Keeping the crew well fed and buying bale wrap in bulk are some of the simple steps that can help slash your silage costs.
1 Take a walk
There can be no excuse for not making it your business to walk every acre to be mown before allowing a contractor onto the land. This really is in your own interests. Many contractors are using self-propelled mowers and harvesters worth north of €250,000 plus the VAT. Warn contractors and their staff of hazards they may encounter on your farm.
2 Feed them feed!
Contractors and their weary drivers certainly appreciate a meal if they are working long hours and days. The tradition of bringing a contractor and his team into the kitchen is quickly vanishing. When it comes to writing the cheque, a full-bellied contractor will be more inclined to negotiate.
3 Hands on at the pit face
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 farmer customer is anxiously waiting for the team to arrive before the weather breaks. So plan ahead, have the cover unfolded and all tyres ready to be placed.
4 Pay On Time
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/ac off the average silage quote if the farmer pays the contractor at the gate. If you have 50ac of silage charged at €110/ac, that comes to a €750 saving.
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 that they are easy to load onto 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
For baled silage, two ways to lower the bill 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 have on your own.
10 Safety first
Never cut corners when it comes to farm safety. May and June are statistically the most dangerous months of the year on the farm.