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Noel Dunne
Machinery Editor

The never-changing weather

Well readers, the year is flying by!

I decided to look at what I was talking about this time last year and lo and behold, it was weather that dominated the conversation: “It’s eight degrees in the home yard, nights are cold, there is still spring drilling to be done but with the mixed weather, things are at a standstill for the moment anyway as land remains wet.” Not much has changed, eh? 

I also looked back at a piece our editor, Matt O’Keeffe wrote in April 1995 where he spoke about coming out of a bad January, February and March, which saw wind rain and even snow dominate the scene. The weather is ever changing, but also never-changing it would seem. 

Summer is about to begin, and we have a LOT of catching up to do. As I pen this month’s column the weather is good, temperatures are in double digits, work is starting to get done, and the roads are busy with agricultural kit. For the past few days rain has stayed away except for a few showers but we will live with that. More of this please ! 

Farmers’ confidence is starting to creep back as work finally starts to get done – once the weather turns at all, people feel better in themselves. I know that as crops go in late it will affect yields but that’s the gamble you take. It’s better in the ground than in the bag, though some farmers may feel that it would be better left in the bag this year. At the end of the day, and year, there are bills to be paid and loans to pay back – no crop means no harvest means no pay day (no matter how small). Not much of a choice. Keep the faith. All will come good. 

Now, down to business! The whole area of renewable energy – in particular, solar panels and wind energy – is getting a lot of press at the moment. Farmers want and are willing to improve their carbon footprint and with the Government introducing a TAMS grant to support installation of solar panels, and easing the complications of applying, we will see more solar panels being rolled out across the country. But there is still a lot of work to be done on the electricity infrastructure in this country and how excess power can be returned to the grid and at what price There are the challenges as the finer points are ironed out, but this is the future. We are now living in the era of alternatives and change when it comes to powering our homes and businesses. But my advice is, before you get in to anything, seek professional assistance to find out if it is the correct route for you, your farm and family – an hour with your solicitor could save you a lifetime of hardship. 

On the tillage front, it’s been another spring of hardship. I often hear tillage farmers around me say you will get two good years and one bad one and that seems to be the old cycle we are in. Details of a €100/ha tillage payment was announced back in mid-April. This payment will apply to all winter crops planted in autumn/winter 2023, and spring crops in 2024. We need to increase our tillage area but there are a lot of obstacles in the way – price of hire land, availability, weather, input costs, volatile prices for crops, etc. The Government, in my opinion, will need to keep a closer eye on the tillage sector to keep it viable and to give confidence to tillage farmers to continue into the future. 

On the machinery front, dealers are busy with services and repairs, parts are busy, and enquiries are coming in still… the tractor market is back year on year by 13 per cent to the end of March this year and there were 878 new tractors sold compared to 959 units in 2023. That’s to be expected in the climate we are in. General machinery sales are good with expectations of a bigger demand for grass kit this season. Chatting to a few dealers, they all agreed the weather is a big factor at the moment. Confidence is king when it comes to making machinery purchases. You will get finance as there is a lot of companies out there offering 0% on grass and tillage kit. 

Yes we all know it’s going to be a slower year, but we just have to keep moving forward and play what’s in front of us.