So, a figure for the cut in emissions in agriculture has been set at 25% and now the practicalities of what that means will have to be worked out.
How and when these cuts will come into play isn’t so clear cut. The same can be said about who politically will implement them. None of the three larger political parties appear overly keen. Perhaps that’s a reflection of society too. Emissions cuts may be easier to implement in agriculture in comparison to other sectors.
I don’t think placing all our eggs in the uptake of technologies, both existing and future, will prove successful
The blend of policy and financial incentives has worked in the past when it comes to implementing policy shifts in farming. The likelihood of that combination being used again could be the framework for the “voluntary basis” that has been mentioned in relation to emissions cuts from agriculture.
I don’t think placing all our eggs in the uptake of technologies, both existing and future, will prove successful.
For example, in cattle systems across the globe, calving a heifer at two years of age is viewed as best practice. The percentage of heifers calved between 22 and 26 months in the beef herd has floated around 20% to 24% for a good few years. As recently as 2012, it fell under 12%, having been close to 20%.
A more glaring example is that setting up a paddock system on grass farms is still viewed as a relatively new technology. Maybe a positive from the input cost rises experienced by most farmers this year could be increased uptake in both money saving tasks.
When it comes to the debate around the number of cattle in the State, water quality will likely be a key driver and the future nitrates derogation status hinges on that.
Succession and labour
Two other factors at play will be the level of succession at farm level and labour availability. Getting people to work not just on farms but for processors and in the agri-services sector will all play a part in how numbers go in broadcasters’ go-to farming topic.
While all those issues are to be thrashed out at a higher level, I’m still trying to work out what it could possibly mean on the farm and if there is a chance some of the practices implemented in the last few years could ultimately work against me.
While multispecies swards have got a mixed reaction from some quarters, I’ve been happy with the early results.
Making their debut in the 2018 drought, they were the plants that kicked on in the recent dry weather experienced down here while grass faded.
If I was solely depending on grass, there would have been a share of bales fed rather than held over for the winter.
Now, maybe it’s pure coincidence, but with just over a month of fertiliser spreading season left, I’ve spread a quarter of the volume of fertiliser I spread last year and that’s with a similar stocking rate of 160kg/N/ha for June and July.
I know when rain comes it will drive growth and there’s good covers ahead of the cows for now. It’s looking like, with the exception of five acres, all the grazing-only ground could go without bagged fertiliser for the year.
Lime was spread on some and there’s more to go out later in the autumn, but maybe the high price of fertiliser could be what drives me away from it in the long-term.