Make sure fertiliser quality is up to scratch
Sometime last autumn the phone rang. It was a local sales rep asking us if we wanted to buy some fertiliser, as the price was "definitely going to rocket up in the spring". We looked at our cash flow and asked ourselves if we believed him.
We have these types of conversations throughout the year. Should we forward sell our grain? Should we forward buy fertiliser? If so, how much?
Tillage farmers are becoming speculators. We are taking a gamble that the price will fall or rise to our advantage. It is a lot more difficult than you would think. When is the right time to buy or sell?
Fertiliser is expensive and if we can save €20/t and we are buying 50t of a compound, that's a saving of €1,000. Not knowing if we were going to be right or wrong, we bought some of our fertiliser last autumn. We put it in the shed and waited until the spring, and when we got the few fine weeks over the past month we started spreading it. Hopefully it's now in the ground helping the plants to tiller and grow.
But this is only part the story of fertiliser -- the next part is the paperwork.
Every time I use the word 'paperwork' to my husband I can see him rolling his eyes up.
He had the same reaction when we pulled out our Nitrates Plan. This is a record we have to keep of all our farm fertiliser details. The principle of it is to protect the water quality by ensuring that farmers don't use more fertiliser and slurry than they need.
We got a Nitrates computer programme from Teagasc and the idea is that you just fill in all your information and it works out what type you can and can't spread, and how much. This is the part of spreading fertiliser that you do when it's raining.