Sunday 25 September 2016

'Prices have been low over the summer and I don't see them improving' '

My Week: Nigel Jeffers

Published 20/07/2016 | 02:30

Nigel Jeffers and son Thomas take a break from cutting the winter barley (Tower). Nigel says the head of corn was much smaller than last year's crop with yields at approximately 3t/ac.
Nigel Jeffers and son Thomas take a break from cutting the winter barley (Tower). Nigel says the head of corn was much smaller than last year's crop with yields at approximately 3t/ac.
Nigel Jeffers combine

The low barley price means Nigel Jeffers' plans to buy a new combine harvester this year are on hold.

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"I was actually planning to change the combine last year, but now it looks as though it will be next year before I get around to that. It's a headache,'' says the 45-year-old tillage farmer from Augha near Bagenalstown in Co Carlow.

He has just harvested 10ac of spring barley at the family farm. "It's not going to be a good yield we'll scarcely get three tonnes an acre," he says.

And there is a bit of take-all in the spring barley crop which he puts down to the weather over the growing season. "This is unusual because I have had very little experience of the disease and I have been a tillage farmer for over 20 years," he adds.

Tillage farmers throughout the region need slow growth and dry conditions for abundant crops, but the winter storms and intermittent sunshine have worked against them. Both slowed growth and the application of routine tillage treatments to the crops.

In balance sheet terms Nigel got €170 a tonne for his spring barley crop over the past two seasons and he is now looking at €157 a tonne at current prices.

"Prices are back a good bit and have been consistently low over the summer and I don't see them improving. It's disappointing."

On the plus side, Nigel says he expects good returns from his next harvesting task - 18ac of oats next week - and the 75ac of malt barley is "looking good".

Normally he achieves a yield of 4t/ac on the malt barley and he is sure he will get at least 3.2t/ac on this crop when harvested - a good return considering the weather tillage farmers have had to contend with this year.

Nigel sells his spring barley and oats to Jordan Agri in nearby Carlow and his malt barley to Boortmalt in Co Kildare.

He is helped on the farm by his wife Ciara, who has been driving a well-worn route into town for spare parts. "She also takes care of all the paperwork at the farm," he adds.

The couple have three school-going children: Sarah (14), Emily (10) and Thomas (5).

When Nigel is not tending the crops, he pursues his interest in vintage tractors.

He has a Nuffield 1060 which he drives with the Carlow Tractor Club at charity events and he is currently reconditioning a Massey 165.

He took part, along with 50 fellow vintage tractor fans, in the Carlow-Cork two day 100 mile run over the June Bank holiday which raised over €20,000 for Crumlin Children's hospital.

He would love to take part in the 32 county vintage run on August 19/20 for the same cause, but he expects he will be in the fields harvesting his malt barley crop.

Otherwise his other big off-farm interest is Manchester United and he is a regular visitor to Old Trafford.

The Jeffers have been farming at Augha for five generations now - "under different family names", as Nigel puts it, and he shares the farm with his brother David who runs a separate suckler enterprise of Charolais crosses on the family holding.

In conversation with Ken Whelan

Indo Farming

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