Farm Ireland

Wednesday 21 March 2018

We will be doing well to break even on spring barley

A nice dry harvest would be appreciated
A nice dry harvest would be appreciated
Helen Harris

Helen Harris

Harvest 2015 has started in Kildare and it's a really exciting time. The tractors and trailers are in full swing, up and down the road. The combine is in full flow and there is a great buzz around the place.

Before we got going it was like watching a player before a big match, he couldn't wait to get started. Once we pulled into the Meridian six-row barley and dropped the header Phil was in his element.

While I was sitting in the weighbridge shed, weighing the loads in and out, I started to have a look at the costs.

I was fully convinced that with the cold weather lasting as long as it did, combined with the low disease pressure, that we would have spent less than last year.

However, almost every crop had higher costs this year compared to last year.

One field had an extra €800 spent on it as it rained very soon after spraying and we had no choice but to spray it again.

Another big cost was both the chicken litter and chicken litter pellets. We included the total cost in this years crop as it will come out of this years cash flow.

However, in next year's crop we should see a benefit and a slight reduction of our fertiliser costs. We will have to wait and see if this turns out to be the case.

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The winter wheat had very variable costs. Some of the fields sown with home saved seed and where chicken manure was not used came in at €510/ac to grow. The more expensive seed and more fertiliser were over €540/ac to grow. We have a high input system and high machinery costs but at the price we are being offered for our wheat its difficult to see how we can improve our margins.

I compared these to the Teagasc figures and for 2015 we are very similar.

This makes me wonder how are people giving such high rent for land. Are they really working off actual costs or are they calculating costs at all?


The oil seed rape costs have been very similar for the last three years. We calculated it to cost just over €500/ac to grow the crop. This is slightly more than Teagasc's figure of €491/ac.

What is very alarming about that is if we got €340/t we would need 1.5t/ac just to break even. The cost of spray, fertiliser and seed alone is €280/ac.

The winter barley was €50 more than the spring barley at €475/ac. That figure is €12 less than Teagasc's figure per acre. If we sold for €140/t we would need to have more than 3.4t/ac to break even.

The winter barley does look good but unfortunately the spring barley never got going.

On a year like this, that was as cold for so long, it meant that the ground took a lot longer to warm up. The crop just ran out of time and never looked good.

A couple of years ago spring barley was our most profitable crop. This year I can't see it even breaking even.

We are also keeping a close eye on the cost of diesel. We dry our grain and store it, depending on the year and the price. Some years we do more than others.

We have forward sold very little grain for this coming year, as we felt that the price offered wasn't good enough.

Last year we dried most of our barley and wheat. When the year was over we discovered that we would have been better off selling it all green and not storing it at all. It's very hard to tell when is the right time to sell.

If we can cut the crops at low moisture, we can save on the cost of drying and it may then be worth storing till later in the year.

If anyone can have a word with the man above and ask for a nice dry harvest that would be very much appreciated.

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


Indo Farming