Farmer writes: Young farmers want it all and want it now
I had the opportunity to view the operations and hear the philosophies of two notable American beef cow breeders this week, Kit Pharo and Alex Laseter.

I was also lucky enough to meet Cody McDaniel who I had been following on Twitter and is a producer for Pharo Cattle Company, I felt it was important to get the view of the producer on the ground and see what challenges they face as well as the idea makers.

What struck me about all three men was how they had simplified what we in Ireland spend hours talking about - the ideal sized suckler cow. According to these ranchers the ideal sized suckler cow is the cow that brings a calf to the weaning pen, is back in calf when she does so, and achieves this with minimum inputs. Fertility is the key in suckler cow production here with everything else a distant second.

These producers don't have the luxury of CAP payments and while they own a lot of land, environmental conditions are tough. They haven't had a year with more than 12 inches of precipitation since 2002; often up to 6 inches of this is in the form of snow. Due to these conditions and limited forage their stocking rate is one cow to 20-30 acres.

“You don't go to school to learn; you go to school to learn how to learn.” These were words echoed by Alex Laseter's grandfather Tom and struck a cord with me when I read some headlines from home. It was worrying, yet not surprising, to read this week that the biggest issue facing Austin Finn of the land mobility service was the attitude of young farmers.

We want it all and want it now. We view land and access to it as our most important resource yet we are quick to ignore something that is of equal if not more importance - experience. Older farmers have a wealth of it. They have made far more mistakes than us young farmers have and I view that as an important asset.

We can't get out the door of agricultural college quick enough and most of us thought we knew it all when we were there anyway. It was seen as a year or two that stopped us from farming rather than a period of time where new ideas on management could be learnt.

Farmers young and old are slow to use two of their most important assets - their ears. Listening and an ability to compromise are two of the most essential skills to bring to any partnership or group situation.

I know it took me a while to work that out. Some of the most important time spent on the farm for me are planning conversations with Dad. We talk through our ideas and plans regularly. Our aim is to eliminate the amount of mistakes we make without eliminating making mistakes. Because the day we stop making mistakes is the day we stop trying something new.

Farmers facing 30% fodder shortfall
A winter fodder deficit has been highlighted by Teagasc, with farmers warned to take action now.

There is an estimated 28% shortfall in national winter fodder stocks, according to Teagasc.

Dry conditions and a deterioration in national grass growth to 25kg DM/ha has meant that many farmers have been forced to feed first-cut silage and graze silage ground.

A Teagasc fodder survey of over 1,000 farmers has identified regional differences, with grass growth figures in the west of the country up to four times higher than parts of the east and southeast.

Co-ops have also noted a significant regional difference with Glanbia and Dairygold reporting member fodder deficits of 30% and 25% respectively.

The weather situation is at crisis point for producers

Both co-ops are providing interest-free credit schemes for their members for feed and fertiliser during the drought period, and Lakeland Dairies is running a series of fodder workshops.

Aurivo has reduced the input costs of a range of feed and fertiliser.

In contrast, LacPatrick and Kerry are monitoring the drought situation but have not reported concerns about winter supplies.

The ongoing drought has had an impact on farmers from every sector, with milk collections reportedly back in places and tillage farmers reporting reduced yields.

Replenish stocks

Teagasc have called on farmers to take action now to replenish fodder stock and avoid a repeat of the recent fodder crisis by looking at alternative feed sources.

It is estimated that approximately 18,000t of fodder was imported during the shortage this spring.

By comparison, 40,000t was imported under the Fodder Import Transport Scheme in 2013, with €2.8m issued to importers at that time.

Members of the Fodder Stakeholder Group will be presented with the Teagasc fodder survey results on Thursday in Tullamore, and IFA president Joe Healy has called on the group to put resources in place to help farmers tackle the shortfall. The weather situation is at crisis point for producers, and urgent action was required, he said.

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Sudden drop in SMP sales from intervention
It may have to do with the summer break, but demand for skimmed milk powder (SMP) released out of the EU's intervention stocks fell significantly in this week's tender.

The Irish Farmers Journal understands that results of the latest sale to be published by the European Commission on Friday show just 2,408t of intervention SMP found a buyer this week.

This is 10 times less than the previous monthly sale on 19 June, when 23,532t were sold. In May, the volumes sold were much higher, just under 42,000t.

Offers rejected

Offers came in for 27,768t, showing a 100,000t drop in demand since May's record sale. Although European experts lowered the minimum price accepted to €1,125/t, most offers fell below this threshold and were rejected.

The minimum price was €1,195/t last month and €1,155 in May. This compares with a market price of €1,520/t for fresh SMP in Europe at the moment.

To date, the EU has sold just over 100,000t of the intervention stockpiles accumulated between 2015 and 2017, with 300,000t of SMP remaining in storage.

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