Silage 2021 – A call for calm from Association of Farm & Forestry Contractors

The Association of Farm & Forestry Contractors in Ireland (FCI) has sought support from the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Teagasc and the farm organisations in its appeal for calming down of the pressure being exerted on many of Ireland’s Silage Contractors, by farmer clients, as farmers and Silage Contractors together face the challenge of completing the 2021 grass silage harvest following a period of unprecedented poor growth further exacerbated by poor weather conditions for harvesting.

“During the past week, the Association has received many calls from many Silage Contractors who are being harassed by incessant telephone calls and messages in an effort to do the impossible, that is, to harvest grass in conditions that are unsuitable, unsafe and ultimately will lead to poor quality animal feed for the housing period of Winter 2021,” said FCI Chief Executive Michael Moroney. “Irish Farm Contractors are well equipped with modern, high output and efficient machinery and have the skills to complete the grass silage harvest when weather conditions permit,” he added.

“The current frenzy to get first cut grass silage harvested, driven by weather induced delays to the harvesting that are evident on many farms, is unprecedented, by our FCI members,” said Michael Moroney. “Many Silage Contractors have not experienced this level of constant pressure from their farmer clients in the past, as understandably each farmers’ priority is their own silage,” he added.

He said that FCI is now appealing for your support to ensure a calming down of the situation on farms. The Association has requested the support of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Teagasc and the farm organisations that that their officers in the fields and those in regular contact with farmers, will support this appeal, to back off the pressure on Silage Contractors, which is in the interests of all parties involved in the single biggest national farm mechanisation challenge, that is completing the first cut grass silage harvest to deliver the highest quality winter feed.

The key FCI message is that there are now ample mechanisation resources in the hands of skilled Irish Silage Contractors. “Against this background, our members are seeking the respect and understanding of farmers at this difficult harvest time. We as Silage Contractors along with our farmer clients, all have the same objective of ensuring the harvest of the best quality grass silage, with efficiency and safety as priorities, for all Irish farmers. This year has presented new challenges and we can all achieve the best result by co-operation, understanding, respect and patience,” said Michael Moroney.

“At FCI we now estimate that less than 10% of the first cut grass silage crop has been harvested by the last week of May, compared with 90% of the work being completed by the same period in 2020. There is now a significant backlog of work to be completed and this has created an urgency on many farms that has not been witnessed in the past,” he said.

“As part of that unique partnership that exists between Farm Contractors and their farmer clients, our FCI members are acutely aware of the importance of high-quality grass-based winter feed for the financial success and sustainability of their farm businesses. These contractors are also invested in ensuring quality grass silage for reasons of optimum animal health for the millions of livestock that our members provide valuable feed for, each year, among our client farmers, said Michael Moroney.

For Silage Contractors, both pit silage and baling operations, this year’s weather challenges are further compounding to create additional significant costs. With only 10% of the grass silage harvest completed FCI members have identified significant weather-related harvesting cost increases. These have come at a time when agricultural diesel prices have risen by more than 50% compared with 2020.

“Our analysis from Silage Contractor members, using the latest performance and economy measurement technology that is widely used in our sector, has already shown that wet grass harvesting will increase the volume of grass to be harvested as measured in tonnes per hectare or trailer loads per hectare. One early example of this is the measured fuel usage on a 25ha (60 acre) area was 2,400 litres last week, a 40% increase in fuel usage over the same area in 2020,” said Michael Moroney.

There is the equally important issue of safety for operators both in the field and on the silage pit. “At FCI we are appealing to you Minister to support our call to the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) to enforce a sensible restriction on silage pit heights. This will be a particular risk this year as heavy and wet grass is more difficult to manage, prone to pit slippage, posing additional dangers to those operating loaders on silage pits,” said Michael Moroney.

At FCI, we are also very conscious that the challenges of a late first cut grass silage harvest brought on by unrealistic demands from farmer clients, will mean that many Silage Contractor teams will be working long hours per day, in the coming weeks. Like all employment sectors, our employees are required to adhere to the Working Time Act regulations.

FCI is requesting support for the call for calming down of the current frenzy of silage urgency. He appealed to farmers across Ireland to continue in their trust of their Silage Contractor to deliver the levels of client services that for generations of farmers, have been at the foundations of Ireland’s world quality food production industry.

“When it comes to the national first cut grass silage harvest in 2021 and despite all the challenges, our motto as Farm Contractors is – “Yes we can – Is Féidir Linn”.  That can only be achieved with the co-operation, support and respect of our thousands of farmer clients,” said the FCI Chief Executive.

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