Cost saving on the farm in 2016

These types of headings are all too familiar to farmers in the recent times and the big problem is that these problems are outside the control of the farmer and he cannot influence the prices he/she is getting for their produce. I am going to go through some steps that any farmer can take to reduce their costs in a period of poor prices. Meal feeding According to Teagasc, meal feeding costs accounted for 19% of total costs per litre in 2014. Including more grass in the cows’ diet will reduce this cost.

There is plenty of grass on farms at present. For most herds on grass full-time during March, 3kg meals should be the maximum feed level. This should be reduced when grazing conditions are good.

Aim for 1-2kg/cow/day during April and no meals from mid-May onwards.

Decide in the autumn whether meal feeding is justified.

Focus on reducing quantities fed than on price per tonne. Shop around for the best value but do not compromise on ration quality, which should be assessed on an energy (UFL) basis. High protein ingredients add cost per tonne and may not be necessary where good quality grass is offered. A concentrate containing 0.94 UFL and 14% CP will be adequate. The cheapest ration does not mean the best value. Rations should be bought firstly on the basis of their energy content, next protein, then minerals and finally fibre. If livestock are not performing well, (losing body condition or low milk proteins), then the problem is usually a lack of energy. This is generally the most limiting nutrient in grass based livestock diets.

Ingredients in rations are listed in order of decreasing inclusion level although the quantities included are not listed. Anything listed below molasses is making a minimal contribution to the ration. Fertiliser costs Teagasc says that fertiliser costs typically accounted for 12% of total costs per litre in 2014. Here is how farmers can save money and prevent waste.

Soil test so that phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) fertiliser isn’t wasted. Focus on maintenance dressings of P and K early in the year and on build-up later in the year.

Get lime right first before considering building either soil P or K.

Use slurry/soiled water to replace some purchased N, P and K; apply in the spring for best value.

Match fertiliser nitrogen (N) to stocking rate.

Use urea rather than CAN (25% cheaper per kg N) until the end of May – for a potential saving of 0.3 cent per litre on your annual fertiliser bill.

Spread sulphur (20kg/ha; 16 units/acre) on dry farms from April. Switch Energy Supplier One simple way to save money on the farm is to look at changing energy supplier. This can be easily checked on websites like Bonkers.ie or Switcher.ie.

These are price comparison websites where you can simply log on yourself and compare the price from a range of different energy suppliers. You’ll get a list of the different rates available from energy providers in the market, choose the cheapest one and change over online in a few minutes free of charge. On Bonkers.ie a farmer can also compare the prices of Home/farm and vehicle insurance and phone deals. Correct Lighting – Can Reduce your Cost by 50% Lighting is one of the easiest areas where savings can be made. Lighting costs can be reduced by up to 50%  by providing the right amount of light, in the right place at the right time with effective lighting equipment.

Light efficiency is measured in lumens per watt. The higher the lumens per watt the greater the lighting efficiency. In the farmhouse: set your thermostat as low as is comfortable, check your timers, bleed radiators and service the boiler annually. If the temperature setting is out by just 1°C, it can mean an increase in energy consumption of 15%. On a dairy farm, to save money on water heating, ensure that all pipes and tanks are well insulated, minimise the distance that hot water has to travel and use night rate electricity. Make sure that timers are set for the right time and are keeping time. Water Usage If your water is supplied by the council, you will get water statements each year which sets out the amount and cost of the water you use.

Check out the average daily water use on your farm and then compare this with the amount of water used on your statement. Higher than average water use may mean that you have a water leak and are wasting water and money. Most water losses are due to simple problems with small appliances. For example, replacing a washer at a cost of 70 cents on a dripping tap losing 90 litres per day can save you €36 per year. Repairing a leaking ball-valve on a trough will save up to 150 cubic metres (33,000 gallons) a year3. This will reduce your water bill by almost €170. Finding leaks in buried pipes can be problematic. Where there are several pipes being fed through one meter, consider installing an isolation valve at the head of each line so that a pipe with a leak can be quickly identified. Consider taking photographs as pipes are being laid and include the layout of water pipes on your farm maps. It will be a help in leak detection. Sometimes replacement of pipe work is necessary. Replacing a leaking pipe on a County Cork farm cost €450. The old pipe was losing 2,700 cubic metres per year, at a cost of €1,840. Keep Livestock on Grass Longer – It’s the Cheapest Feed! Each extra day at grass can reduce milk production costs by 0.16c/l and is worth €1.54 per suckler cow/day. Feeding good quality grazed grass is almost four times cheaper than concentrates. Reseed – It Increases Grass Yield and Performance! Perennial ryegrass delivers highest yields across all soil types. Aim for 65% perennial ryegrass in swards. Grass breed selection and yields are impacted by soil conditions. Correct soil fertility and pH levels are essential for good sward establishment. The optimum range for soil pH levels for perennial ryegrass is 6.2 to 6.7. Know your silage quality – Poor silage means higher meal bills! Concentrate feed costs for in-lamb ewes increases by 8% for each 1% fall in silage DMD Concentrate feed requirements for dairy cows increase by 4% for each 1% decline in silage DMD. Increased DMD increases the amount of energy available from silage and leads to improved animal performance in terms of milk yield and body weight gain. You can find out more on this here on IFA Smart Farming. Don’t forget to have a look at my other farming tips for DoneDeal. #Farming