And they’re off. All across the country, silage mowers are being dragged around fields in a race against the weather as the great annual silage making season gets up and running in earnest. It’s one of those sounds of summer, the sizzling noise of the harvester behind the tractors.

Time doesn’t stand still and a good barometer of how this summer harvest has moved on over the years is the sheer speed at which fields are cut a nd pits filled. What would have taken a day to cut when I was a chap would be run over in an hour or two today.

It was a time of year I relished. Just as secondary school was out on holidays, I was off to the farm for the summer. There would be two cuts of silage but the first cut at the start of June was always exciting.

Weather did and still does hold all the aces when it comes to silage making. Contractors need nerves of steel and the patience of Job to manage nervy farmers anxious to get their silage cut before the rain.

An Irish thing

I spoke to a contractor recently who remembered how his phone would hop this time of the year every evening after the 9.30 weather forecast.

In the modern world of technology it may not be such the important three minutes of TV it once was, but doubtful there is a farmer who does not silence the kitchen to hear the weather forecast with a few fields of grass dry and ready for cutting. It’s one of those things we might refer to as “such an Irish thing”.

Without wishing to sound like a 90 year old reminiscing about bringing cans of milk to the creamery on the back of a donkey and cart, the days of silage cutting when I was in my teens bring happy memories.

The farmyard would be buzzing with the Meitheal in full swing. That was in the days when my uncle and the other local farmers filled pits rather than wrapped bales. And each of the half a dozen men had a specific job.


It was like placing a rugby team into their positions before kick-off. There were different jobs to be done to build the pit as the trailers drew the loads of deep green grass into the yard.

The man to back up the loads into the pit, the man tramping it with the tractor, then there were the rest of us pitching, forking, shaking and dressing the grass with forks and grapes.

The dinner and the tae was another highlight. Granny would be like the manager overseeing the waiters serving a wedding as she made sure everybody had enough of everything as my auntie and others would serve up well earned and quickly eaten dinners.

The fear of a spill of rain always gave the day a sense of nervousness and unease while a breakdown was another frustration likely to happen at any stage.

Then when the last load was brought in sometimes late at night under darkness in time to cover the pit until winter time, the local road show would move on to the next farmer on the list.

I am not sure if the romance of silage making exists any more in a world where everything is like watching a film on fast forward. But it is an important time of the year for farmers and contractors. Lets hope for a bountiful harvest this summer in the face of big financial challenges.

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