A ‘smarter’ way of doing business, being piloted on a range of mixed farms, has highlighted savings of up to €15,700 a year that farmers can make by simply paying more attention to routine tasks and purchases.
The Smart Farming Programme, being promoted by the IFA’s national environment and rural development committee, was first piloted in 2013 on six Wexford farms with various enterprises.
Last year it was extended to 30 farms strategically located across the country, from Donegal to Cork, Wexford to Meath, and this year it is planned to extend the scheme to hundreds of farms.
This initiative focuses on ways to reduce costs inside the farm gate through better resource management in eight key areas: feed, grassland, water, inputs, time management, soil fertility, machinery management and energy use.
Among the programme’s key participants are Teagasc, the Fertilizer Association of Ireland, the EPA, and UCD.
The IFA’s Tom Ryan said that average savings of €5,000 per farm were achieved in 2013 through initiatives being applied to feed, fertiliser, energy and waste on the farms.
“There were savings of €15,779 on one out of the 30 farms that participated last year, but that was exceptional.
“The average was closer to €7,120 per farm by doing the simple things better in areas where the farmers were not aware that economies were possible,” said Mr Ryan.
Across the 30 farms the savings ranged from €260 to €15,779.
One farmer found that improving soil pH reduced nitrogen usage by 9t at a saving of €2,600.
Additional water troughs on a dairy farm increased milk production by 10pc, which was worth €4,400. Adjusting an automatic meal feeder saved €3,300. Reducing the lamb fattening period by three days increased margin by €4,400.
Key areas for achieving savings included more efficient use of plate milk coolers, changing energy supplier, checking water flow rates and availability, working with a purchasing group, and using the right machine for the job.
Committee chairman, Harold Kingston said that over the past decade spend on inputs had increased by over 50pc from €3.2bn to €4.9bn
“This represents over 70pc of the farm-gate value of output produced.Therefore the focus on resource efficiency and the better use of inputs through the Smart Farming Programme makes good economic sense.
“Every 1pc reduction in inputs use will lead to a saving of €49m to the sector,” he said.