We are buoyed by the past good year
Published 14/12/2011 | 06:00
When Frank Sinatra sang that 'it was a very good year', farming was certainly not uppermost in his mind. However, as I look back on the past year, it really was an amazing year for cattle farming.
After last year's disappointing growth over the summer, the early spring of this year was most welcome. Perhaps it may not have suited the sunseekers among us, but this year's moist summer and autumn provided an ample supply of grass and silage, while at the same time not interfering too much with ground conditions.
Price-wise, it was also a very good year. With the exception of the seasonal autumn dip, prices rose steadily until they hit the magical 'grid' price of €4/kg. Of course, that was before the current effort by factories to reduce quotes.
So in spite of our global economic turmoil, it appears that farming is operating in its own special bubble, which I must confess I find to be a little worrying. I don't think I am alone in wondering if we have arrived at a new plateau of sustainable beef prices or whether we are simply sitting on the edge of a cliff in the middle of an economic storm?
I recently attended an agri-business conference hosted by one of our main banks. It was reassuring to see the confidence which banks are now showing in the future of Irish farming. More money is being made available and even new farming clients are being sought. Banking representatives focused on investing in 'farm efficiencies' to guard against inevitable future downturns.
I also found it interesting to listen to a representative of a farming organisation speak at the conference of the importance of developing "sustainable intensive agriculture".
While this is indeed a very commendable aspiration, I believe that it should be treated with some caution.