The harvest of last year was good. Financially, it was up there with the best of the past 10 years. The weather was agreeable, the crop mix was good, yields were nice and prices were up.

We also had decent protein and straw chopping payments from the Department.

Even the cattle did well, so all told, the November bank statement made for pleasant bedtime reading.

With all this on my mind and feeling cheery and flaithiúlach, I started to spend it, as you do. Well, tillage farmers certainly do, I’m not convinced that dairy ones are ever happy with their lot.

If I may digress for a moment, I once remarked to a friend that it’s a bit unusual to have the craic with a dairy farmer. I’m generalising now, of course there are plenty of exceptions to this.

But they seem to be burdened with the weight of the world, whether it’s too little grass or too much grass or paddocks too wet or paddocks too dry or whatever.

My friend wisely counselled that if I stood in a pit at the dirty end of 40 cows in a parlour for five hours every day, seven days a week, I’d soon lose my sense of humour and my life would become more blinkered. He’s right and we don’t want that.

Though it does make great financial sense to get into cows at the present time, because they’re creaming it and don’t know it. Robots looked like the smart answer to make farming cows bearable, but it now appears even some of those farmers are no longer happy bunnies.

Despite judiciously buying two-thirds of our nitrogen needs last August, the fertiliser bill has more than doubled, effectively halving the profit

You can’t even go to the toilet for two minutes peace without a robotic text annoying you about a cow it says is clinically dead and hasn’t been seen for weeks. Or that you need more dairy detergent. Why can’t the bloody robot ring Alfco?

Anyhow, we’ll return to the money I made last year – and spent.

It wasn’t so much on machinery but more on farm and machinery maintenance and all that sort of sensible stuff you should do when you’re in funds.

Our year end is 30 April, so I included any legitimate revenue expenses that I could to reduce the contribution to the axe man. I needn’t have worried.


The bills started coming in. Every statement to 30 April was double what I had expected it to be. I nearly needed a defibrillator when I opened the Drummonds account and the oil bill and Bruno McCormack and all the rest of them.

Costs have absolutely sky-rocketed, but the worst of all is obviously fertiliser. Despite judiciously buying two-thirds of our nitrogen needs last August, the fertiliser bill has more than doubled, effectively halving the profit.

Long story short, even after a great harvest, the profit has been eroded to a very disappointing level. OK, it’s better than making a loss, but I’m not farming to make a loss.

If that was a regular event, I’d have to try something else – in fact, it would be ABC (anything but cows).

If next year’s nitrogen can’t be bought this autumn at a realistic price for growing wheat, then we’ll have to stop and re-think. Nitrogen alone is almost costing the equivalent of one tonne of wheat per acre, which can’t be sustained.

Fertiliser will have to drop well south of €600/t, otherwise high nitrogen crops like wheat won’t add up.

It’s looking like a lot of low nitrogen ‘BOB’ crops (beans, oats and barley) in 2023. And we certainly need a good harvest again this year.

Two in a row – how likely is that? Ask Paddy Power.