Planning for profit - what you need to know
This week’s focus is all about planning for profit, we delve into the issues of labour, feed and soil fertility.

January is the traditional time for making new year’s resolutions and while making more profit will be high on many farmers list of aspirations, few actually make a plan to achieve the goal.

This special supplement deals with the main issues affecting profit that farmers can plan for. Andy Doyle starts with the basics – your soil. He outlines in detail what tillage and grassland farmers should be doing now to improve soil fertility.

He says it all starts with soil sampling. For most farmers, now is the ideal time to take soil samples as it is more than three months since the last application of fertiliser.

And while travelling land with a fertiliser spreader is just a distant hope at present, it is important to take the samples before spreading compound phosphorus and potash fertiliser.

Profit monitor

Elsewhere, Adam Woods looks at the five steps to filling in a profit monitor.

Only a small proportion of farmers fill in a profit monitor and miss out on the excellent data generated.

By benchmarking your financial performance against your peers, you can easily identify areas for improvement.

Farmers need to assemble the information required in the profit monitor for their accountant anyway, so inputting these figures into the profit monitor sheet is not a big ordeal.

While the profit monitor is not without its failings, namely not adequately accounting for own or family labour, it is a good tool for comparing performance between farms. You cannot adequately plan for 2018 without knowing performance in 2017.

Labour

Labour continues to be a big issue on many farms, but particularly on dairy farms. Aidan Brennan looks at how much the system of farming can influence the workload, up to 80%.

Results of a recent labour survey show that if the most inefficient farmers adopted the practices of the most efficient, they could double the number of cows they are milking and not work any longer.

This is a staggering finding, and it shows how much of labour efficiency is within the farmer’s control.

With spring calving just around the corner, now is the time to be putting preparations in place. Calf feeding is often the most time-consuming task in the spring.

The good news is that there are plenty of innovations to reduce the workload. Investments in low-cost, time-saving tools are good investments.

Read more

Five new year's resolutions on beef farms

What you should look at when drawing up a farm plan

Farmers need to make sure they are adequately insured
It's far more important to look at value over cost when it comes to insuring your farm. Lorcan Allen reports.

They say the best insurance policy is the one you never have to use. But inevitably over a lifetime a farmer will need to claim off their insurance.

While it is easy to look at the cost of insurance, it is far more important to look at what value you are getting from that cost in case of a claim. Never before have farmers had so much choice when it comes to insurance.

In this Focus, we talk to the three farm insurers – FBD, Zurich and newcomer AXA. The past 12 months have seen many farmers use their farm insurance, particularly as a result of extreme weather events such as Storm Ophelia and Storm Emma.

The main damage as a result of these storms has been to farm buildings. It is a timely reminder that farmers have their farm buildings adequately insured as the cost of building has increased significantly in recent years.

In this supplement, we also look at the rising cost of mart insurance where most premiums have increased between 20% to 30% over the past year alone. While there are high claims and the awards system needs to be questioned, there is also a lack of competition where few insurers have entered that market. It is questionable whether regulation will solve this problem, but it does need to be looked at.

Finally farmers need to look at themselves and ensure they have adequate personal cover. Given that there have been more farm deaths this year than road deaths, farmers should continue to be extra vigilant and careful. Given that next week is Farm Safety Week, please exercise caution on and around farms to avoid becoming another statistic.

Read more

Proper farm insurance more important than ever

Make sure you are adequately covered

AXA moves into the farm insurance market

The need for feed has never been greater
With the fodder crisis of spring 2018 fresh in the memory, farmers are now in the midst of another fodder crisis.

Grass growth has halved and farmers are feeding out winter feed galore – depleting already low stocks of winter fodder. It is now looking increasingly likely that Fsilage will be scarce next winter. But that in itself doesn’t automatically mean there will be a fodder crisis.

The key message for next winter is to do a fodder budget now. Cattle and sheep need forage to keep their stomachs working well. At least 50% of the diet in a dry matter basis must be in forage. A milking cow will eat around 18kg dry matter, a dry cow or a suckler cow will eat around 12kg while a dry ewe will eat 1.1kg DM/day and a lamb will eat 1.2kg DM/day.

Where not enough silage is available it can be stretched by feeding extra meal or straights. The key word here is ‘‘stretched’’. You can’t stretch something that isn’t there. If silage is to be stretched, you must start early in the winter. The mistake that was made last year is that some farmers waited for silage to nearly run out before looking for alternatives or buying more silage. Because half of the diet needs to be silage, the options at that stage are limited. So do up a fodder budget and make a plan with your adviser.

Alternative sources

Alternative forage sources are also available as Owen Cashman describes. There is a lot of talk about whole crop. Demand is high as the window for cutting winter wheat (the most suitable crop) is only over the next two weeks. Rough costings show that whole crop will cost in the region of 20c/kg DM by the time it is in a clamp. While it does provide forage and grain, if 50% forage is available then feeding a fodder stretcher type of meal might be easier to manage.

Of course, getting through the current drought and next winter will revolve around farmers working together and learning from each other. Matthew Halpin chats with farmers on the BETTER farm programme to see how they’re managing in the drought and what their plans are for the winter.