Over the past 18 months, the rapid increase in operating costs has forced farmers to keep a close eye on the volume of key products they purchase.
The cost-benefit ratio for an input such as fertilizer is different for each farm and farm type. Last year saw strong milk, grain and beef prices, but lamb prices failed to match 2021 gains.
Fertilizer prices have fallen in the last month, but they still have a long way to go before it makes economic sense for drywallers like me to even return to our modest consumption levels of two years ago.
The entire farm has been soil surveyed twice in the past three years to monitor the impact of applied lime and the reduction in P and K consumption. Every effort is made to maintain optimal pH, P and K levels, but economics must not be neglected either.
Meanwhile, in the CAP reform discussions, the EU Commission said there would be fewer farm controls.
Many farmers mistakenly thought this would mean fewer inspections overall, but what we’re about to see is more remote inspections and more desktop inspections.
The level of detail in the satellite imagery used by the Department of Agriculture is incredible and when combined with computerized inspections it is evident that we will be spending more, not less, time with planners and in our agricultural offices.
Few farmers enjoy spending too much time in the office, but taking charge of managing the farm is becoming increasingly important. Falling behind with paperwork can be a nightmare to catch up on.
Until last year I used one of the main farm packs to prepare my financial accounts for my accountant. The transition from filing entries in paper books to entering details in the accounting section of the farm pack was a big step forward.
However, in the past year I’ve transitioned to using an app on my phone instead of an accounting package on my laptop.
This has made it really easy and accessible to keep bills, invoices and statements up to date. When my accountant first suggested the app I wasn’t sure, but I quickly realized that anyone who can take and send a photo with their phone is fully skilled!
A lot of smartphones annoy me. People look at them all the time, and there seems to be little etiquette surrounding their use at official meetings or in society.
But they have many important uses and have become an indispensable tool for farmers.
When an invoice or statement arrives in the mail, it can be filed and retrieved by my accountant as quickly as I have to photograph and mail it.
Using the app to minimize the time it takes to get the financial information to my accountant has greatly reduced the stress involved, and by mid-January all the numbers were in his office without the need for a large box of invoices .
It’s nice to go into lambing and calving knowing that this job is cutting edge.
A lot of time will be spent in the office over the next few months studying the new CAP rules and finalizing plans for crop rotation and stock numbers. The availability of the most up-to-date financial and cash flow data will be important in the decision-making process.
Angus Woods is a drywall builder in Co Wicklow
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