TRACTORGUIDE2020 www.irishfarmersmonthly.com JANUARY 2020 introduction of various regulations around engine emissions as well as the much wider reaching Tractor Mother Regulation, which came into force at the end of 2018, have all also come with cost increases. A positive has been that the developing technology has become more reliable with the impact of reducing service and repair costs in the longer term. The purchase model of such machines has also evolved with a bigger focus on cost of operation than cost of ownership. Customer requirements On the other end of the animal, so to speak, we have also seen radical changes in the machines in use, some driven by legislation but others by the requirements of the customer. Tankers have obviously gotten much bigger, due in part to the growing volumes to be handled but also necessitated by the scarcity of labour already mentioned. More cows producing at higher levels than heretofore is resulting in more slurry to be spread by less people, so the larger capacity machines are a clear help to this. The move away from splash plate spreading is gaining momentum and the support given to low emissions spreading systems under TAMS has fitted well with a desire to maximise the fertiliser benefits from slurry. At a time when farming as a sector has become more focused on controlling input costs on one side and the overall sector is coming under pressure in relation to climate and environmental sustainability on the other such developments are welcome and serve a dual purpose. Grass management and production The changes in what machinery is being used and how it is being used is not just confined to tractors. The two most mechanised activities in Irish agriculture have, not surprisingly, long been silage making and slurry spreading; both have seen significant changes in recent years. Grass management and grass production were in the past frequently very undervalued contributors to the profitability of both livestock and dairy enterprises. This perception has changed greatly, probably most likely driven in the first instance by the abolition of milk quota and subsequent refocusing on increased milk production from a low-cost model. Grazed and ensiled grass are the two most costeffective fodder options available to Irish dairy and livestock farmers and a lot more attention is now being paid to producing quality grazing and silage. Sales of tedders and rakes have grown significantly as farmers endeavor to produce the best possible quality silage in the face of our often difficult weather conditions. As we move away from a somewhat hit and run between the showers approach we are seeing a focus on making quality silage more akin to the pain staking efforts of our forefathers in relation to making hay. A lot of effort is now put into ensuring that the best possible fodder is saved for the coming winter with an acceptance that quality is important as well as quantity. As farmers look to maximise the return from their grazing platform we are seeing the widespread embracing of bales being taken off paddocks throughout the season rather than letting grass get too far ahead of the herd. A major development in relation to baling in my time working for the machinery trade has been the move to combination baler wrappers which seems to grow apace each year. There is no doubt that labour scarcity at both farm and contractor level is a driver of this move, but the more widespread availability of bigger horsepower tractors as referenced above has facilitated the adoption of this technology. Sustainable moves TAMS has had other benefits in relation to encouraging the adoption of more environmentally friendly practices in other aspects of farming such as fertiliser spreading, spraying and cultivation. The whole area of GPS control and guidance has gone from the realm of experimental to widely used technology in recent years and perhaps the most surprising thing is the fact that such technological adoption is not confined to tillage operations but is now seen in numerous farming activities. There is no point in denying that intensive Irish, and indeed global, agriculture is coming under pressure in relation to climate, environmental and sustainable factors in ways never seen before. The cornerstone of our agricultural future is intensive but well managed production and the use of emerging technologies to support this in a sustainable way is vital and will continue to grow. There can be a tendency at customer and trade level to complain about what can at times feel like a never-ending stream of legislative requirements in relation to various aspects of mechanisation be it in the form of things like the sprayer test, engine emission standards, low emissions spreading or whatever. In reality, such issues are ultimately driven by the consumer and even without legislation we would find ourselves forced by the market to supply the sustainable food products demanded by the consumer. By embracing the correct and appropriate new technology in all aspects of agricultural mechanisation we can position ourselves to meet and exceed the requirements of the market in a cost-effective way to allow a profitable future in farming. 34