Farm Ireland

Saturday 21 April 2018

Totting up the bills as we get geared up for the harvest

I have just finished cleaning out the sprayer. It is amazing how much spray can stick at the bottom of the sprayer and in the filters. I think some of the ones that we held over from last year are a bit worse.

We will be spraying off the crops at harvest with Roundup but for now all I have to do with the spray programme is to work out our costs for this year.

Last year it cost us €235/ac in sprays and fertiliser alone to grow winter wheat. This cost does not include machinery repayments, wages, depreciation or anything else.

Normally winter barley is much cheaper to grow but in 2011 it cost us €230/ac, only €5 less than the winter wheat. We expect the costs this year for both crops to be higher for two reasons.

Firstly the cost of fertiliser has gone up since last year and secondly we needed a very robust T1 because we had such a mild winter. Last year's T1 cost us €15/ac but this year's was €25/ac.

When I include the Roundup cost at harvest this year's costs are €264/ac for winter wheat and €248/ac for winter barley. As we have increased our acres over the last two years this has a huge effect on our cash flow.

It won't be so bad next year as we will have this year's crop to pay for next year's costs.

The T3 went with for our winter wheat was Presaro at 0.9L/ha and Modem at 0.5 L/ha.

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We will more than likely be using an aphacide but we will watch it first and see how late we can afford to go with it.

There is no point in killing insects that are a benefit to the crop when it's only aphids we want to control.

Mildew is beginning to move up the stem and to control this we might switch from Modem to Jenton. Looking at the weather forecast, this may change as the spray interval will get stretched.

As well as working out our costs, we are looking at all our machinery and sheds and getting them ready for harvest. We already have the combine serviced and we have moved it out of the shed so we can start cleaning everything.

We power-wash all sheds and, if we think they need it, we will spray with Reldan. As we clean down and service the machinery we look very closely at them and then at the end of the month start thinking about what we will need to change and what we can actually afford.

Unfortunately Phil was over at the Cereals show in Britain and saw a lot of very big but very expensive machines, so getting him back to what we can afford will be more difficult this year. One machine he was very taken with was a Claydon Drill.

Two of our neighbours have already bought them and they look very impressive. The saving we would make on establishment costs when planting the crop would be substantial, as we would be going away from ploughing.

It disturbs very little of the soil and cuts a slot in the ground for drainage and sows the seed either side of this slot.

There is one thing looking at a nice new shiny machine in a show but when you look at the crops a year later that is much more convincing.

Our whole method of farming may be changing soon, since we may have to move away from continuous wheat and go to rotation. Improving soil structure and therefore improving yield is one reason.

But the other is to do with the EU's CAP policy not wanting any single crop to account for more than 70pc of our land. However, maybe I should stop worrying about the CAP, as they keep changing their minds.

We attended the ITLUS summer field trip in Ballinasloe and Athenry. It was very informative. I could not recommend it highly enough to tillage farmers, especially young ones. You learn as much talking to other farmers on the trip as you do from the farms you visit.

Helen and Philip Harris are tillage farmers in Co Kildare. Email:

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