Farm Ireland

Thursday 14 December 2017

Act now and help combat a fall in grain prices in 2012


Pat Minnock

Pat Minnock

We are at the time of year when field work becomes difficult, possibly harmful, and, with the possible exception of ploughing, it is best to put away all tillage equipment for the next 4-6 weeks.

There is no doubt that, for most tillage farmers, the Single Farm Payment is the biggest financial contributor to the farm. Without the SFP, many farmers simply wouldn't survive and many growers find that this is the only money available for living expenses despite a hard year's work.

Now is the time to sit down and analyse the year just passed. If you fail to understand the reasons for poor returns from your tillage crops you will be looking at the same situation in 12 months' time. The common consensus is that grain prices will be significantly down next harvest. Green wheat is projected at €136/t, with barley at €130/t. At these prices, no money will be made from tillage in 2012, even on owned land.

This year, some fields had excellent yields while others, on the same farm, yielded poorly. Have you looked at all the possible reasons why certain fields did not perform? Was it poor fertility? Have you undertaken soil sampling since the harvest? Was it compaction? Have you undertaken any sub-soiling? Was it just poor management such as late sowing or spraying? Have you decided how to address the issue in 2012? Was it poor rotation or lack of rotation? Have you sat down to consider your cropping plan for 2012? Crops in a good rotation significantly out-yielded those that were not, with differences of up to 1t/ac in wheat yields in 2011.

Have you undertaken simple projections for your cereal crops for 2012? The biggest single input cost every year is the cost of fertiliser, which accounts for up to 60pc of your total crop input costs and is likely to be up more than 30pc this year.

Have you considered your options on how you might reduce your fertiliser costs? There are many organic fertiliser products available to the tillage grower and, because of the many rules, regulations and cross compliance, there is a good demand for suitable spread lands. Have you considered local sources of organic fertiliser? Have you discussed this with your local sources? There are agricultural consultants in every county in Ireland who would be more than willing to calculate the amount of chemical fertiliser that can be replaced by organic fertiliser available in your locality. The savings can be substantial. In addition to these savings, the use of organic fertilisers will increase your soil organic matter and improve your soil structure.

The next month is the time to estimate your fertiliser requirements. With some merchants currently offering 27pc CAN at €335, granular urea at €480, muriate of potash at €450, 16pc phosphate at €450 and a compound like 10:10:20 at €480, simple calculations can mean substantial cost savings.

This is also the time of year to complete your 2011 spray and fertiliser records, along with your REPS, AEOS, NMP and, finally, the IGAS records, if you are in the Grain Assurance Scheme.

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These records are essential and, by including the prices charged for all inputs in these records, they can be a very useful tool to show exactly what your tillage operation cost to run this year. Department inspectors are currently active and many requests are being issued for these records. If you complete your records now it will make it easier to maintain them next year. Next year, records will need to be available on-farm on the date of inspection.

Also at times like this, you should check out the chemical store. Is it properly equipped with suitable health and safety equipment and clothing? Make a list of your carry-over products and check that these products can still be used. Use the website with the Department of Agriculture to check the products in stock.

Pat Minnock is the Carlow-based president of the ACA and a member of the ITCA.

Indo Farming