Farm Ireland

Tuesday 12 December 2017

Counting cost of the land-block commute

Darragh McCullough

Darragh McCullough

Tillage farmers are spending thousands of euro every year simply getting to and from the extra land-blocks they farm.

That was the stark conclusion from Teagasc research revealed at their BETTER crops open day in Wexford last week.

Almost 200 tillage farmers visited George and Ken Williamson's farm in Ambrosetown, south Wexford, to hear how farming more winter cereals had increased their profitability by €250/ha, while spreading workload and risk at harvest.

George Williamson also explained that participating in the BETTER crops programme had reduced spring barley common costs by 22pc/t, through more precise use of inputs and yield increases.


And Teagasc researcher Dermot Forristal revealed how fragmented blocks on another demonstration farm were costing an extra €20,000 a year in diesel, time and wear, when compared with land located within a mile of the farmyard.

"The cost per acre is influenced by the size of the block involved and the distance from the main yard," said Mr Forristal.

"This particular field was 21km from the main yard.

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"Another block that was actually further away worked out half as expensive because of a secondary yard and the fact the block of land was double the size."

Mr Forristal said many farmers overlooked the cost of having machinery on the road.

"It's not just the labour, which we factored in at €10/hr for this research.

"There is also wear, depreciation and fuel usage to take into consideration."

Mr Forristal said a tractor pulling a sprayer would typically cost a farmer more than €40/hr.

"Machinery accounts for about 40pc of production costs on tillage farms, and fuel is one of the biggest single costs associated with machinery at about €85/ha," he said.

However, Mr Forristal said farmers should be aware that there were several ways to minimise fuel use.

He suggested switching to min-till systems on farms where suitable soils prevail.

"This can halve the amount of fuel used per acre, but on farms where this is not an option, reducing the working depth to seven inches for ploughing also helps," he said.

Mr Forristal also pointed out that there could be an 18pc difference in fuel efficiency between similar-sized tractors.


"This is worth about €2,000 a year to a farmer who is working a machine for 1,000 hours a year.

"But it's rarely a point of consideration for farmers comparing new machines before they buy," he added.

Meanwhile, farmers at BETTER farm open days in Cork and Wexford witnessed trials comparing fertiliser application methods.

Initial results have revealed that rather than placing fertiliser on top of seedbeds after sowing, incorporating it within seed beds while sowing provides crops with a better start.

"This translates into an extra 10 days of grain filling at this time of year," said researcher Mark Plunkett.

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