Soil samples: With the slurry spreading season just around the corner, it’s your last chance to take soil samples.

It is going to be a tough year, with higher input prices. Formulating a fertiliser plan is important and knowing your soil fertility is central to that.

Making sure that any fertiliser purchased in 2022 is working to its maximum efficiency will be important.

Many will look to reseeding first in improving grassland management, when soil fertility should be the first port of call.

Only 10% of soil samples submitted to Irish soil analysis labs have optimum fertility so that means 90% are sub-optimum. To maximise the productivity of your soil, it is essential that optimum soil fertility is maintained and correct levels of lime, P and K are applied based on soil results. Correct pH is essential in ensuring all nutrients are taken up and used efficiently.

Soil samples should be taken on every 5-10ha depending on field management.

Farmyard manure (FYM) or fertiliser should not have been applied to the soil sample area three months before soil sampling. Samples should contain a representative sample of the field, so walk in a zig-zag motion across the field avoiding poached areas or cow dung areas.

There are many companies providing this service and some discussion groups have secured deals for a high number of samples. The cost ranges from €14-20 and is relatively small based on the potential gains from correcting soil fertility issues.

Correcting soil pH is one of the key things drystock farmers should concentrate on in 2022. Spreading lime will not only release nitrogen in the soil but it will also help to ensure that any fertiliser spread will be working.

Mart v factory - what route is best?: The beef trade remains firm with €4.30/kg to €4.45/kg being paid for heifers and €4.25-€4.40/kg being paid for bullocks.

Aberdeen Angus cattle are in particular demand, driving higher bonuses in some factories. Factory agents have been very active in marts over the last seven days, paying way in excess of what animals are worth to kill.

Top-quality heavy dry cows were hitting €2.10- €2.40/kg in marts around the country this week, which translates into a beef price in excess of €4.40/kg. Farmers need to do the sums on factory v mart sales. If you aren’t happy in the mart ring, you can bring her home.

If you aren’t happy in the factory, it generally means a lot of phone calls which rarely come to any positive outcome for the farmer. Over the past week, the mart has been the better option.

Tullamore Farm: Preparations are in full swing in advance of calving 2022 on Tullamore Farm. Early calving cows have received their scour vaccine and are on 0.5kg/soya/head/daily. The first 30 cows have been moved to a loose shed beside calving pens. Calving pens have been washed and disinfected, and calving supplies have been stocked up on – new ropes, calving lube, chlorohexidine/iodine, colostrum, red lamp, calf jackets washed, list of due dates printed, tags at the ready and calving jack checked. The first cow is due in the last days of January.