Would you pass a cross compliance on a farm inspection?

Worrying about an upcoming cross compliance farm inspection? Agricultural consultant and DoneDeal blogger Mark McConnell says it’s not as bad as you think Every farm dreads that phone call from a strange number and at the other end of the phone is a Department of Agriculture inspector. “You have being chosen for a 1% Cross Compliance”, dreaded words that sends a shiver up every farmer’s back. These inspections can be a serious worry for a lot of farmers and can cause sleepless nights. I want to show how this worry can be avoided and it’s not as bad as you might think. What I am seeing over and over again is the same areas of non-compliance on farms and with a little effort the most of these can be avoided and penalties avoided or reduced in a lot of cases. The Department of Agriculture inspector is only out to do job and they will work with the farmer in most cases; if the farmer is making a good effort to do the thing correct that will mean a lot. I had a conversation with an inspector recently who pointed the main areas of non-compliance they are seeing on farms. Top 5 areas of non-compliance Cattle identification and registration Nitrates Sheep identification and registration Chemicals and storage Good agricultural and environmental condition Compliance checklist to protect farm payments Every farmer should sit down with a simple checklist found in a very useful booklet that Teagasc has compiled that can be downloaded free of charge from the following link: http://www.teagasc.ie/publications/2013/1896/Teagasc_Cross_Compliance_Workbook.pdf Look at the following headings on the farm and go through them one by one. The first thing that you have to do is identify the problems and then get them sorted. The main thing to remember here is that by carrying out this exercise we are trying to protect our farm payments which are vitally important to every farmer. Cattle identification Make sure all your calves are registered on time and all movements and deaths are recorded. Have all animals with two tags in their ears. Go around the herd and make a list of all the cattle on the herd that are missing a tag and get them ordered immediately. Make sure that the number of cattle on the department’s system matches the amount of cattle in the herd. Make sure the number of cattle cards matches the number of cattle in the herd. Useful tips Every farmer should sign up for the online herd register as soon as possible as this does away with the Blue Book Go around the herd and make a list of all the cattle on the herd that are missing a tag and get them ordered immediately. Nitrates Make sure that you have sufficient winter storage for animal manures. Make sure that you keep within the stocking limits. Make sure that you keep to the spreading dates for fertiliser and animal manures. Make sure to keep to the buffer strips. Useful tips Spend a bit of time with your advisor on these items and he/she can work out the first two and tell you the relevant dates and buffer widths to be left. Sheep tagging Flock registers not kept up to date is a serious problem on all sheep farms. I know myself the last thing you want to do after working hard all day is to start filling in details to your flock register. Get in the habit of filling in the flock register as soon as the transaction takes place. Put in your sheep and make sure they are all tagged and that you write down all the tag numbers. Make sure these same numbers are in your flock register. Make sure that all the sheep census details are filled into the front of your flock register. Fill in all movement from farm to farm, marts, factories and animal deaths. Useful tip When filling out the flock register you don’t have to put every number in the book just the dispatch sheet number that is at the top of the sheet and that will suffice. Chemicals and storage The use of chemicals on farm is getting more and more of a problem and we all know now at this stage that before November 2015 every farmer that has a sprayer has to have completed a Fetac level 5 courses in order to use that sprayer. If you are caught after this date using a sprayer without the relevant course you will incur a penalty in your payments. The reason for all this regulation apart is coming from a misuse of chemicals and some people cutting corners. Make sure you have a lockable store with the appropriate warning sign on it. Have a bucket of sand beside this store in case of spillages. Keep a record of all spray bought in and was they are applied and the rate etc. Useful tip An old chest freezer is ideal for a spray cabinet as long as you fit a lock. Keep the costs down. Fill out the spray records the day that you get the spray and use them don’t leave it to another day. Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition (GAEC) This heading relates to the condition that the land is kept in during the year. Don’t damage land in the winter time. Keep your hedges maintained on the farm. Keep the weeds on the farm maintained by chemical or mechanical means Keep your boundaries stock proof Don’t remove a hedge on the farm without planting similar length of hedge at any location on the farm first. Graze all land properly. Useful tip Don’t out winter cattle too late and house them by the end of October or earlier. Make sure you put sheep to your mountain land to graze every year. It’s worth the effort All of the above are the main areas that keep coming up on farms year on year. If every farm downloads the cross compliance manual and goes through the checklists on these headings it will be possible to reduce the problem areas. It’s a matter of protecting your income and taking the worry out of farm inspections. Check out the following Department link for more information http://www.agriculture.gov.ie/farmerschemespayments/crosscompliance Thanks for reading my blog and log on to DoneDeal farming blog again for more relevant topics. #Farming