Farm contractors are currently running 20,000 tractors in the Republic of Ireland and baling 5million bales of silage every year. This year silage has been harvested under ideal conditions although the first cut was light in many cases.

For those making bales the dry weather minimised the need for wilting and reduced the number of bales/acre and associated costs.

Indeed on many occasions the silage was so dry that no wilting was required and some farmers & contractors even cut and baled the grass in one integrated operation.

For all grass silage the dry matter (DM) was high and storage loses will be lower than usual so on a DM basis the silage shortfall my not be as bad as predicted.

However many farmers due to the prolonged period of dry weather have had to feed silage to their livestock to make up for the poor grass growth.

According to John Sheehy, National Chairman of the Association of Farm Contractors of Ireland (FCI) their members employ close to 10,000 skilled operators and used more than 500m litres of diesel annually.

The number of tractors, he said, used by contractors is about one-third of the national tractor fleet or more than 20,000 to carry out their work.

“Our machines harvest more than 5 million bales of silage each year along with spreading more than 20 billion litres of slurry, as well as establishing and harvesting many different food crops.

Sheehy also said that the quality of service and the quality of work provided by farm contractors using their high HP machinery and skilled operators is now at a very high level.

FCI members obviously have a close working relationship with their local farm machinery dealers for buying, hiring and servicing their tractors and other equipment.

However the lack of workers in contracting is a major problem again this year, according to Richie White, Chairman of the FCI in Ireland.

Ag students come out of college and go on J1s or to Australia or Canada especially those who could be involved in this type of contracting work.

At the recent ‘International Agricultural Workforce Conference’ held in Cork on July 10 the lack of availability of an adequate supply of skilled labour worldwide was highlighted as one of the many threats to a successful Agriculture industry.

A more immediate problem for farm contractors this season has been expensive damage caused to their machinery while harvesting silage. 

According to the FCI poor planning by farmers ahead of the silage season is creating big problems for their members.

“The extremely high levels of stone and tree-branch damage to machines this year are adding significantly to contractor’s costs,” said FCI Chief Executive Michael Moroney.

“Some of our members are reporting increasing levels of machine damage to mowers, tedders and harvesters this year.

“They have picked up everything from boulders to bed frames, with one contractor we know of taking a full-size field gate into a new and expensive self-propelled mower,” he added.

“We are asking farmers to take time to examine their planning deficits that resulted in land not being checked for stones and fallen tree branches prior to this season.

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