Leave seed in the bag until the turn of the year and start to think about forward selling
Winter cereal plantings are well back on 2011. About 8,000-9,000ha of winter oil seed rape has been planted, compared to approximately 14,000ha in 2011 – a drop of about 40pc.
Winter barley is probably back 10-20pc. Winter oats planting seems to be significantly back, withgrowers inclined to delay planting until the spring.
Winter wheat planting appears to be back by 50-60pc. Needless to say, there may be more opportunities to plant winter wheat.
At this stage it is probably better to leave seed in the bag until after the turn of the year and hope January or February will bring suitable weather.
Now is a good time to take stock of your returns from 2012. It is also an ideal time to review and decide on your forward selling policy for 2013.
While many farmers regret the forward selling of grain in 2012, there is no doubt that this option should be considered again. After the 2012 experience, many are tempted to revert to selling grain principally at harvest time. This, in my belief, would be a retrograde step. Grain prices will continue to remain volatile.
The difficult decision is in trying to pick a date on which to sell grain that would give you the best returns. Farmers cannot be expected to get this right when the experts continue to get it so wrong.
I believe the best way to approach this is to do your calculations and sell when the figures leave you a margin you are happy with.
Prices of €185/t for green wheat and €175/t for green barley are indicated for November 2013.
With wheat input costs likely to be over €330/ac and machinery/contractor costs around €170/ac, a price of €185/t requires a breakeven yield of 2.7t/ac to cover these costs alone.
Conacre at an unlikely figure of €150/ac would require a further 0.8 of a tonne, while a minimum of €50/ac should be budgeted for fixed costs. This requires 3.8t/ac to break even.
Do not oversell by budgeting on big yields. Around 15-20pc of your crop should be left for sale at harvest time.
This gives you sufficient 'wiggle room' to combat unforeseen developments. By selling in this manner, you will not be selling or working at a loss, which is likely if grain prices fall next harvest.
Crop growth continues to be slow. Oil seed rape is much more backward than in 2011 and many of the crops sown after September 20 will struggle to survive.
Unsprayed crops now require treatment with a Propazamide product. Crops already sprayed with a pre-emergence herbicide may now need a graminicide for volunteers.
Early sown cereal crops should be treated for weeds. Knowing your likely weed problems will reduce your costs.
The cost-effective option includes the use of DFF and IPU products with the option to top up weed control in the spring. Other options include Flight, Defy, Firebird or a Pendimethalin product.
The Irish Tillage Consultants Association (ITCA) aphid traps around the country have shown a dramatic drop in aphid activity over the past 10 days, possibly due to the significant drop in temperatures.
All crops at the 2-4 leaf stage should still receive an aphicide unless already treated with Redigo Deter.
Some very early crops should receive their second aphicide application now. A contact product such as Cypersect, Decis, Sumialpha or Karate should be used.
Most maize has been harvested at this stage with variable yield results. Quality in many crops is better than expected and prices of €45-€55/t of fresh weigh are being paid, depending on quality.
Harvesting of fodder beet is in full swing, with yields back 20-25pc on last year.
Demand and prices are good however with €40-€45/t freely available.
Finally, it was good to see sense prevailing in relation to the relaxation of rules governing green cover.
There is no doubt that the theory behind many regulations and obligations enforced on farmers is good.
However the implementation of the many rules that leaves much to be desired and everyone frustrated.
Pat Minnock is a Carlow-based agricultural consultant and a member of the ACA and the ITCA. www.minnockagri.ie
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