The cost of trying to run a farm is rapidly spiralling out of control. With prices going up weekly, it is really hard to budget for the rest of the year, let alone any further ahead.

What I see as being the biggest issue is cashflow, and in particular, having the finance in place to be able to buy fertiliser.

It is roughly three times the price it was in 2021. So, if a farmer is going to buy the same amount as last year, then they are going to have to find three times the amount of money. This is going to be exceedingly difficult.

The price of milk and beef is rising, but nowhere near quickly enough to help farmers out, so that is leaving a massive gap for most farmers. It is good to see the Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots recognising this, and bringing forward farm payments.

Drastic action

To date in 2022, a lot of farmers have had to take drastic action. Many have sowed less, or even no fertiliser. Their intention is to cut later and only cut once. There is also a feeling that most farmers are going to keep fewer cattle over the summer and winter.

Like other farmers, I have had these thoughts and the same big decisions to make. I am very reluctant to change the overall system and numbers. When something is working reasonably well, I do not like to alter it too much.

My conclusion is that I am going to keep roughly the same amount of cattle and sheep this year, and I will see after that.

Wet weather has helped the clover seedlings to emerge.


To achieve this, I have little option but to use roughly the same amount of fertiliser at the start of the growing year as I did previously. I will try and make some savings later.

However, I have bought a GPS system for my tractor to make the sowing of the fertiliser more accurate. This is wonderful technology and has certainly saved some fertiliser, including by cutting out wastage due to overlapping.

For first-cut silage, we went with a split sowing of fertiliser, and this seems to have worked a treat, with our silage crop well ahead of last year. However, the wet weather has delayed harvest and the quality is starting to deteriorate, which is the last thing farmers need. Hopefully we can get it in the pit soon.


My other main strategy in 2022 is to get more use out of the clover and that means trying to get more of it to grow this year. Where fields already have clover, I have targeted these areas with slurry, and intend easing back on artificial fertiliser. Hopefully, this will encourage the clover to work harder for me later in the year.

On any ground with no clover, I have tried to establish some. These paddocks have been eaten very tight with clover seed then direct drilled into the sward. A few days later (within five days of sowing) I have come back in and sprayed the weeds.

This is very new for me and I do not know if it will succeed. I have become accustomed to growing good crops of grass with no weeds, and as a result, no clover. I am going to have to learn a whole new set of grassland management skills.

It was quite surreal when I checked it after just over a week and I could see the clover starting to appear. It is such a small seed but with enormous potential.

This is not going to be a quick fix and any potential saving in artificial fertiliser usage is going to be marginal this year.

Hopefully, I will be able to manage it and use it to financially benefit my farm business in the future.

I do not want to have to reduce the number of livestock that I have (or at least not massively), but I certainly need to reduce my fertiliser bill.

I probably do not have the full solution yet, but hopefully these small seedlings will go some of the way.

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