Those contractors who managed to get a first cut of silage for customers before the break in May weather conditions have mostly managed to come back on schedule within the past week.

Others, particularly in the west, are still catching up on their customers’ first-cut pit silage.

A significant proportion of the contractors behind on the first cut are reporting an immense pressure to get grass cut from farmers.

Risk of burn-out

The risk of driver burn-out has increased, as farmers’ patience with waiting for contracting services to carry out work has diminished with the accumulation of heavy covers and the heading out of some swards.

Contractors have said that significant challenges remain where customers request grass to have a full day to wilt, as splitting up an outfit can reduce the acreage covered each day.

Pits which have been filled are generally quite full, potentially reducing the demand for services required if the second cut will be smaller.

However, farmers may wish to continue with a large area for their second cut to capitalise on recent high grass growth rates and replenish fodder stores.

This will be especially true in areas where farmers were forced to rehouse cattle after an initial turn-out this year.

Stephen Mohan

Owner of a self-propelled and wagon silage operation outside of Navan, Co Meath

Stephen Mohan has started into the second cut fo some customers, with his wagon crew working with farmers taking out surplus grass. / Adrian Leech

“We have just begun the second cut for some customers this week. We were lucky to have some pits done early in the first week of May, before the weather turned,” Mohan said.

“Costs are up, with the increase in diesel costs and the higher man hours it is taking to get through heavier covers of grass.

“Realistically, we would need to be getting through 140 or 150 acres a day to pay for the machinery and labour.

“It is looking like a lot of customers have been taking out surplus grass over the past few weeks. Some customers have pits well enough filled with a heavy first cut and surplus grass to not require a big second cut,” observed Mohan.

Brian Cullen

Pit and baled silage contractor based outside of Rathdrum and covering east Co Wicklow

“We are not even near the place we were through cuts last May. There have been some savage heavy cuts of silage that have slowed us down and soaked up serious fuel,” said Cullen.

“Silage is looking like it is going to drag on later into the summer and then we will be under pressure to move on to harvesting corn.

“There is a big push from farmers when we get a couple of dry days. This becomes a major challenge when we are struggling to find competent drivers to man machines,” he explained.

Gerry Davey

Providing a pit and baled silage contracting service in Collooney, Co Sligo

“We have only got going on the first cut from 20 May. I would say we have between 40% and 50% of our first cut customers finished,” explained Davey.

“Farmers are agitated this year. If there is any sign of rain, they will want to cancel and if the weather is good, we are under huge pressure to get jobs done in a short window. A lot of the flexibility seems to have gone.

“Some farmers might be willing to pay a bit extra for the heavier covers, but it is unlikely we will recoup the extra diesel and labour costs of these huge cuts,” he said.

Pádraig Noonan

Agricultural contractor providing silage, ploughing and drilling services in east Co Cork

Pádraig Noonan's outfit has found the long draws particularly challenging with the increase in diesel costs and rush to get grass covered before rain. / Donal O' Leary

“We have been busy from the end of May, getting a lot of jobs covered in the past two weeks in particular. We should be fairly well caught up on work by this weekend,” outlined Noonan.

“The tonnage has been serious this year, with a few customers having cuts up on the 17t/acre mark. The harvester has been burning serious amounts of diesel, the same as if we were chopping maize.

“The silage is being prioritised over different jobs, such as the slurry, at the moment. We will stay busy for the summer catching up on these remaining jobs,” he finished.

Adrian Douglas

Owner of a Co Down pit and baled silage contracting service with a slurry outfit too

“We are fairly well caught back up on the first cut and have just started with a second cut for some of our customers last week. At one stage, we had fallen 500 or 600 acres behind,” commented Douglas.

“Cuts are heavy, with the second cut bulking up well on many farms. Pits are generally looking fuller in yards this year when compared to last.

“There have been issues with sourcing parts for breakdowns. We have one tractor still a few weeks out of operation even though the part has been ordered,” Douglas said.