10 steps to cutting your silage bill
From buying in bulk to getting help for the pit, these simple steps are vital for keeping costs down
Silage season 2019 has kicked off in earnest over the last week. Mowers are entering fields up and down the country and contractors are reporting big demand for both baled and pit silage. Consider the following 10 steps to get the cheapest bill possible for making good quality silage.
1 WALK YOUR SILAGE GROUND
Walk every acre to be mown before allowing a contractor on to the land. This really is in your own interests. Many contractors are using self-propelled mowers and harvesters worth north of €250,000, and stray objects like fencing posts or wire can cause huge damage.
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2 CONSIDER PROVIDING A MEAL
Contractors and their weary drivers appreciate a meal if they are working long hours and days.
It sounds old fashioned, but when the time for payment comes and writing the cheque, the contracting team that was looked after will be more inclined to negotiate.
3 GET HELP FOR THE PIT
For pit silage, be sure to have plenty of hands assembled in order to get the pit covered quickly and efficiently.
There is nothing more annoying for a contractor than to have to spend hours covering the pit while the next customer is anxiously waiting for the team to arrive before the weather breaks.
So plan ahead, have the cover ready to go and all tyres at hand.
4 ENSURE PROMPT PAYMENT
Every contractor's favourite customer is the farmer who insists on paying 'going out the gate'.
Not everyone can afford to do this, but if you can, it is often very worthwhile because most contractors offer a discount for prompt payment.
It is often possible to knock €10-€15 an acre off the average silage quote if the farmer pays the contractor at the gate. If you have 50 acres of silage charged at €110 an acre, that comes to a €750 saving.
5 PLAN AHEAD FOR ADDITIVES
Additives are not used as much anymore, with many farmers opting to wilt instead. If you are using one, a bit of advance planning is needed - whether it is getting the grass tested for sugars, or ordering, collecting and having it delivered.
Some of the powder-type additives have to be mixed in water and left for a day before they are ready for use.
The barrels should be transported to the fields and left so they are easy to load on to the harvester.
6 SET UP A 'DRIVE-THROUGH'
Plenty of space is needed around the yard while the pit is being made. Where new facilities are being planned, leave ample room for working in front of silage pits - 12-15m between silage pits and sheds. The silage-making process will be more efficient and safer if the loader operator has room to keep going while tractors and trailers are coming and going.
7 GET THE BASICS RIGHT
Before cutting silage, ensure effluent tanks are empty. Check the pit base and walls to see that they are structurally sound and clean the pit base to avoid costly contamination of forage.
8 LESS IS MORE
Two ways to lower the bill for baled silage are to reduce the number of bales made per acre by wilting the grass properly, and to produce denser bales.
9 BUY IN BULK
If you are supplying your own bale wrap (as opposed to the contractor supplying it), a good idea is to form a buyers group with a few other farmers in your area.
A group of 10 farmers have much more clout ordering from the local co-op than you can ever expect to have on your own.
10 DON'T SHORT-CHANGE ON SAFETY
Last, but certainly not least, never cut corners when it comes to farm safety. The months of May and June are statistically the most dangerous months on the farm and the Health and Safety Authority have been reminding farmers about doing the basics right. The latest statistics have shown that a shocking 51pc of accidents on farms result from machinery and vehicle use.
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