I got my first taste of silage 2023 last week. My red clover sward and a couple of acres of grazing that had become too strong.

The forecast for the week looked pretty settled and as I had to bring my mother to a hospital appointment in Sligo on Thursday, I decided to plan around that an do my baling on Friday. Red clover likes a nice bit of wilting, last year each cut was wilted for 48 hours in strong sun and the bales and the quality were excellent.

So, I decided I’d go for 48 hours this year again, unfortunately I was minus the strong sun shine this time, but there’s not a lot can be done about that. The field in question is the only field I have away from the yard.

Bale carting

Normally when I’d be taking a crop of bales off this field, I’d enlist a bit of help from somewhere to draw them in. Last year the red clover was only just sown and the crops were light, so with a bale stacker on my front loader and a bale lifter on the back, two bales every run, I could quite comfortably handle them all myself. This year however, things were quite different and I hadn’t factored that into the bale carting equation.

Although I knew I was very happy with the standing crop, it hadn’t even entered my head how many bales there would be. When I got to the field, myself and my eldest daughter Gemma, the quick count was done. Approximately 60 bales out of approximately five acres. “Not bad for 20 units of Nitrogen,” I thought. I said to Gemma, leaving the field with the first two bales “Set your stop watch there to we see how long this run takes” Leaving the field the second I told her to stop the clock. 15 minutes give or take, that meant 8 bales to the hour. 60 bales at 8 bales to the hour was an easy enough calculation. 7.5 hours and that was not counting the grazing paddocks that also had to be lifted! It was now 7 o’clock and the dinner also had to be fitted in somewhere as well.

It was now 7 o’clock and the dinner also had to be fitted in somewhere as well.

Now I’m never a man for leaving bales in the field to the next day. Get them out of there as soon as you can I say. Keeps the birds from pecking too many holes and anyway, if they're left too long, they can start to sag, then getting them lifted is a whole other day’s work. But seeing as my niece was making her first communion the following day, leaving some of them wasn’t an option anyway, it was dig in and keep at it. A couple of strong cups of coffee around midnight got me over the hump and the last bales were going into the stack around 5.30am.

I decided I’d better do the few jobs that I had previously lined out as my mornings work before I’d go to bed, as there probably wasn’t much chance of them being done otherwise before the communion. So, by the time I got that done and into the house, I was crawling into bet at around 6.30am. Three hours sleep, a shave, a shower and a couple of cups of coffee, suit on and away again. I wouldn’t fancy doing it every day though.