All of the best financial advice would suggest for farmers to contract out as much of their work as possible, thus ensuring that you do not have a lot of costly machinery lying about for long periods.
I can see a lot of merit in this, as tractors and other pieces of machinery have all become very expensive.
I have been trying to go down this line. All our silage (both pit and bale) work is carried out by contractors, as is all our drainage and reseeding. In the springtime, all our slurry is spread by a contractor.
Over the course of a year, I engage several different contractors, but while there are a lot of good points to doing this, it is something I am becoming increasingly disillusioned with it.
During changeable weather, everyone wants the contractor to come when it is dry. Unfortunately, they cannot come to everyone at once, so someone ends up disappointed.
Last year, we waited for months for a contractor to come and do some reseeding. Every time there were a few good days, he was with someone else. He eventually came and we got the seed in, but we probably lost six months grazing, as we had the field sprayed off to kill the weeds and old grass.
It really annoyed me, because if we had our own machinery, then we would have had the job done much quicker and in better weather conditions.
The slurry contractor that we use is fairly good at coming in the springtime, but in the summer he is too busy, and we have to do it ourselves.
The guy that does the round baling for us is fairly good too. He knows that I will want him one day a week for most of the growing season, so he has nearly always a slot available for me.
The guy that does our pit silage has been working here for 36 years and I am, generally, very happy with his work.
However, he is under a lot of pressure and it has become impossible to get him when you want him.
Four years ago, I was the third farmer that he went to at the start of the silage season, but this year it felt more like I was the 30th.
We had the slurry on early and the fertiliser out in good time, with the expectation of cutting in the middle of May. Sadly, it was into June before he came.
I know that it was a poor spring for growth and grass was late. There was also some bad weather in the middle of May, which held the contractors back.
I had a great crop of grass for them to cut, but the quality will be down, and it will mean that my second cut is going to be late and the third cut probably will not happen at all.
I understand that the contractors have a difficult time, and it is hard to please everyone, but the difference between good-quality and poor-quality silage is the difference between making money and making none.
The fact is that if you have not got good-quality silage, then you are going to have to feed more meal.
All this is making me re-think my whole strategy. Am I relying too much on contractors? Is this affecting my overall farm profitability?
Would we be better off buying some more machinery and doing some of this work ourselves?
These are all very valid questions. I have three very capable sons with me on the farm. Perhaps things are only going to be heading in the one direction.