Mower mayhem - Silage contractors have called on farmers to clean up their act
Contractors facing serious issues with stones and other objects during this year's first cut
Poor planning on the part of farmers ahead of the silage season is creating big problems for silage contractors, the Association of Farm & Forestry Contractors in Ireland (FCI) has warned.
"The extremely high levels of stone and tree-branch damage to machines this year are adding significantly to contractor's costs," said FCI Chief Executive Michael Moroney.
"They are struggling to maximise the opportunities provided by the good harvesting weather to ensure their customers get the best possible silage crops into pits quickly and cleanly.
"Some of our members are reporting increasing levels of machine damage to mowers, tedders and harvesters this year.
"The fact that the late spring conditions made land rolling difficult, but not impossible, has added to the challenges on fields where slurry was spread and which were grazed," said Mr Moroney.
"Silage contractors are now paying the price for the advice given to farmers not to roll land for fear of stunting grass growth.
"They have picked up everything from boulders to bed frames, with one contractor we know of taking a full-size field gate into a new and expensive self-propelled mower," he added.
"We are asking farmers to take time to examine their planning deficits that resulted in land not being checked for stones and fallen tree branches prior to this season.
"This year Irish contractors have invested more than €25m alone in expensive and modern silage harvesting machinery. These machines cannot cope with neglected field conditions, which are on an increasing number of farms, and are resulting in huge machinery repair costs, not to mention significant downtime. This situation also serves to create delays for other farmers in the harvesting pipeline," said Mr Moroney.
"When these unnecessary backlogs build up, contractors face new time-related pressures, putting the health and safety of their employees at risk as farmers naturally seek to maximise weather opportunities.
"We are all aware that the silage-making process is the most fuel demanding process in Irish agriculture."
FCI research has shown that the 36pc increase in agricultural diesel fuel costs to €0.75/litre in 2018 compared with 2017, will add in excess of €500 per day to the overall running cost of a modern Irish silage contractor harvesting system.
"This challenge alone is enough for contractors, not to mention the additional machinery repair cost challenges resulting from poor field conditions, which could have been prevented in many cases," said Mr Moroney.
"We need farmers to understand that to achieve efficiencies from the modern silage harvesting machinery that Irish contractors are continuously investing in, fields and yards must be in a condition to allow these machines and their operators to perform to their optimum for cost-effective harvesting.
"That demands a basic level of farm planning and land management which most farmers must understand," he added.
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