As silage season gets under way in parts of the country, diesel price remains a hot topic for contractors and farmers.

This year more than ever, farmers and contractors need to batten the hatches and keep a close eye on fuel usage and operating costs. Particularly, contractors who have opted to provide work rates based on a fuel surcharge will need to monitor the quantity burnt between jobs as well as on a daily basis in order to keep track of costings.

Rotech, based in Co Wexford, is one Irish firm that specialises in fuel management solutions, ranging from fuel tank installation to wireless fuel monitoring systems right through to high-end diesel management systems. The primary use to date for such fuel management systems was in haulage and construction.

However, interest among agricultural contractors has grown given rising fuel costs and ever-tightening margins.

With modern contracting fleets burning in the region of 3,000l/day at the current fuel price averaging between 120c/l and 130c/l to cut and harvest 100 acres of precision chop silage, good fuel management is more important than ever.

These systems if used to their potential can provide information to aid proactive decision-making rather than reactive. Fob or modern cloud-based systems collect and compile data in relation to when and by how much a particular machine was refuelled.

From here, depending on the system, the litres burnt are worked out to provide complete transparency to the business owner on a real-time basis.

Other advantages of these higher-end app-based systems include low-level alarms and the potential for suppliers to monitor customer tank level if operating a top-up service.

Depending on the end user’s requirements, data in relation to fuel usage can be broken down per machine and analysed over a season, per day or per job basis.

The real benefit then is the ability to make results-based decisions on things like machine costings, which might influence future buying decisions. This is critical information for any business burning large quantities of fuel.

Prices for the Pisui fuel pump and fuel management system range from €2,700 to €3,600 plus VAT.

Contractor view

John Daly, Ballinasloe Co Galway

Contracting and farming near Ballinasloe, Co Galway, John Daly offers a range of services from pit silage to bales as well as slurry and tillage operations. In 2013 he fitted a Piusi Cube 70MC fuel pump and management system. He says: “Eight years on, it’s working away the best. Each machine in the fleet has its own fob for identity and record purposes on the system when refuelling. Once the system’s memory is full I use the master fob to print off all the data for analysis and record-keeping.

“I wouldn’t say it directly saves on fuel. It’s more indirect and down to what you choose to do with the data. For example, it allows me to work out quickly and accurately what a tractor burns at a particular task whether it’s baling or pumping slurry. During peak silage season, I can see straight away that there’s 3,000l of diesel being burnt per day. From here I can break this down per tractor.

“It has influenced buying decisions when it came to changing tractors over the years. One year we had four tractors out on demo, using the fuel management system. I worked out what the most fuel efficient tractor was at the same work. The difference was considerable and at today’s prices wouldn’t be long working out into a substantial figure over the ownership of a tractor. This influenced my decision to buy the most fuel-efficient tractor which I might not have done if the difference in fuel consumption of each wasn’t so plain to be seen.

“Last year, I paid €152,000 in total for green diesel and expect this to double this year. The fuel management system from my experience allows better decision-making within the business which is important in a year like this when margins are so tight.”