Excellent autumn weather means many farmers have yet to be impacted by the recent spike in the cost of inputs, particularly feed and fertiliser.
However, with cattle close to housing the most immediate issue is the cost of rations, with beef mixes now over £270/t and dairy and sheep rations over £300/t. The first response to that should be to get silage tested, to allow targeted concentrate feeding this winter.
AFBI still offer limited testing via their lab at Hillsborough
A number of feed companies now offer a silage testing service, and those in business development groups may be able to get access to a NIR mobile sampling kit.
In addition, AFBI still offer limited testing via their lab at Hillsborough, however, it is unfortunate that this independent service was scaled back in 2018. It is a decision that should be reviewed forthwith. Even at a cost of £22 per sample, it is money well spent.
If prices remain that high, sales will take a hit, which might take some of the heat out of the market
Looking ahead, the price of fertiliser is also of real concern. The latest indications are that straight nitrogen could over £450/t next spring. If prices remain that high, sales will take a hit, which might take some of the heat out of the market.
But at the same time, natural gas used to manufacture nitrogen fertiliser is seeing unprecedented price inflation driven by demand from Asia and low gas reserves in Europe. Prices are up 250% in 2021, and even if there is some correction in the market, fertiliser isn’t likely to come back to spring 2021 prices.
There also must be a renewed interest in rotational grazing on beef and sheep farms
The response has to be a mass uptake of soil testing this winter, to properly inform both 2022 fertiliser usage, and more importantly, where lime is required. While a NI-wide soil testing scheme from DAERA is planned, we cannot afford to wait for that to happen.
There also must be a renewed interest in rotational grazing on beef and sheep farms.
AFBI research shows that for the same nutrients applied, up to 4t more grass dry matter per hectare can be grown across the season when compared to set stocking.