A contractor “call-out charge” for light baled silage crops this season may cease as grass yields improve, the Association of Farm and Forestry Contractors in Ireland (FCI) has said.

Contractors need to consider a call-out fee of €50-€100 before bale costs are calculated, according to the FCI which is advising its members to discuss call-out charges for low-yielding baled silage jobs with their farmer clients.

The association suggests that contractors need to look at a call-out charge where three or four paddocks will return less than 20 bales because the cost of bringing a full mowing and baling outfit to the field is “too high”.

“Contractor services cannot be profitable without a call-out charge in paddocks yielding small numbers of bales, and a lot of these early 2024 paddocks will be small numbers,” the FCI said.

Call-out charge

“The advice to farmers from Teagasc to bale these paddocks that were unable to be grazed due to wet ground conditions is not taking into account how much it costs the contractor to provide that mowing and baling service.

“If you ring a technician to fix your washing machine, they’re expecting to get a €75 call-out fee before they will even look at it. Compare that with a contractor who has spent €150,000 on a tractor and €100,000 on a combination baler.

“You bring a quarter of a million in kit after the mower gets into the field and you’re doing that for three or four bales to the acre. It doesn’t make business sense and is not financially viable.

“If it takes the contractor half an hour to get to the job and a half an hour back and they are only doing three or four bales to the acre, you can’t sustain a business like that without a minimum call-out charge,” the FCI said.

French contractors in Brittany and Normandy are now including call-out fees for similar small output jobs because the investment and operational costs of the machines have “become so high”, according to the association.