Another year of low prices could break tillage farmers
Could a sixth year of poor prices for grain be the straw that breaks the camel's back for many growers?
"The talking-out-loud stage is starting to happen. I have been with two or three growers in the last few weeks and they've put it out there, and they've never mentioned it before. They were saying, 'Should we be getting in a couple of robots to milk cows instead of what we are doing at the moment?'" says Wicklow-based Teagasc adviser Martin Bourke.
He feels it was an "eye opener" for tillage farmers when they looked at the figures from the Teagasc National Farm Survey for 2016, which found in a bad year for dairying that they made on average €51,809, while tillage farmers averaged €30,816.
"I think there are only so many years they can sustain," he said.
Mr Bourke added that after many years in a row of bad grain prices, another one might "just be the straw that breaks the camel's back".
"There are already a few growers at it down in Co Wexford. I think we might see a few more," he states.
He adds this topic is regularly cropping up in conversations in discussion groups but that it's an individual decision for farmers, as some with young families consider future options.
Carlow-based agri-adviser Pat Minnock adds that a combination of age, a lack of successors and retirement funds is also seeing some tillage farmers consider halting grain production.
He says they are seeing leasing land out to dairying as a viable option.