Silage season highlights farm planning deficits - FCI

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The Association of Farm and Forestry Contractors in Ireland (FCI), the national association representing farm and forestry contractors in Ireland, is urging farmers to learn from the contractor-costly, farm planning deficits that have identified on many farms as the first cut silage harvest programme is coming to an end in the east and south of the country.

FCI has received numerous calls from member contractors from all corners of Ireland, highlighting these new challenges that they are increasingly facing, as a result of what they believe are significant farm planning deficits.

The high levels of stone and fallen tree branch damage to machines, coupled with the machine damage caused by unrolled and heavily rutted fields, neglected yards, fences and field entrances, all remain a huge cost concern for silage contractors.

These conditions have also delayed what should have been a seamless silage harvest for many farmers and contractors, due to excellent harvesting weather conditions.

FCI chief executive, Michael Moroney said: “The extremely high levels of stone and tree branch damage to machines this year are adding significantly to contractor’s costs as they struggle to maximise the opportunities provided by the good harvesting weather to ensure that their customers get the best possible silage crops into pits quickly and cleanly.

“Our members are reporting increasing levels of machine damage to mowers, tedders and harvesters this year. The fact that the late spring conditions made land rolling difficult, but not impossible, has added to the challenges on fields where slurry was spread and which were grazed. Silage contractors are now paying the price for the advice given to farmers not to roll land, for fear of stunting grass growth,” he added.

“Silage contractors are the ones paying the price for this. Silage contractors have picked up everything from boulders to bed frames, with one contractor 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 be checked for stones and fallen tree branches prior to this season. We are asking them to understand that contractors want to get their work done as fast as possible,” said FCI CEO.

“This year Irish contractors have invested more than €25 million alone in expensive and modern silage harvesting machinery. These machines cannot cope with neglected field conditions, which are on an increasing number of farms, and are resulting in huge machinery repair costs, not to mention significant downtime.

“This situation also serves to create delays for other farmers in the harvesting pipeline,” added Michael Moroney.

“When these unnecessary backlogs build up, contractors face new time-related pressures, putting the health and safety of their employees at risk as farmers naturally seek to maximise weather opportunities.

“We are all aware that the silage making process is the most fuel demanding process in Irish agriculture. FCI research has shown that the 36% increase in agricultural diesel fuel costs to €0.75/litre in 2018 compared with 2017, will add in excess of €500 per day in fuel costs, to the overall running cost of a modern Irish silage contractor harvesting system.

“This is a challenge enough for contractors not to mention the additional machinery repair cost challenges resulting from poor field conditions, which could have been prevented in many cases.

“We know that members of the Association of Farm and Forestry Contractors in Ireland (FCI) Farm have played their critically important role in ensuring that the 2018 silage harvest is cost-effective and sufficient to meet the need of an expanding Irish world class food production industry,” said Michael Moroney.

“We need farmers to understand that to achieve efficiencies from the modern silage harvesting machinery that Irish contractors are continuously investing in, fields and yards must be in a condition to allow these machines and their operators to perform to their optimum for cost-effective harvesting. That demands a basic level of farm planning and land management which most farmers must understand,” he added.