Farm Ireland

Sunday 16 December 2018

Dairy expansion headache for pork and poultry sectors

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Jim O'Brien

Jim O'Brien

The land area available for spreading pig slurry and chicken litter is being significantly restricted in mixed farming regions by the expansion of dairying.

A sharp increase in the cost of rental land again this year has seen more tillage ground switch to dairying.

This will inevitably reduce the area of land available to pig and poultry producers to slurry and litter spreading, both auctioneers and farm consultants have warned. Auctioneers confirmed that dairy farmers have freely paid €260-300/acre for tillage ground recently, and are willing to carry the cost of reseeding the ground where long-term contracts are agreed.

Cereal growers have been unable to compete with the dairymen and are being blown off traditional tillage ground as a result.

"The dairy man is willing to take the tillage ground, reseed it and pay over €300/ac for it on a seven-year lease," said Fermoy auctioneer Dan Fleming.

Nenagh-based auctioneer Eoin Dillon said it was a similar story in the mixed tillage and dairy country of north Tipperary.

"I saw €265/ac paid for tillage land by a neighbouring dairy farmer on a seven-year lease, but he has to reseed it," he said.

Both auctioneers felt the continued expansion in dairying is likely to cause difficulties for pig and poultry farmers by restricting access to land for slurry and litter. "This is a real problem. I am concerned about it," said Mr Fleming.

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Tipperary-based tillage consultant PJ Phelan agreed that the land area available for pig slurry and chicken litter was being inexorably squeezed as a consequence of dairy expansion. He said the problem was being exacerbated by the growing number of tillage farmers entering GLAS.

Soil sampling

"Increased soil sampling due to GLAS has revealed that some of the tillage grounds which farmers thought were Index 3 for phosphates, are in fact at Index 4. This means the spreading of organic matter on these lands is not an option," explained Mr Phelan.

One Tipperary pig farmer said that access to land was not at crisis levels just yet, but he said the continuing contraction of the national tillage acreage was a worry.

"Any dairy man worth his salt is no good to us. His stocking rates are too high to be importing slurry," the pig farmer said.

"We're now left with the tillage man or the extensive beef lad. What it means is that fellows will have to travel further with slurry," he added.

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