Over the last 18 months, a sharp rise in input costs has forced farmers to keep a close watch on the quantities of key products they buy.
The cost-benefit ratio for inputs such as fertilizer varies from farm to farm and farm type. Milk, grain and beef prices strengthened last year, but lamb prices failed to maintain the gains made in 2021.
Fertilizer prices have declined in the past month, but for drystock farmers like me, they have a long way to go before returning to our modest usage levels of two years ago.
The whole field soil has been tested twice in the last three years to monitor the effects of liming and reduction in P and K application. Every effort will be made to maintain optimum pH, P and K levels, but economics cannot be ignored either.
Meanwhile, in discussions about CAP reform, the EU Commission said there would be fewer on-farm inspections.
Many farmers wrongly thought this would mean fewer inspections overall, but what we will see are more remote inspections and desk-top inspections.
The level of detail available from the satellite imagery used by the Department of Agriculture is incredible, and when combined with computerized inspections, it is clear that we will be spending more time with planners and in our farm offices, not less time .
Some farmers prefer to spend too much time in the office, but being on top of running the farm is becoming increasingly important. Falling behind on paperwork can be a nightmare.
Until last year I used one of the main agriculture packages for my accountant to prepare my financial accounts. The move from filing entries in paper ledgers to entering details in the accounting section of the farm package was a huge leap.
However, for the last year, I started using an app on my phone instead of the accounting package on my laptop.
It has made it really simple and accessible to keep invoices, bills and statements up-to-date. I was unsure when my accountant first suggested the app, but I quickly realized that anyone who can snap and send photos with their phone is totally trained!
There’s a lot about smart phones that bothers me. People see them constantly, and there seems to be little etiquette regarding their use in official meetings or in company.
But they have many important uses, and they have become an important tool for farmers.
Whenever an invoice or statement arrives in the post, it can be filed and accessed by my accountant, as quickly as it takes me to photograph and send it.
Using the app to reduce the time it takes my accountant to retrieve financial information greatly reduced the stress involved, and by mid-January all the figures were in his office without the need for a large box of invoices. .
It’s good to go into lambing and calving knowing the job is up to date.
Much time will be spent in the office over the next few months dealing with the new CAP plans and implementing final plans for crop rotations and stock numbers. Having the most up-to-date financial and cash-flow data will be critical in the decision-making process.
Angus Woods is a drystock farmer in Co Wicklow