; they seldom match the money that may have been spent on them.

The other Ford was a 6710 from 1983. This particular example had a problem with its power steering; yet it’s perfectly repairable and, being 2WD, might have its uses around a tight farmyard.

If the Smyth silage trailer stood out from the crowd then, down at the other end of the yard, was something equally attention-grabbing. The machine in question was a BM-Volvo (the manufacturer’s trading name before it became Volvo BM) LM 620 – first delivered to the north in 1969.

Its history since then is unknown, but the engine is running as sweetly as ever and all the hydraulics appear to function.

“It could easily sell as either a classic or a working machine” muses John. “It’s one of those machines where there is just no telling.”

The monthly Portlaoise auction is a firm date on many farmers’ and dealers’ calendars – both those looking to buy and those eager to sell. Even on the Friday evening before the sale, lots were still arriving and there was a regular trickle of visitors dropping by to see what would be on offer.

It is, above all else, an honest trading post and a useful barometer of the machinery trade.

Stay tuned to AgriLand for coverage from this and other farm machinery auctions.