As reported in last weeks’ edition dated 9 April, around half of beef and sheep farmers in a CAFRE survey of members of Business Development Groups did not have any fertiliser bought in mid-March.

Given that the survey was conducted just after a major price hike when CAN jumped to over £900/t, it is unlikely that the percentage with fertiliser in store has changed much since then.

The situation across dairy farmers was not as stark, although the survey suggested that these producers will be putting on 30% less fertiliser for first cut than in previous years, and a total of 19% had no fertiliser bought for grazing land.

But just because your neighbour does something, it does not follow that you should take a similar course of action, and there is a danger in all this that a farmer who intends either cutting back, or applying no fertiliser at all, derives comfort from these statistics.

Ultimately, it potentially reinforces what might be a bad decision for a farm business.

With concentrate prices looking likely to be around £400/t this winter, it is still significantly more cost-effective to buy fertiliser (even at prices of £1,000/t) and grow forage, rather than rely on meal feeding to bridge an energy gap.

While some livestock farmers may have made a conscious decision to cut back on numbers because of high input prices, where others intend keeping much the same, then it is impossible to justify a significant cut to fertiliser usage this year.

Not enough margin

There is simply not enough margin in the business to be stretching limited fodder next winter (because not enough fertiliser was spread during the spring and summer) by feeding extra concentrate.

And as reported on p6, milk prices are heading well north of 40p/l, which should give confidence to dairy farmers to continue to invest in key inputs this growing season.

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