Silage season finally gets into full swing
Silage harvest moves into top gear around the country this week as improving weather conditions allow contractors to claw back lost time.
While close to 50pc of the crop has been saved in the southern half of the country, contractors in the northern half have only got started properly in the last seven days.
Crops are one to two weeks behind schedule, but reports are that covers have bulked up significantly in the last fortnight.
"There's been a bit of a turn-around in the last fortnight, with a few hours of sunshine every day enough to allow growth to maintain its momentum. Along with an increase in bulk, there's improvement in sugar contents too," said Teagasc's regional manager in Kerry and Limerick, John Donworth.
"Ideally farmers should be aiming for a 24 hour wilt, but at a minimum they should be getting a six hour wilt," he advised.
Limerick contractor, John Sheehan, said that crops were at least a week behind last year. While split pits were reported in his region during the early part of the season, he said that the extra bit of fibre coming into the grass now had alleviated the problem.
"There's such big quantities going into pits in such a short space of time that this is becoming more of an issue, especially if there isn't much sunshine.
"Crops are getting very heavy now, except on ground that didn't have good covers in May," he said. He's charging €125/ac, including VAT, although discounts are available for customers that pay on the day.
Work is further behind in the northeast, where Meath contractor Peter Farrelly said crops were two weeks behind normal.
"This is the first year in a while that the weather hasn't played ball, and ground conditions aren't great either. We'd normally be hitting our peak now but it's going to be the third week in June before we hit that this year," he said.
In the north west, John Cannon, an advisor with Teagasc in Co Donegal, said heavy rains had caused significant difficulties for the silage harvest.
"We are depending on a good few weeks in July to make up the leeway," he said.
"There is probably a month's grazing lost in the north west." He said some farmers had taken cattle back in as they were causing too much damage to grass on heavier ground.