'Finding good drivers isn't easy so you need to look after them on wages and conditions'
Tom Kirwan runs a self-propelled harvesting and baled silage contracting outfit from his base in Kill, Co Waterford.
It is a family run business with a reputation for reliability and at the peak of the season the Kirwan outfit employs between seven and eight staff.
Where possible the team try to hire staff who come from a farming background because they tend to know a bit more about looking after machinery.
They tend to have a few farmers' sons driving for the outfit who come back for work each season. "Finding reliable drivers isn't easy these days, so I try to look after the lads in terms of proper wages and decent conditions," says Tom.
A farmer himself, Tom is acutely aware of the issues his customers face.
Last year, poor grass growth during the drought made for a stop-start season and light crops of grass for second cut in particular.
For harvest 2019 the team will be hoping for more conventional growth patterns.
Claas has been the brand of choice for the Kirwan team when it comes to the harvester for some time now, and the current 151-plated Jaguar has been performing well.
Tom bought it from local dealer McCarthys of Cork.
Most of the mowing is done with a 10-year-old Krone Big M mower.
The Kirwans also have mounted Krone mowers for periods of the season when demand for mowing is intense.
The tractor fleet consists of mostly Case IH models bought from local dealer Patrick Fitzgerald of Kill Agri, who Tom credits with always being available on the phone if needed.
The remainder of the tractor fleet comprises of a couple of New Holland and John Deere models.
Tom says there was a time when the tractor line up was nearly all John Deere, but that has gradually changed over the years.
Based in Ballyhooly, Co Cork, George Ross was the first man in the Republic of Ireland to buy Krone Big X forage harvesters over 10 years ago.
Today his outfit use two Big X harvesters, one a 650 and the other a 600 model, along with a large fleet of 14 Deutz-Fahr tractors to get through their busy workload.
A family-run business, the team offer a full pit and baled silage service as well as slurry spreading, reseeding, maize drilling, whole-crop and wheat harvesting amongst other jobs.
The Ross team have been impressed with the German-built Krone Big X harvesters since they first started using them - particularly the machines' build strength and durability.
On fuel use the team find that the Big X 650 burns between 7-10 litres of diesel/acre when picking up grass, while for maize harvesting fuel consumption rises to between 12-14 litres/acre.
They find the Big X is a smooth and balanced machine on the road, even at its top speed.
As for all contractors, 2018 proved to be a challenging and unusual year with the Cork team only wrapping up third cut silage in November last.
After a good start to the silage harvest in 2018 the flow of work was punctuated by the long summer drought when nothing was happening.
Second cut yields suffered because of the drought, and in many farms stronger yields were actually delivered in third cut.
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