Irish agriculture is primarily a grass-based industry with 70% of produce being exported. The best feed available for the livestock that provide these products is of course grass, and the soil types and temperate climate found in Ireland create the perfect conditions to grow high quantities of protein-rich grass.
Harvesting machinery that can handle these heavy crops in such challenging conditions will easily work anywhere in the world. So it is not surprising that German manufacturers have recognised the potential of the Irish forage harvest for proving the true capabilities of their machinery. Profi joined Farmhand and Krone in Ireland at the beginning of May to see Krone machinery in action, handling these heavy, first cut crops.
Farmhand are the Irish importers for the Island of Ireland, north and south, for Krone machinery, along with Amazone, Quicke, APV, Zuidberg and Flexxaire. Stephen Scrivener, sales and marketing director for Farmhand explains “We’ve been in business for 60years, that’s 3 generations. Started by my grandfather in 1962 it is run today by myself, my brother Paul and my sister Sinead.”
“Here today in Mitchelstown Co. Cork with one of our BiG X customers who is running a BiG X 1180 and a BiG X 630. So, in this area we are quite successful with BiG X because the crops are extremely heavy, extremely lumpy, the fields are quite small and the BiG X performs really well in these type of conditions.” explains Stephen “The BiG M is also very popular in Ireland, it’s one of the biggest markets in the world. So Farmhand dealers sell between 10 and sometimes 20 BiG Ms a year. They’re so popular because of the really heavy conditions but also because of the small fields, very tight with lots of undulations and tight corners that the BiG M can get in, cut and get out of again very quickly so it proves popular with Irish Contractors.”
“Crops are extremely heavy, extremely lumpy, the fields are quite small and the BiG X performs really well in these type of conditions.”
“Farmers all want good quality grass, they all want it tedded, there’s a lot of lumps then because of that, Irish conditions are very heavy, the grass is very heavy and the BiG X works really well in these conditions.”
David Dennehy and his brother, James, run Dennehy harvesting together. Employing up to 20 drivers during the harvest, Dennehy’s cut around 2000ha of grass per year with a BiG X 630 and a BiG X 1180. Alongside the contracting business David also keeps 250 cows. Dennehy has operated with Krone harvesters since 2018 and upgraded to the largest model, the BiG X 1180, in time for the 2023 season. Is over 1000 HP for picking up grass really needed? Profi asked the same question, but when the machine catapulted well over 300t of fresh matter out of the manifold at 12-15 km/h at 100% engine load, we realised that even grass harvesting can require this type of engine power.
Jim Power, of Jim Power Agri, is the Farmhand dealer responsible for supplying Dennehy with their Krone machinery. ”The 630 and the 780 would be the most popular machines, most Irish farmers are doing 75% of their work in 3 to 4 weeks which puts massive pressure on in a short time.” Jim explains “Farmers all want good quality grass, they all want it tedded, there’s a lot of lumps then because of that, Irish conditions are very heavy, the grass is very heavy and the BiG X works really well in these conditions. It varies in different areas but mainly in Ireland a lot of the dairy farmers have doubled or tripled in size in the last 10 years and finding land is a problem so then they’re renting land far away, so the forage harvester is still number one. In areas with smaller farms the round baler or forage wagon could be taking over but in our area it’s still the forage harvester” explains Jim.
Harvest windows in Ireland are tight, unpredictable weather can put contractors under a lot of pressure to complete jobs. Yields here are much larger than Germany, with up to 40t of fresh matter per hectare, the swaths formed are huge rows of heavy, lumpy grass. It is essential that the machinery used can be relied upon to handle crops in these conditions. Unique to the Krone harvester is a spring loaded chopping drum floor and cutter head. This combined with six intake feed rollers, and an effective metal/rock detection system, ensures that the BiG X can deliver blockage-free, smooth operation even in the heaviest Irish crops.
Climate change is also high on the agenda for a lot of Irish farmer’s and contractors, so it is not surprising that as an entrepreneur, David, has further plans for the grass they harevst. For almost five years now, David has been crossing from Ireland to Brandenburg with a forage harvester and three delivery tractors to harvest maize for a friend with a biogas plant. “I love Germany and the conditions for harvesting are simply good. It also allows us to use the machinery to full capacity before the maize harvest begins here in Ireland in October, if we can grow maize here,” David explains “A large part of maize cultivation in Ireland has to take place under film to promote the development of the maize plants and protect it from the very wet and cool conditions of the Irish spring.“ Inspired by this friend David also wants to produce biomethane in Ireland and the plans for his own biogas plant are in full swing.
“Grass harvesting is pure relaxation for me. I’ve been driving the loader wagon in my area for years and I look forward to the first cut every year”
It is not only the forage harvesters that are expected to work well in these heavy conditions. Farmhand dealer, Michael Eardly from Eardly Agri explains “The customer we are out with today is Ger Delany, he runs a ZX 430 which is his third Krone wagon. This wagon is higher output with 48 knives and the belt driven transmission in the ZX is a great job for handling lumps”.
Ger Delaney is the sole operator of his contracting company servicing the farmers in his area. A trained mechanic Ger runs three excavators that make up the majority of his work, but his passion is silage and driving his Krone wagon and rake. „Grass harvesting is pure relaxation for me. I’ve been driving the loader wagon in my area for years and I look forward to the first cut every year,” explains Ger.
Delaney drives a Krone ZX 430 short-cut loader wagon. He also owns a Krone TC 760 rake, which he uses ahead of the wagon. The majority of work is made up of smaller dairy farmers in the area. “With the loader wagon, clearing 20 hectares per day is realistic. I can load about 1.5 acres (0.6 ha) per wagon, so depending on the distance between farm and field I can normally make around 30 to 40 trips a day. I do also have larger customers with 80 hectares and more, but they usually only mow the amount that I can manage with one wagon,” explains Ger.
Delaney uses a John Deere 6215 in front of his wagon. “That’s certainly the lower limit, given our yields here,” he explains. “The wagon provides great cut quality in the heavy grass crops, I also like the belt-driven rotor. It is well able to handle the “lumps” in the swath, and the overload protection of the drive does not respond as quickly with the belt.” Even stones can’t slow the Krone wagon down, “I sharpen the blades after about 40 hectares of use and then that’s it,” Delaney explains “the simple design of the system is key. It does the job well with less to go wrong.”
A mechanical forced steering system is available as an option on the rear axle of the Krone wagon. The steering rod makes headland turns easier, reduces scuffing and tyre wear. The system is set up and controlled with the help of pressure gauges. “It allows me to get into any silo quickly in reverse.” Delaney explains. Delaney works alongside a friend who rolls the silage for him with a wheel loader. „In our area there are actually no farmers who still roll or harvest themselves,“ Ger explains „Contractors do it all.“