The impact of the significant and untimely rainfall continues to dominate the thoughts, minds and actions of farmers. The longer the excessive rainfall continues, the larger the problem of next winter’s silage looms.

Most farmers are resigned to the fact that the benefits of this spring are long gone. Now thoughts are turning to limiting the damage on feed supplies for next winter.

The combination of price, weather and policy uncertainty has decimated the amount of bag fertiliser spread so far this year.

It’s hard to believe that many farmers in Cork and Tipperary have either very little or no bag fertiliser out. In other years they would have slurry out and up to 100 units of nitrogen per acre spread.

You can see it in the waterlogged, washed out, yellow-tinted saturated fields right around the country. While growth rates in February and March won’t fill many silage pits, if April and May are lost then it’s a whole different kettle of fish. April is already under threat.

However, let’s be clear, farmers will and must remain positive. Farmers must keep an eye on what they have control of.

While inflation may well trend downwards over the course of the year, farmers must do what is possible to reduce costs now. The majority of costs on livestock farms happen between March and May.


Energy costs simply went through the roof on many farms and households over last year. While the per unit price of energy is trending down now, family farms and businesses need to take a detailed look and take action on energy costs.

On dairy farms over the next number of months, up to 5,000 units per month of electricity will be used. At 30 cents per unit that’s €1,500 per month in electricity alone.

If switching provider is an option, then a 24% discount might be possible. If that means €360 per month of a discount, it could be the best phonecall or piece of online work you will do this week.


Farmers must also consider and move as soon as possible on providing nutrients for next winter’s silage crop.

While there is plenty of grass around on some farms where grazing has not been possible, it’s another job having reasonable yielding silage crops from mid-May onwards. That must be the goal from now on, alongside providing high quality grazing for livestock.

Cutting costs on nutrients could very well be a false economy, so farmers must find out what they can spread based on soil test results and their silage requirements for next winter.

So that’s energy and nutrients – two key components that all livestock farmers must focus on straight away, as both can have very significant impacts on income and margin in 2024.

Two other items I must mention that could be very important for some individuals.

I was talking to IFA farm business chair Bill O’Keeffe this week, and he highlighted that there was up to 4% of a difference in interest rates between different variable interest rate loan arrangements. Again, that’s a phenomenal difference and big money depending on what level of borrowing is being undertaken.

Lastly, some common sense on inspections is badly needed at a difficult juncture for the farm sector. I talked to a farmer on Tuesday who was like the rest, suffering silently in the rain. However last week he also failed his second TB test in an effort to get two consecutive clear TB tests. As the vet was leaving the yard, the farmer took another call from a Department official organising a random inspection of tags and blue cards within two days. Imagine what this farmer has to deal with.

A wet spring killing any margin and hugely increasing workload, a failed TB test at the very least costing more money and possibly lost sales, and then a further inspection despite the fact vets and Department officials have been passing these cards and tags through their hands for the last number of months.

The serious lack of joined up thinking and common sense leaves a lot to be desired. Keep the faith, do what you can on what you can control, and start thinking of what you can do for next winter.