The ripple effect is where the consequences of a single action spread out widely, until they eventually reach the water’s edge.

We often see that theory played out in farming, where things are so interconnected.

The EPA’s report showing that the maximum stocking rate for farmers in derogation be cut from 250kg N/ha to 220kg N/ha across most of the country came as little surprise, it was expected.

However, it was still a shock to the system. And the 120,000 farmers who aren’t in derogation need to understand that the ripple effect will see this impact on them.

For those farmers directly affected by the new limit of 220kg N/ha, the choice will be either cut cows, or get more land to keep the same number of cows.

That’s where the ripples begin.

It’s being calculated that about 28,000ha of land would be required to allow affected farms to maintain current stock levels. If milk price is anyway decent, that’s the option most farmers would prefer, provided they have sufficient slurry storage.

We already have seen from the reaction to cow banding earlier this year that dairy farmers with a need for extra acres will drive land prices towards insanity. We are set to see that dynamic on steroids next year.

So you could be a dairy farmer not in derogation, in part because you arranged to have your heifer replacements contract reared. And this autumn, your contract rearer comes along, and says that he has been made an offer he couldn’t refuse, and is leasing his farm for silly money.

Now, ironically, you’re going to be in derogation.

Tillage farmers lost over 8,000ha of ground this year, so they are well aware that when dairy farmers need more acres, they have deeper pockets and will take land from cereal and protein crop production. The 2030 tillage target of 400,000ha has probably been scuppered by this move.

Cattle finishers

There’s a fallacy that all derogation farms are dairy farms. This just isn’t the case. About 800 drystock farmers are availing of the derogation this year.

Many of them are cattle finishers, who have high stocking rates as they finish a lot of cattle in sheds.

If these farmers have to cut numbers, who will buy forward stores? That could actually impact this autumn, as the new rules are expected to kick in from 1 January 2024.

Would this play into the hands of the factory feedlots? Or would they too have to cut numbers?

So many questions, and we may find out the answers next year. We may not like the answers one little bit.