Farm Ireland

Sunday 22 April 2018

'Wool price of 60c a kilo is a joke - I'm not selling for that'


Wool price is at 60 cent a kilo. Stock photo
Wool price is at 60 cent a kilo. Stock photo
John Fagan

John Fagan

I never thought I'd say it but it was great to get the rain. The six-week drought punished my silage ground to the extent that it is not as heavy a crop as I would have liked.

I will cut it as soon as I get the opportunity and set about preparing for a hopefully bulkier crop in July.

I did manage to make 60 bales of haylage in early May and it will be good to have it next winter as I'm sure it will be great stuff.

I reseeded 20 acres of low-lying peaty ground on the farm and that too was glad of some rain. I was worried that it might have suffered a bit from drought but it seems to be getting along nicely now.

It was a great opportunity to reseed in the dry weather as it was a part of the farm that hadn't been growing any significant amount of grass.

So what's the point in having it if it's not doing anything for you?

The benefits of reseeding are massive but it's an expensive outing, with costs running from €200-€300 per acre.

If you skimp on a reseed you will pay a heavy price, but it's worth it in the long run.

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Spraying off, liming and fertiliser are as important as the grass seed itself in doing a reseed.

The lambs are thriving. I have them grazing in two mobs and I keep them moved around the farm, constantly keeping the leafy grass available to them. It's easier to manage the grass when they are grazing in two large groups of 300 ewes.

A little bit of scald is creeping into the flock and I will run everything through the zinc sulphate footbath this week.

I try to footbath the entire flock once a month and it generally keeps any lameness issues at bay. You cannot afford your lambs to get any setback at this time of year. The grass is so high in nutrition right now that it is the cheapest and most effective way to fatten them.

I always try to draft as many lambs off the ewes as possible before weaning, so regular footbathing and keeping a check on worms is vital to maintain thrive.

With shearing soon going to be on the cards, I see that wool price is at 60 cent a kilo. This is a joke. I won't be selling it at that price. I'm happily going to put it to one side until the market sorts itself out.

I took the opportunity to go to the Irish Grassland Association's sheep farming event at Jonny Bell's farm near Mullingar. Jonny is in my KT group and it is inspirational to see the progress that he has made with grassland management on his farm.

He is very open about his experiences, both positive and negative, and that's what being in a discussion group is all about: laying your cards on the table and being open to constructive criticism. None of us are perfect.

There were a number of industry speakers at the morning session.

Teagasc's Kevin Hanrahan painted a fairly dismal picture of the future after Brexit. Let's be honest about it, Brexit will mean a pay cut for farmers.

Even if things are not as bad as it might now seem, I am certain that the Brexit stick will be used to drive down prices. Have you ever heard a factory man talking up the price?

In terms of planning over the next five years, I would be cautious about any major investments.

We were told that we should be delighted with ourselves that the lamb price has remained more or less stable for the last 10 years. This mindset also needs to change.

Are we going to get the same lamb price for the next 10 years while all other costs continue to rise?

I looked around the room at the conference, and there was only a handful of farmers the same age as me. The IGA sheep conference in 10 years' time will be a lonely place, given Brexit and the attitude that farmers should consider themselves lucky to be averaging €100 for a finished lamb.

Average lamb prices need to increase year on year, otherwise I'm done.

John Fagan is a sheep farmer from Gartlandstown, Co Westmeath

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