Farm Ireland

Thursday 26 April 2018

Calculating the cost of a year of mixed weather

Helen Harris

Helen Harris

I think I need a strong cup of tea after doing all that homework. I always feel like I'm back at school when I sit down to do our costings.

Maybe I shouldn't bother, as a lot of people believe that ignorance is bliss and I think there could be something to that approach.

I worked out all our costs of growing crops for the year and then got out the Teagasc book of costing to compare where we are to what they predicted for 2013.

On average, both sets of costs were very close. I added all the sprays (herbicides and fungicides) and fertilisers, I didn't put in a cost for machinery, labour, rent, repayments or any expenses.

I was expecting a bigger difference on our wheat and barley this year than last year as we spent less on fungicide. With such low disease pressure this year, we didn't have to spend as much on fungicides.

Last year, it cost us about €264/ac to grow winter wheat; this year we were about €10 less.

However, we chose to put more trace elements on the crop this year – manganese, magnesium and green algae.

This, in turn, cost us about €11/ac, so we spent about the same as last year on the winter wheat.

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As the weather has warmed up we have been watching the aphids and although there are many parts of the country which haven't sprayed yet, we had to.

There was no doubt when Phil emerged from walking the crop with his clothes covered in tiny green flies. This spray is included in our cost.

The winter wheat and winter barley are looking very promising compared to the sad bare fields we had for such a long time during the winter and spring.


Winter barley last year was about €20/ac more expensive than the previous year at €248/ac because of the high disease pressure.

With that in mind, I thought we would be able to save ourselves that €20/ac this year. But when I added it all up I was surprised to see it was almost identical.

The spring barley was €50/ac cheaper to grow than the winter at €198/ac but I am still worried about yield.

The crop has still a bit of catching up to do and time is running out.

The prices we sold 2012 wheat for varied from €187 to €265/t, which was a great price.

All in all, this year has been a very mixed bag. Following the bad weather last autumn and then the cold spring,

I thought we were in for a terrible yield, but the transformation during the warm weather was fantastic. The spring barley just needs a little bit extra.

Last but not least, our semi-dwarf oilseed rape. We have never grown this variety before so we can only compare it to Teagasc figures for normal rape.

We were slightly less than Teagasc at €260/ac but the worrying thing is that the price keeps falling. We need to get more than 0.6t/ac to break even if the price is €400/t.


This has not been a good year for oilseed rape between the pigeons and the extended period of cold weather in the spring. The pods are well out now and the lower branches are in bloom. I don't want to see either the plant or the price falling.

We took the time between sprays to try and fix our badly broken-up yard. We put in six inches of 35N concrete with reinforced steel.

Keeping tractors and machinery off it for two weeks was tricky but it looks great and was well worth doing when you see the final product.

We are on Twitter now so I'm going to try and put more pictures of what's happening on the farm online.

If you would like to see the new yard or follow us, just go to P&H Harris@kildarefarmer on Twitter and click follow.

Helen and Philip Harris are tillage farmers in Co Kildare. Email: Twitter: P&H Harris@kildarefarmer

Irish Independent