Husband and wife duo, Cathal and Julie Swan, alongside their son, Shane, manage the running of a 600 Texel-cross-Suffolk ewe flock with Swan Agri Ltd, a successful family silage contracting business.
Cathal established the firm in 1984 after completing his studies and believes that “the sheep enterprise nicely complements the agri contracting business, which is less busy in the springtime”.
Swan Agri offer silage contracting and slurry and manure spreading services to local farmers.
Their machinery fleet includes an NC, Major and a Redrock 3500-gallon slurry tanker (fitted with a trailing shoe), along with a Ktwo and Hi Spec muck spreaders.
In addition, they also provide a hedge-cutting service for local farmers and other customers using a 15 t Kobelco hedge cutter on tracks which has a saw and three shears.
The silage machinery includes six John Deere tractors, a new Claas self-propelled silage harvester and a McHale F5500 for baling 3,000-4,000 bales of hay and straw, along with a McHale Fusion 3 plus for making thousands of grass silage bales.
Cathal and Shane also cut thousands of acres of grass for pit silage.
Other forage machinery includes John Deere mowers (triple combination), Claas, Krone tedders, plus other equipment.
Swan Agri offer customers an all-in service from mowing to tedding, baling or clamping silage.
Shane trained as a John Deere mechanic with Meath Farm Machinery, so he is able to maintain and service the machinery off-season or during quiet periods in the business.
Film and Film System
After using the Baletite mantle film successfully to replace netwrap for two seasons on the recommendation of David Hogan B.Agr.Sc, an agri manager with Drummonds Ltd, Cathal agreed to use the Silotite Pro after he had problems with another brand of bale wrap, so he found that “there was a very good tack on this film”.
According to Cathal, “using the Film and Film System – the combination of the Baletite and Silotite Pro – was definitely the right decision”.
“This is the way forward for anyone doing a big volume of bales and has time constraints.”
“Farmers using the Film & Film system are happy that the extra cost of €1.50 per bale is good value indeed.”
The reduced losses that resulted through the use of the Film & Film wrapping system means that the farmer has more and better quality forage to feed to their herd.
The value of the extra silage conserved is around €5/bale, a calculation based on data supplied in December 2022 by Dr Tom Butler of FBA Laboratories.
As a farmer himself, Cathal knows how important silage quality is for milk production and liveweight gain with cattle and sheep.
Cathal says that using Baletite is “more user-friendly than net wrap, bales hold their shape better, are easier to move, are far less likely to rip during handling and silage quality is definitely better, especially for higher dry matter (DM) grass”.
“Silage is sweeter, and there is no mould, so my customers appreciate this, and they have no problem switching to the new Film & Film system.”
“Before this, we usually had to cut open the bales to check on haylage quality and check for moulds and wastage.”
To further improve the nutritional value of his haylage used for sheep, Cathal has a bulk tank mounted on a front-end loader fitted with a dribble bar which can add molasses to the bales before wrapping. Some of his sheep customers also avail of this service.
SilotitePro black balewrap film is on an 1,800m reel instead of the conventional 1500m reel, with the additional length allowing users to produce 20% more bales per reel.
The resultant cost savings are further enhanced by a reduction in the reel changes necessary.
Un-boxing and changing a reel takes approximately 7 minutes, so a contractor wrapping, say, 350 bales a day, can save around 30 minutes daily, according to a spokesperson for the firm.
About the product
Baletite is an innovative pre-orientated film that replaces net wrap in round silage bales.
Specifically created for the next generation of baling machines, such as the McHale Fusion 3 Plus, it has been designed to enhance the ensiling process and protect the bale contents.
Being a film, Baletite provides an additional air barrier whilst helping to retain a better bale shape by exerting a tighter grip around the bale circumference.
Plus, it reduces the wastage of valuable silage, as, unlike net wrap, no baled fodder can become enmeshed in it.
Its production from the same base material as Silotite Pro bale wrap means users do not have to separate the Baletite from the balewrap after use.
Instead, both Baletite and the bale wrap can be recycled together, thereby saving valuable time and labour costs.