Last week’s Irish Farmers Journal exclusive story by Anne Finnegan about how fertiliser suppliers accrued profits of up to €200m more in 2022 has angered farmers. It has also added to pressure on the trade to reduce prices in line with reduced energy costs, which are a key expense in the manufacture of fertiliser.
The high level of discussion on this subject, combined with the ongoing income challenges facing the sheep sector, mean that the slow level of fertiliser purchases by sheep farmers in spring 2022 will most likely be repeated and possibly exacerbated.
This is understandable, but it is also important where at all possible not to delay too long in purchasing fertiliser, as it will have serious consequences on spring grass supplies.
This may, in turn, see the same costs accumulate, but with spending in concentrates rather than fertiliser.
The best option for most is to purchase only the volume required in the short-term. In this way, if fertiliser prices do ease back, your system will be insulated to a point from the highest prices.
There are several management practices that can be adopted to try and achieve the optimum response, as summarised below;
This is not a long-term position, but there may still be potential to focus on nitrogen now and compounds as the year progresses, when fertiliser may hopefully be a lower cost.
To expand on this, having soils in optimum pH can release up to 80kg N/ha/year, with an application of 5t/ha lime (2t/ac) capable of providing similar grass yields as applying 40kg/ha P fertiliser on soils with a low pH.
For example, selling surplus breeding hoggets or aged ewes rather than younger, more productive stock which form the main production capability of the flock.
It is important to assess the nutrient benefit relative to costs of transport/application and compare these to fertiliser options.