Could you cope with 6,000 tons of silage in two cuts, make hay at the rate of 5,000 bales per day, plough more than 300 acres for barley and pipe 138,000 feet for drainage? This huge task was a year’s work for contractor Mr Hugh Lemon of Ballyblack, Newtownards, and his two sons, David and Desmond.
“It all fits into a nice pattern,” said Mr Lemon about the organisation needed for such work.
“But you can take it that we’re not idle,” About a 12 hour day is worked. “Last year we made a habit of stopping at 9pm, although we previously worked to 11pm at night. If you get started early you can get on well,” he said.
Starting early is only one of the aids to good silage and hay making programmes. The organisation of machinery and man power at such times is of paramount importance and the Lemons have it cut and dried.
Last year 13 silos were filled and help was given to a lot of other farmers to fill theirs. Some 4,000 tons was ensiled in the first cut and as soon as it was finished the second cut was started. In total 6,000 tons were ensiled.
“We started to cut during Balmoral Show week,” said Mr Lemon, “and continued right up until the twelfth of July for the first cut.”
To do the job the Lemons work with two in line 40 inch harvesters and three or four trailers working as two teams.
One cutting team consists of a Ford tractor, harvester and trailer which is used on farms where the carting distance is short, the idea being to bring the whole yoke – tractor, trailer and harvester – into the yard when emptying the trailer.
With a reasonably short hauling distance this machinery can cope with 40 loads per day or up to six acres.
The second team – used on farms where the haulage distance is greater – is made up of two tractors, one harvester and two trailers. When a trailer is full it is unhitched from the harvester in the field and drawn to the silo by the second tractor. The empty trailer is filled whilst the other trailer is being unloaded.
Where the haulage distance requires it, a third trailer is introduced to the team as well as a third tractor – the aim being to keep the harvester working all the time. The third tractor and additional trailer is usually supplied by the farmer for whom the Lemons are working. In total, both teams can cut and ensile up to 15 acres per day.
Mr Lemon’s job finishes when the grass is tipped out of the trailer at the silo. Only occasionally does he buckrake the grass into the silo.
Where wilting is required the customer himself cuts the grass 12-24 hours ahead of the Lemon silage team. Here Mr Lemon prefers the use of a flail mower as it makes the cut material easier to pick up.
Sometimes silage making was stopped at 3pm in the afternoon to go and make hay. Two balers each worked at a rate of 600 bales an hour. In a good day 5,500 bales were made. “We have no time to waste when baling,” said the Lemons.