Declan Keating has a large family silage contracting business, JDK Contracts, based at 11 Lisbane Road, Newtownards in Co. Down, serving beef, dairy and sheep farmers making baled silage.
The family silage contracting business was established in 1993 when they purchased their first bale wrapper.
Declan began baling and wrapping in 2010 and covers a large catchment area in Co. Down.
His wife, Valerie, is the firm’s accounts administrator, and his two sons, Declan Junior and Eoin, are actively involved in the family business.
The machinery fleet includes seven John Deere tractors, three McHale Fusion baler wrappers, a McHale 5600 fixed chamber baler and a McHale Orbital hi-speed bale wrapper.
Declan and his team provide an all-in service for livestock farmers, which includes mowing, tedding and raking using McHale equipment.
Bale handling is done with JM TR3 bale grab equipment, and bales are transported using two Broughan trailers.
“For baled silage, we use SilotitePR1800 purchased from Dessie Ferguson at Fane Valley Stores,” he explains.
“They give us a great service, competitive prices and top-class products,” says Declan.
“With its 1800m length, contractors get up to 20% more bales wrapped per reel, so less downtime to change reels.”
“Also, the new Silotite1800 has an enhanced oxygen barrier and UV protection for bales, whatever the weather.”
According to Dessie Ferguson, “the innovative sleeve packaging offers significant advantages for contractors and stockists”.
“Being lighter than the standard cardboard box, there is a reduction of almost 20kg in packaging material used on every pallet.”
Four years ago, Declan began using the innovative Film & Film system, which combines the use of SilotitePro bale wrap and Baletite baler film.
According to Declan, “this results in better shaped, firmer, tighter and more compact bales which can better withstand handling”.
“Using baler film instead of net wrap, the Film &Film wrapping system helps to reduce silage losses by virtually eliminating mould growth and makes the feed out of silage much easier and quicker.”
Declan does not charge his customers anything extra for using Baletite to replace the netwrap and has now “weaned off” all his customers from using netwrap.
“Aside from better quality silage and mould-free bales, the Baletite is easier to peel off from the bales and does not have to be recycled separately.”
“Netwrap was getting caught in the silage and equipment, so good riddance to it indeed.”
130-cow herd making 2,000 silage bales
One of Declan’s long-term customers and an early user of the Film and Film system is Bobby Breen, Grangemount Farm, Kircubbin, Co. Down on the Ards Peninsula.
Bobby has been a customer of Declans for over 10 years.
Last week, he made 1,200 bales of first-cut silage and will make produce 800 bales later in the season for his dairy herd.
As he makes all baled silage, Bobby does not incur the significant cost of building silage clamps.
Bobby does not have the time or the equipment, so all bales are moved and stacked by the JDK Contracts team, and they finished work at 1 am.
The Grangemount Holstein & British Friesian herd of 130 spring calving cows, which average 8,000 litres pa and milk, is supplied to Lakeland Dairies.
Bobby has no silage pits, and he prefers the Film & Film system over net wrap because “the silage bales get a better seal”.
“There is no mouldy or waste silage, and bales are easier to feed out than with netwrap, which can get enmeshed with the silage.”
Bobby uses a Keltec bale slicer to open bales and bales are fed to the cows in a TMR system with a Trioliet diet feeder.
Research trial results
The high holding force of Baletite in the F&F wrapping system maintains the pressure that has been applied during baling.
Trials undertaken by the ILVO (Institute for Research in Agriculture) in Belgium found that bales wrapped using the Film & Film System, on average, contained 10% more silage.
Trial results have been obtained in Wales by Dr. Dave Davies of Silage Solutions Ltd, who acts as an independent consultant to the Silage Advisory Centres.
Dr. Davies is a former senior research scientist at the Institute of Grassland & Environmental Research (IGER) at Aberystwyth in Wales.
Facts and figures
On a trial he conducted on a commercial farm in Wales under real working farm conditions Dr Davies demonstrated that Film & Film wrapped bales had:
- 5% less dry matter (DM) losses compared to netwrap bales due to an enhanced fermentation process. The farmer gained on average 7.35kg DM/bale using this system.
- 80% less DM losses compared to netwrap bales due to mould formation on the bale.
- For a cattle farmer this was equivalent to an increase of 1.9kg of live weight gain per bale.
- The averagely gain for each of these bales could give a dairy farmer an additional 15 litres of milk production.
- The value of the extra silage conserved is around £4.40 /bale. This calculation is based on data supplied in December 2022 by Dr. Tom Butler of FBA Laboratories.
The reduced losses that resulted through the use of the F&F wrapping system meant that the farmer on this farm gained more forage to feed to his herd. For a dairy farmer, preserving forage more successfully could provide a significant financial benefit as follows:
- This farmer gained an average of 7.35kg DM per bale using the Film & Film wrapping system