EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan has officially unveiled a fund aimed at delivered cheap credit to European farmers.

Phil Hogan BOOOOOIrish farmers and Agri and rural businesses will soon be able to access €200m fund at low interest rate loans, EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan has announced.

Commissioner Hogan said the fund is aimed at driving improvements in the dairy sector in post-quota Europe, for helping young farmers and helping establish rural businesses.

“Our farm sector and our rural areas have fallen on hard times – but there’s money out there which can help us leave those times behind, if we’re smart enough to reach out for it,” Commissioner Hogan said.

The fund, which is being provided by the EIB, will be rolled out at Member State level with each country’s banks providing the terms of the loan.

However, interest rates will be lower than normal loans and could be as low as 1.5%. Commissioner Hogan cited a funding programme which was used in Romania.

“So overall, in effect we can potentially turn one euro of public money into two euros, three euro or more. This is surely worth doing,” the Commissioner said.

The minimum amount which can be loaned out to an individual is expected to be €40,000 and while there are particular focus areas, banks will be instructed to deal with each application on a “project by project” basis.

Conor Mulvihill European affairs director with the Irish Co-operative Organisation Society (ICOS) welcomed the announcement.

“From an agri co-operative perspective, this funding can and should be used my our enterprise model, to fuel investment to drive our farmer owned dairy industry to meet the challenges and opportunities it faces post quota,” Mulvihill said.

“But even more importantly than those big investments, the fund has the potential to drive generational renewal in Irish agriculture; helping to invest in getting young people in our industry, helping our farms and businesses invest to embrace the key sustainability agenda; it can help the possibility of finance to help start up rural cooperatives to get on their feet to feed into the economic recovery of the Irish countryside,” he added.

Cutting Costs on Dairy Farms

Cows (2)Teagasc has outlined how dairy farmers can save money on two big cost items – meal feeding and fertilizer. – Farmers Journal on 03 March 2015

Meal feeding

According to Teagasc, meal feeding costs accounted for 19% of total costs per litre in 2014. The following steps can help reduce costs.

  • 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.

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

Farmers CAN Reduce Working Hours

Anyone involved in running a business will be familiar with the hard work and long hours required, but there are only so many hours in a day, so all options should be explored when trying to minimise working hours: clever tricks, clever people, and clever technology!Farmer working late

Farmers are no different to other business owners, but yet they endure some of the highest weekly working hours in the world. Why is that, and what can they do about it?

One reason the long working hours is the abolition of milk quotas, which is putting even more pressure on labour resources as dairy farmers expand their herds, as shown by a survey recently published by the Irish Examiner. (Source: http://tinyurl.com/pdkne6h).

The survey was completed by 12 dairy discussion groups representing 500 farmers, and found that the total daily workload (incuding weekends) was over 9 hours for the farmer alone, excluding family help and employed labour.

The survey also asked farmers what they would deem an acceptable working time per week, and the average answer was 59 hours. With a current average of 64 hours, this leaves a gap of 5 hours, how can farmers bridge that gap and save 5 hours a week, or more?

Some have taken simple but effective steps, for example by starting the evening milking one hour earlier. However this “clever trick” may not be practical for every farmer, and other tasks will have to be squeezed into fewer hours before the evening milking starts.

Another option is to employ more labour on the farm, but this is often seen as a costly option, and it can be difficult to find the right people.

However, it may not be as costly or as hard as you think! Farm Solutions has been providing farm labour for over 35 years.

Why not give them a call and see if they can help put a cost-effective solution in place to save a few hours a week.

To contact your nearest Farm Solutions office, visit http://www.farmsolutions.ie/contact-farm-solutions.php