Many people are comfortable with new things, as long as they’re exactly like the old ones.
The passing of time and economic circumstances dictates the pace of change. We’ve seen examples recently. Online selling in marts was piloted but deemed a non-runner. When it became a necessity it took off and those who said it was of no use adapted. There was no choice.
Predicted fertiliser shortages for 2022 will force farmers to think differently too. If its production is limited in the longer term, will that have a bigger influence in stock levels in Ireland than any other policy? Could the nervousness around clover disappear at a faster rate if natural gas supply remains under pressure?
Since 2013, our fertiliser costs are back about €140/ha
I find change is easier to implement in small steps and I’ve implemented a number of them over the last decade. Multispecies swards are heading into their fifth year and their acreage is increasing. Soil sampling and strategic slurry use resulted in some paddocks receiving no artificial fertiliser this year. Since 2013, our fertiliser costs are back about €140/ha.
Labour savings have been made by culling heifers with temperament issues, calving later and using polled bulls that have relatively easy calving difficulty.
I can’t justify the routine feeding of ration to suckler cows unless they are being finished
Heading for the last week of September, 90% of the calves have had no worm dose yet this year. Dung samples are taken at grass so handling is minimised. Depending on if a calf had to be dehorned or not, they have been handled either five or six times in their lifetime.
The cows received a total of 100kg of meal between them this year with over half of that going to a second-calver who wouldn’t accept her calf. I can’t justify the routine feeding of ration to suckler cows unless they are being finished.
The bull system requires meal feeding and there are a few tweaks that can be made there but there is scope to reduce that bill too. That’s part of the reason for bringing traditional breeds into play a bit more.
Teagasc is well armed to help Irish agriculture deal with change, but faces a challenge getting beef farmers back onside
The catalyst for many of those on-farm changes was the 2013 fodder crisis. We were lucky in that we had feed, but a decision was made to tweak the Teagasc advice to suit the farm and circumstances, not follow it regardless.
Teagasc is well armed to help Irish agriculture deal with change, but faces a challenge getting beef farmers back onside. Having proactive rather than reactive research might help.
Not all research and technology is welcomed though – look at how the BDGP scheme still has an ability to upset some farmers.
I have sympathy for the advisers in the suckler heartlands who already face an uphill challenge trying to retain clients
In my view, the admittance by the advisory body some years ago that excess calves or the environmental impact weren’t considered in the drive to expand dairy did more damage than the recent comments from Prof Gerry Boyle regarding dairy beef.
His words confirm a view among beef farmers that they have been ignored at the expense of dairy.
I have sympathy for the advisers in the suckler heartlands who already face an uphill challenge trying to retain clients, but now have to take the heat for the director’s parting words.
Given the current level of chaos and political posturing going on in the world, those words are a long way down the pecking order.
Brexit, beef protests, African swine fever, COVID-19, CAP, Climate Action Bill, Nitrates Action Programme, labour issues and concerns over natural gas supply. We’re in the middle of a very chaotic decade and situations beyond our control are going to dictate how and what we farm.