Farm Ireland

Tuesday 24 October 2017

Waterford contractor Tony Phelan getting the most out of his Fusion III machine as sun shines on his baled silage business

grass is greener thanks to new fusion wrapper

Derek Casey

Derek Casey

Co Waterford-based silage contractor Tony Phelan must be one of the first men in the country to buy a new McHale Fusion III baler wrapper.

The latest machine to be built by the Mayo firm was only launched at last year's Ploughing Championships, but Mr Phelan certainly didn't hang around.

He bought the new Fusion III that was on display at the McHale stand and it landed in his yard the Monday after the Ploughing.

Mr Phelan only started his contracting business three years ago, but he has already built up a decent customer base. He says that local farmers have been offering good support.

His main business is baled silage, and with memories of the spring fodder crisis still raw for some, 2013 is proving to be a good year for making bales.

"I notice a lot of my customers are looking to make an extra 50 or 60 bales on what they would have made last year," Mr Phelan said.

"Despite the recent excellent weather, it seems people got such a fright with the bad spring that they are just not taking any chances. There's lots of hay being made around these parts as well, so hopefully farmers will fare better next winter."

To help finance his new baler, Mr Phelan traded in his old Mark I Fusion that he bought second hand when starting his business in 2010.

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In the early days of the business, he made a conscious decision to only buy second-hand equipment rather than go all out on new kit. The aim was always to reduce exposure.

"At the start the priority for me was to get a second-hand machine that was in good condition and capable of giving me two or three years.

"There were 40,000 bales on my first Fusion when I bought it. I put another 20,000 on the clock over the following two seasons. That machine went fairly well apart from the odd tine and plate needing replacing on the intake. That was the main factor in deciding to upgrade to a new Fusion."

The price of the new Fusion is €70,000 including VAT. To help finance the deal, Mr Phelan traded in his old baler, for which he was allowed €24,000.

The baler was bought from local McHale dealers, Kill Agri in Killrossanty, Co Waterford.

The Fusion is a hugely successful machine with models literally working in the four corners of the world. That means there will be plenty of people looking to know what exactly is different about this latest incarnation. I put that question to Mr Phelan.

"I've made about 7,000 bales with it so far, and some of the good changes I notice are that it is lighter to pull, which is good for fuel economy.

"It has better service access due to the full piece plastic doors, the design of which appeals to me. It seems to have improved crop intake compared to the earlier Fusion versions and it also holds two extra plastic wraps.

"In addition, the computer control box has been simplified – something that needed to be done," Mr Phelan said.

"On the downside, one thing I noticed is the lack of a proper weather guard over the plastic storage bay. I've found this to be a pain if you are using plastic with a cardboard core because when the cores get wet they can sag and lose their shape.

"This makes things difficult during wrapping. It is something that could be corrected fairly easily with a little bit more overhang on the plastic body over the storage bay.

"Some people aren't too keen on the new modern look compared to the Fusion mark II, but I think it looks well. All in all, I'd be very happy with the machine so far, but time will tell. It will face tougher summers than this one."

In terms of tractors, for baling and mowing work Mr Phelan uses a 2008-registered Case IH CVX 195 that he bought recently. The CVX is a very clean looking UK import with 3,500 hours on the clock.

It was sourced by Kill Agri after Mr Phelan asked the dealer to find what he was looking for. "I was previously using a New Holland T6070, but I wanted a continuously variable transmission to make things easier for baling work where you have to change speeds a lot depending on crop conditions," he said.

"Fuel economy is very good with the CVX, and having the local Case IH dealer 10 minutes away means back up is available whenever I want it. That is so important when you suffer a breakdown."

Mr Phelan also uses a second tractor that is hired out at the moment, a Case IH Maxxum 95, that is usually hitched up to his Pottinger rake.

This is a small tractor, but he reports that it has proved ideal for raking silage and speeding up jobs that would otherwise take a long time to get through.

At a hire rate of €12 per hour it certainly makes sense. All mowing is done with a Pottinger 10ft trailed mower, with the CVX used for mowing when it isn't on the baler.

If he can help it, Mr Phelan normally tries to give the farmer a baling price exclusive of plastic. This year he says more farmers are opting to supply the plastic themselves because they can clearly see how the costs are broken down.

Irish Independent