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Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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Silage contractors harassed by ‘incessant’ calls and messages

FCI is requesting support for its call for the “calming down of the current frenzy of silage urgency”.

Its Chief Executive, Michael Moroney, has 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 food production industry.

Silage urgency

He said: “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.”

“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,”

“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.

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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.

Less than 10% of first-cut silage harvested

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.”

“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. This has created an urgency on many farms that has not been witnessed in the past,” he said.

40% increase in fuel usage

“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-acres) 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 group said, the equally important safety issue for operators both in the field and on the silage pit.

“At FCI, we are appealing to you, the 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.

‘Yes we can’

FCI said it is also “very conscious” that the challenges of a late first cut grass silage harvest brought on by “unrealistic demands” from farmers, will mean that many silage contractor teams will be working long hours per day, in the coming weeks.

Like all employment sectors, employees are required to adhere to the Working Time Act regulations.

“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,”  he concluded.

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