Farm Ireland

Saturday 24 February 2018

Bumper silage season is a badly needed boost for farmers' morale

Silage season is in full swing.
Silage season is in full swing.
Ann Fitzgerald

Ann Fitzgerald

The fields are alive with the sound of tractors.

I know it's cheesy but I love the scene from the Sound Of Music when Julie Andrews bursts into song on an Austrian hillside. The Hills are Alive is a celebration of the simple joys of nature that never fails to lifts the spirit.

The silage season is the one time of the year when the Irish countryside is guaranteed to burst into life and last week it was pulsating. From dawn 'til dusk, a chorus of machinery filled the fields, roads and farmyards.

The fear - which is based on harsh experience - is that it will not last. It's always a strange kind of feeling if the good weather continues because you begin to wonder what all the rush was for and if you could have done something better if you had taken more time. Probably not.

In what seems like the blink of an eye, we have gone from a situation of no-grass to plenty-grass, from moderate growing conditions to trying to get the silage picked up before it over wilts.

Now, where it looked iffy earlier on, hopefully everyone will have an abundance of feed. Given the challenges being faced on other fronts, especially in the dairy sector, this should give people a badly needed morale boost.

One evening my husband Robin was shaking out some silage. When dinner time came he was reluctant to take a break because he wanted to finish before nightfall. So instead we joined him for a picnic. In 21st century Irish style, it was lasagne. No "hang" sandwiches for us.

Afterwards, the girls and I spent a good hour rolling around in the grass, making piles and trying to burst through the opponent's. Innocent fun.

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Of course, the silage season is not necessarily as popular with those outside farming. Drive around any bend on the road you could meet a couple of blue plastic barrels bearing a hastily painted "caution" or "machinery crossing." A journey which might normally take 20 minutes suddenly takes twice that.

Maybe it's my imagination but these delays cause less annoyance than might be expected. Many drivers take the opportunity of the slower pace to soak up the atmosphere.

White flowers dominate the lush vegetation. The hedges are weighted down by cascading whitethorn while the cow parsley bobs its head in mock homage at every passing vehicle.

Out in the field, the giant hungry harvester gobbles up the grass. In the yard, the flicking rake rattles as the loader climbs the rising mountain of silage and then coasts back down. Over and again. It's an intoxicating mix of power, diesel and the freedom of fine weather.

But though these people work together, each driver has their own machine and they are more likely to talk by phone than face to face. The one time they come together is at the end. Indeed, this is one of the few remaining times that farming people do pull together for work, in the covering of the pit.

This often happens late at night. But it's far better craic, for the observing bystanders at least, when it's done the following day. Scattering tyres over every inch of the black plastic in blazing sunshine.

Then once the pit is done, every farmer secretly hopes it will start to spill rain, to bed down the plastic and start the aftergrass.

All's fair in love and silage.

Indo Farming