Se­ri­ous de­ci­sions needed to min­imise losses in 2018

Irish Independent - Farming - - OUR FARM - PAT MINNOCK

IT’S THAT time of the year when field work is next to im­pos­si­ble and in any case not war­ranted due to cur­rent and likely weather con­di­tions over the next two months.

It does pro­vide an ideal op­por­tu­nity to spend some qual­ity time with fam­ily mem­bers and for those of us who must be do­ing some­thing all the time, we can review the year just fin­ished and plan ahead for 2018.

Price prospects for 2018 do not look too ex­cit­ing and se­ri­ous de­ci­sions should be made if losses are to be min­imised.

The op­por­tu­nity to make any rea­son­able re­turn, par­tic­u­larly from ex­pen­sive rented or poor land, is un­likely.

The first as­sess­ment should be to iden­tify the rented land be­ing used and de­ter­mine if this is a good propo­si­tion.

Us­ing yields and prices achieved this au­tumn, cou­pled with costs in­curred dur­ing the sea­son, mean it is a rel­a­tively easy and quick ex­er­cise to de­ter­mine which fields and which crops have left a vi­able mar­gin.

Ob­vi­ously straw and straw prices con­trib­uted sig­nif­i­cantly to tillage re­turns in 2017 and this is likely to be the case again in 2018.

Nev­er­the­less, re­turns have been poor for many tillage op­er­a­tors and it may be a bet­ter op­tion for some land to con­sider ei­ther, a suit­able break crop, re­turn­ing it to grass or leav­ing it fal­low.

We have seen from re­cent Tea­gasc re­ports that dairy is per­form­ing well again and, more luck to all dairy farm­ers.

How­ever, they gen­er­ally like to hold onto their earn­ings and are slow to part with ex­tra money, par­tic­u­larly for straw.

It is also a fact that most tillage farm­ers do not like to abuse their po­si­tion as straw sell­ers. In many cases they con­tinue to charge sim­i­lar prices an­nu­ally de­spite the sig­nif­i­cant price in­crease that is war­ranted this year.

There is no doubt the gen­uine ac­cep­tance that long term and qual­ity clients must be “looked af­ter” in years of high prices.

How­ever, when over­all re­turns are de­pen­dent on good straw re­turns no­body, es­pe­cially dairy farm­ers, will thank grow­ers for suf­fer­ing vi­a­bil­ity is­sues which may even­tu­ally drive them out of ce­real pro­duc­tion. Ul­ti­mately if grow­ers can­not sur­vive and make a de­cent liv­ing out of the grain har­vest, then any ex­tra straw in­come must be cap­i­talised upon.

Straw will con­tinue to be a vi­tal raw ma­te­rial for the dairy en­ter­prise.

Al­ready this year there are re­ports of ris­ing im­ports of straw and sig­nif­i­cantly higher prices than that which are avail­able lo­cally.


This is also a good time of the year to look at ma­chin­ery costs and con­sider how ma­chin­ery costs can be re­duced. Op­tions in­clude: What ma­chines can be done with­out? ÷Is it pos­si­ble to share cer­tain ma­chin­ery be­tween a num­ber of like-minded neigh­bours? ÷Is a ma­chin­ery ring be­tween a few farm­ers worth con­sid­er­ing? ÷If new ma­chin­ery is re­quired can this be shared or what level of grants are avail­able? ÷Is it worth­while hir­ing a ma­chine eg ex­tra trac­tor at busy times of the year or is it a cheaper op­tion to con­sider a con­trac­tor for cer­tain op­er­a­tions?

While cur­rently it is dif­fi­cult to jus­tify new in­vest­ments in ma­chin­ery, the tillage TAMS grants are rel­a­tively at­trac­tive.

In many cases, this will al­low up­grad­ing of cer­tain ma­chines par­tic­u­larly sprayers or fer­tiliser spread­ers which may be close to or at the end of their use­ful life.

Ei­ther a 40 or 60 per­cent grant is avail­able de­pend­ing on whether a young farmer is ap­ply­ing.

At a min­i­mum, now is the time of the year to un­der­take all your equip­ment re­pairs and main­te­nance to be ready for the spring, which, I pre­dict could be early.


A num­ber of farm­ers failed to get any win­ter ce­re­als sown this au­tumn and will there­fore have to con­sider what three crops they might plant next spring.

There are many op­tions avail­able but think­ing about your likely mar­ket and a crops’ po­ten­tial for mak­ing money/ not los­ing money should be fore­most when de­ci­sions are be­ing made.


Con­tinue to mon­i­tor crops for pests such as slugs. With the cur­rent cold weather, it is un­likely that aphids will be a prob­lem.

How­ever, should weather con­di­tions turn milder aphids may still cause dam­age and de­pend­ing on when the last aphi­cide was ap­plied con­sid­er­a­tion might be given to what to do if this hap­pens.


Over the last num­ber of weeks I have been heav­ily in­volved in GLAS and KT meet­ings. In­vari­ably the is­sue of Health and Safety arises and no meet-

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