Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Wednesday 21 February 2018

Machinery sharing can cut tillage costs by up to 15pc

A methane-powered concept tractor by New Holland Agricultural Equipment SpA, a division of CNH Industrial NV on display during the Farm Progress Show in Decatur, Illinois
A methane-powered concept tractor by New Holland Agricultural Equipment SpA, a division of CNH Industrial NV on display during the Farm Progress Show in Decatur, Illinois

Claire Fox

Machinery is the single biggest cost incurred by tillage farmers when producing their cereal crop.

Shay Phelan, a tillage specialist at ­Teagasc, told farmers at the Teagasc National Crops Forum that machinery can account for up to 40pc of the total costs of growing crops in Ireland - and this cost doesn't necessarily decrease if farm scale increases.

Having conducted a survey on 139 farms, with an average size of 270 acres, Teagasc concluded that there is about €10 per acre of a difference in savings when it comes to farm size. However, farm fragmentation can increase machinery costs hugely.

"Farm size doesn't necessarily dilute machinery costs. It brings costs down slightly but not hugely," said Mr Phelan.

"Land fragmentation has an impact. Farms that are in the one block have fewer costs. There's almost €20 per acre of a difference with very fragmented farms, just in terms of wear and tear, and the diesel expenses of going over and back add to the costs on your farm."

He added that machinery costs will be incurred somewhere along the line, whether you're a farmer with old machinery that will need to be repaired or replaced, or if you have bought new machinery and need to make repayments.

"You need to ask yourself, do you need it or do you want it. You have to make those repayments whether you've a good or bad year. So avoid impulse buying.

"Also, if you've older machinery, you may say it's costing me nothing but when it comes to passing it on to the next generation, it won't make the grade."

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Equipment co-ops

One way in which tillage farmers could reduce their tillage costs is through machinery sharing.

Stephane Diard, a French farmer and a member of a CUMA co-op, told those at the forum that sharing equipment brings down costs.

"There's 5-15pc cost cutting of machinery if you're in a CUMA. There's more than 250,000 items of machinery in France's 12,000 CUMAs."

Dermot Forristal of Teagasc said that "structure and support is key" if Ireland was to set up a similar system to the French CUMA, and that it is "not beyond the bounds of possibility" as Ireland has numerous co-ops already.

"What's unique about CUMA is that there is a good structure behind it. CUMAs won't just happen, we need to build a structure around it. We need to take into account the unique structure we have here. Contractors are very strong here and are cost competitive. Maybe there's a way we could encompass contractors in CUMAs."

Oliver Molloy of the Department of Agriculture addressed farmers on the TAMS machinery investment scheme. Some 489 tillage farmers have so far applied for TAMS, while roller/furrow presses, disc stubble cultivators and tractor steering controllers have been the most popular items applied for under the initiative.

He reminded farmers that they have until October 6 to apply for the next tranche of TAMS and expects to get an increase in applications once farmers workload with the harvest reduces in a few weeks.

CLAIRE FOX


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