Peak silage is upon us, a little late but very welcome. Contractors are reporting immense work pressure following the wettest May in recent memory.
The danger now is that contractors working round the clock to facilitate their customers put themselves, their staff and the general public at risk.
Hauling silage in a big Fendt is the dream job for many country kids, but nightmare scenarios present themselves on narrow roads.
A contractor or farmer might well say: “I did it at their age, so what’s the harm.”
If the person saying that is 50, they probably started out in a 70 horsepower tractor, travelling at 25km/h, pulling 5t of grass.
The lads and lassies starting out now are in tractors twice as big, twice as powerful, travelling at twice the speed, and pulling twice the load – at least. The dangers and risks are exponentially higher.
There is the added risk that a teenager stuck in a tractor cab all day every day will be tempted to use the phone. Contractors must ensure that every driver of every tractor has either a handsfree kit or earpiece and accessing social media sites is banned.
One other bugbear – when the silage outfit is on the move, don’t travel in convoy, traffic builds rapidly up.
Lighting is another obvious one. In fairness, most contractors have superb lighting on their machinery and equipment. LED lights are so reliable compared to tailboards with bulbs and connections that always seemed temperamental. Drivers also need to be aware of pedestrians and cyclists, particularly when turning left at junctions.
What can farmers do? Well, silage apart, it’s not the busiest time of the year on many drystock farms. Perhaps you could offer to do some relief driving for a local silage outfit? It could allow someone a few hours off to catch up on sleep or rest, hugely reducing the risk of an accident. It might also be a little earner.
Failing that, remember to show some understanding to your local contractor as they try to deal with a two-week backlog. The extra bulk from delayed cutting means even when conditions are perfect, it’s very hard to catch up. They can only work their way through the queue one at a time.
Oh, and if you have the cashflow to allow it, pay your contractor as quickly as possible. With rising machinery and fuel costs, they are as squeezed as any farmer. We’re all in this together.