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XtraBlatt Issue 01-2019

  • Text
  • Contractors
  • Farmer
  • Farms
  • Agricultural
  • Forage
  • Silage
  • Farmers
  • Machinery
  • Krone

INTERNATIONAL 1 Farmhand

INTERNATIONAL 1 Farmhand owner John Scrivener with sons Stephen (l.) and Paul. 2 Farmer Tom Hayden puts his faith in low costs, breaking even at 24 c/l. 3 Family-power: Derek Killen (centre) and his six sons (four of them in the picture) and eight employees run a dairy farm and contractor business. 4 Adam Killen and one of the firm’s two Krone silage harvesters. In three cuts, the brothers harvest around 4,000 ha grass silage per year. 1 2 3 biggest boost here comes from forage harvesting machinery and replacement parts. Here on the green isle forage mainly means silage from grass. The trend moves definitely towards precision chop. On average, 55 self-propelled silage harvesters are sold new each year. Hereby Farmhand has 30% of the market with sales of 18 Krone machines. The expansion of machinery for delivering chopped silage goes hand-in-hand with the growing size of farming units, emphasises Scrivener snr. Interesting, and perhaps also typically Irish: farmers aren’t investing their higher milk income in machinery. Instead, they’re spending on herd expansion and in more hectares for feed production. Forage harvesting, as with slurry management, goes more and more into the hands of contractors. And Farmhand also does well in this branch: the dealership already earning 40% of its turnover from contractor companies. Farmhand has a staff of 44, 25 of the personnel in the office and workshops, and 19 out on the road. As importer of the main products already mentioned, the firm supplies a total 34 farm equipment dealerships including six in Northern Ireland, i.e. Great Britain. With the latter, Farmhand earns around 12 m € turnover annually. This is one reason why Brexit is naturally a critical subject for importers such as Farmhand, and why the family doesn’t want a hard border to Northern Ireland and cannot imagine what would happen as a result. COSTS IN CONTROL That farmers are satisfied with the present milk price is confirmed for us by Tom Hayden, a dairy farmer with 300 cows in County Meath, about an hour’s drive northwest of Dublin. “Yes, I do all right with 32 c/l. This should increase still. Last year it was about 4c/l higher”, points out the visibly laidback farmer. Not only does his mood seem good, his low-cost milk production strategy apparently works well too. Farm buildings and livestock housing reflect his commitment to cost control. Herd results show that there’s no ambition to hit any headlines with highest yields. Instead, output from his 300 cows averages 6,500 l. The result: he breaks even at just 24 c/l. This 37-year-old farmer has 500 head of cattle on his farm altogether. Herd and followers are out at grass on the surrounding pastures for 200 days in the year. “This affects cow performance. But grazing them keeps feed costs down as well as reducing labour requirement.” The farm covers 162 4 ha grassland and a good 60 ha arable, the later rented out for 500 €/ha. The grassland is partly grazed or else cut three times from May to September for silage. A contractor takes care of the lot: from mowing right through to consolidating the clamps. Last year, an unknown phenomenon hit Ireland for the first time. Over eight weeks in June and July there was as good as no rain. “This was a nightmare and cost us almost a complete cut of grass”, recalls this farmer. He had to buy-in 300 round bales of grass silage at 30€ each. In normal years, such a bale sells for 20€. His efforts are not only aimed at keeping a firm grip on production costs, but also on controlling work input. Some 18 months ago, Tom Hayden merged his milking herd with that of a neighbour, mainly to save work input and make better use of available land. “The work is a growing problem, especially for we dairy farmers”, he relates. “No one wants to milk!” A FAMILY AFFAIR It’s exactly these problems - not enough time personally and reduced availability of workers - that tie down all dairy farmers. Profiting from the situation is the contractor sector: a flourishing one in Ireland and a service growing in importance, but also with participants struggling under merciless competition. This we also heard when visiting Killen Brothers, a family firm headed by father Derek Killen and his six sons: Christopher, Jonathan, Robert, Philip, Adam and Gordon. Together with eight full-time employees the family runs a 400- cow dairy farm and a contractor business near Londonderry in Northern Ireland. Establishing the contractor business as second support pillar alongside the farm made sense, especially with six sons, in that the market in their region needed this sort of service. Killen Brothers serves around 100 customers within a 50 km radius. The average customer milks 200 cows, so the focus is on grass harvesting and slurry. The company mows a total 4,000 ha for grass silage with three cuts, i.e. around 1,300 ha/cut. This is always undertaken as a complete job, from mowing through to consolidating the silage. Mowing features a Krone BiG M as well as two front and rear mounted mowing combinations, each with conditioner. Swathing is via four and two-rotor tedders. Silage lifting and chopping feature a Krone BiG X 700 and a 630. Three wheel-loaders handle the pit rolling. The firm charges 173€/ha for the complete grass silage chain, not counting the journey to and from the farm, but including diesel. Harvesting silage means a 16-hour working day with night work six days in the week. Within a radius of 10 km another five contractors are in action. The situation is such that not one has got off with raising prices for at least five years. “When the weather forecast indicates one or two dry days ahead, the farmers phone up and want to start making silage. If we do not immediately agree, they will turn to a competitor without hesitation”, points out Adam Killen. Thus contractors have to be continually ready for immediate action between May and September and invest in more capacity so that they can service an increased number of customers all at the same time. “If prices cannot be raised, then the state of wide availability at all times will reach its limits soon”, reckons father Derek. Because Irish dairymen are mostly without kit for outside farmwork, he’s convinced the situation must change towards higher prices if farmers want to get their forage safely in the clamp between the threatening rain clouds. The Killen family’s hope is well-grounded …. but the future remains enigmatic And what about Brexit? Here the opinions of the Northern Irish family members are widely split. The main thing: no hard border! They all agreed on that. « 30 31