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Budget, cull and sample: simple strategies to reduce input costs

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Now is the time to put in place some strategies that can help to reduce the rising input costs on your farm

Fertiliser


It is a good idea to draw up a fertiliser budget. Look at how much you spent last year and set yourself a maximum figure for 2022 that you can realistically go to.
It’s important that you don’t put yourself in a situation where you can’t pay back bills at the end of the year.
There are financial options available such as bank stocking loans and also the cultivate farm loan provided by credit unions.
Also price around at different merchants and see what is available on the market; you may find that there are some differences.
Look at your most recent soil sample results and find out what plots of land have good P and K indices.
If parcels are in index 3 or above for P and K you could look at cutting back on fertiliser amounts on these.
If you have not spread lime in a few years spread it as soon as you can up to your soil sample recommendations; this will free up locked N, P and K in the soil.
More than any other year, slurry will be an important asset.
Spread using LESS, spread early (weather permitting) and target slurry to fields that need it most (P/K Index 1 or 2 and/or silage fields).
You should also look at doing a winter feed budget, which will give you an idea if you will have a surplus or deficit of feed.
Surplus feed may reduce silage or hay needed to be grown in 2022.
If possible do not sell surplus bales.

Stocking rates:

Reducing stocking rates should be considered on highly stocked farms.
Reducing the SR by 10pc could reduce fertiliser requirement by 15-20pc, but make sure you keep above your minimum stocking requirement for certain schemes.
At scanning time, you will be able to identify dry ewes, and you may also have older unproductive ewes that should be sold.

Reducing ration

This is a good time to get your silage tested. This allows you to supplement your stock with the appropriate rate of concentrates to meet their dietary requirements.
You can then determine the level of meal feeding required by the quality of the silage.
When buying ration, look at the labels, to find out the energy quality. A value-for-money concentrate has the right balance of energy, protein, fibre and minerals.
A ewe’s energy and protein needs increase in the last six weeks of pregnancy. To avoid loss of condition and to produce good colostrum, good birth weights and plenty of early milk, feed a good-quality ration.
A ration containing 18-19pc crude protein is recommended to meet the ewe’s protein requirement pre-lambing.
Soya bean meal should be the principal source of the protein in the last month of pregnancy.
Also only feed singles for the final 2-3 weeks depending on their body condition score. Ewes that have a lower condition may need to be pulled out for extra feeding at this point.
It may be a good idea to buy ration in January, as the prospect is that its price will increase.

Joanne Masterson is a Teagasc business and technology drystock advisor based in Galway/Clare
 

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