'The insurance quotes gave me a fright - they were up 20-40%

Sheep grazing as a winter's evening draws to a close on the Slieve Mish Mountains near Camp, looking towards the Iveragh Peninsula, in County Kerry PHOTO:Valerie O'Sullivan
Helen Harris

Helen Harris

The Christmas tree is down and I miss the few extra lights on, as the nights are still coming in early. This is a great time for tillage farmers to plan ahead. It's not just me that thinks so.

We have plenty of tillage conferences and machinery shows to tease us into thinking about changes at this time of year.

But we don't have anything on the top of our machinery wish list for 2017 after investing in a new John Deere sprayer last summer.

I keep telling Phil that when he has that paid for, he can start looking at machinery again.

He tells me there is no harm in looking.

I did get a bit of a fright when we went to renew our farm and machinery insurance.

I had heard that it had gone up but the three quotes we got were between 20-40pc higher than last year.

We also found out that the machinery dealers are valuing the older machinery higher than last year.

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The reason for this, they claim, is that the rising price of machinery is pushing up the value of second hand stock.

So, in turn we have to pay higher to insure it.

The other paperwork I'm doing at this time of year is to get soil samples done before we do our nitrates plan.

We waited for a good hard frost to make it easier to travel across the ploughed field.

One field that has received a full rate of slug pellets, then got spot treated with more, still has a slug problem.

Whether the pellets didn't fully work or there are just too many slugs, we don't know. Its something we need to keep an eye on, because if the problem continues we may need to re-sow some areas.

While I'm getting all the information for our nitrates plan I can also calculate how much fertiliser we need.

We have forward sold grain for January and February and we decided to forward buy fertiliser at the same time. The previous times we did this, we could have bought it at exactly the same price on the day we went spreading it the following March, so we will see if this year is the same.

The forward price for grain isn't much better than harvest prices. There was speculation that when Trump takes over in the USA that it might weaken the dollar and this would have a negative effect on wheat prices.

This would be due to cheap imports of maize and/or soya pushing down the price.

However, I'm hearing less talk about this now, even though it's just a week to go before Trump takes over.

It will be interesting to watch his decisions and the effect on farming in the USA.

The grain assurance also needs to be updated and all the relevant information needs to be filled in on each field.

There has been very little work done in the fields since the autumn. This includes doing a stock take in the chemical store.

We try and only buy what we need each year and hopefully have very little left.

Some years are better than others.

This year looks like we have quite a bit left.

Philip and Helen Harris are tillage farmers in Co Kildare. Follow them on twitter P&H Harris @kildarefarmer.

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