Contractors face labour shortages

ahead of silage harvest - FCI Chair

Contractors across the country are facing significant challenges with regard to labour availability and managing labour costs. “This is just one of a number of major issues that are impacting on the long term viability of silage making activities for many members of the Association of Farm & Forestry Contractors in Ireland (FCI) members,” FCI national chair Richard White told the Irish Farmers Journal. “Skilled machinery operators are being drawn back into the construction sector and that is once again a huge challenge for us agricultural contractors who can only offer seasonal driving opportunities,” he says.


“Labour availability is just one a series of major problems impacting on contractor cash flow and longer term viability,” he says. “Farmers are rarely aware of the real costs of running a modern contracting business, where the emphasis is on delivering an efficient service. The running costs for a farm contractor business don’t only involve labour costs, but all of the costs have increased making managing cash flow a real challenge for many contractors,” he says.


“If we don’t invest in reliable machinery we cannot provide a quality service, at a fair prie and with sensible payment plans, which is what we all, as contractors, aspire to,” says Richard White. “A set of quality tyres for a 150hp tractor costs upwards of €8,000 and that’s only one part of our investment as contractors in ensuring that we give a quality service to all our farming customers,” he says.


“Diesel cost increases are running at more than 12% year-on-year and these additional costs are also impacting on contractor profitability in 2017,” says Richard White of FCI. Many contractors now have access to machine telematics systems to identify their true costs.

“We now know that a high output 10 acres/hour mowing combination will burn almost 2 litres of diesel per acre, while combination balers are burning close to 2.0 litres of diesel per bale. Pumping slurry with umbilical pipe systems is power and fuel hungry, at up to 20 litre/hour, all at a time when rates for work and payment dates are under pressure,” he adds. “Larger self-propelled harvesters are using upwards of 12 litres/acre, so even with these modern and efficient machines the fuel costs for silage making are significant and far greater than many farmers will be aware of,” he says.


This cost squeeze situation is coming at time when farm contractors are not eligible to take advantage of significant grant support for the purchase of new machines in the same way as many of their customers are. “We have been denied grant support for the purchase of tillage and slurry spreading machines under the TAMS schemes and the recent Tillage Schemes. This is putting established contractors at a competitive disadvantage and is encouraging many of our long standing customers to invest in machinery, some of which they don’t actually want nor need and for which there is no economical or management sense for farmers to own,” says Richard White of FCI.