Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Friday 21 July 2017

The silage contractor who uses a ferry when cutting silage for his customers in Donegal

Derry contractor James Stewart can take the scenic route when cutting silage for his customers in Donegal

The ferry was able to hold five tractors and trailers on the 20 minute crossing
The ferry was able to hold five tractors and trailers on the 20 minute crossing

Chris McCullough

Silage time can put real pressures on an agricultural contractor who is fighting not only the weather but also a short harvest period.

Last season, when Co Derry agricultural contractor James Stewart, owner of W&J Stewart Agri Contracts, was facing a 34 miles trip one way to haul silage for a customer, he decided to take a rather unconventional short-cut to speed the process up.

James is based in Limavady and works for customers within a 20 mile radius of his base, which often takes him across the border into Donegal. He contracts with his father William and has a young son Norrie who is also very keen to help.

One of James's customers is a farmer from Quigley's Point in Donegal, who also rents land in Magilligan - which sits on the other side of Lough Foyle in Northern Ireland.

James Stewart (left) contracts with his father, William, and son, Norrie in Limavady.
James Stewart (left) contracts with his father, William, and son, Norrie in Limavady.

The problem for James was the trip around the lough from the rented land to the customer's farm was 34 miles in one direction.

Added to the dilemma was the fact that there was a total of 26 acres to harvest, which meant potentially over 100 loads of grass!

After studying the situation and calculating how many tractor and trailer combinations he would need to complete the job, James realised the solution was staring him right in the face. The distance from Magilligan to Greencastle in County Donegal, in a straight line across the lough, is just less than two miles, a route that is serviced by the Lough Foyle ferry.

It's normally a ferry for private cars but with the grass needed on the other side, James and his team decided to make use of the vital transport link.


James said: "The rented parcel of land is only one mile from the ferry and the farm is only 11 miles from the ferry on the Greencastle side of the lough, so it made much more sense to travel over the water.

"We were harvesting whole crop which did in fact yield around four good loads to the acre.

"The ferry was able to hold five tractors and trailers and took only 20 minutes to cross the water.

"It sails every half hour, so we managed to get quite a number of crossings in during a day. It was quite a sight to see all the tractors on the ferry crossing Lough Foyle."

James has been contracting for the past 11 years and, together with his team of three full-time staff and other casual staff, carry out various types of agricultural work including most grassland, slurry and tillage operations.

The Stewart family has around 50 regular customers including 15 for whom they carry out all of the machinery operations on the farm from slurry spreading to seeding to silage harvesting.

The team runs a fleet of John Deere tractors and self-propelled silage harvesters, the majority of which are purchased new.

The last two tractors purchased were bought new without trading any other tractor in against them in a bid to build up the fleet.

Heading up the current tractor fleet is a 2016 John Deere 6150. This is followed by a 2014 John Deere 6125R, two 2012 John Deere 6930s, a 2011 John Deere 6830 and a 2000 John Deere 6910.

The self-propelled harvesters are also both John Deere, a 2008 John Deere 7700 and a 2000 John Deere 6750. When spreading slurry, James uses a SlurryKat umbilical system, an Agquip 12 metre dribble bar and slurry tankers made by Heron, Redrock and Joskin.


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