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Noel Dunne
Machinery Editor

Time for more rural bums on seats?

Well, my friends, as I pen this month’s column the weather is holding us to ransom as we farm between the showers.

It is eight degrees in the home yard. The nights are cold, and machines are parked up in sheds on farms all around me. We should be seeing silage kits being pulled out for the pre-season once-over but they remain tucked away as grass growth is back and there is no urgency. 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. This is all part of the circle of farming life, and we go about our busy days always with an eye on the sky and an ear on the forecast.
Now, down to the business at hand! Dairy farmers are getting a dose of reality of late as record-high milk prices continue to drop – 4-5c/L for March supplies, on top of a comparable drop for February milk. Price per litre has dipped below 40c/L – excluding VAT – in some quarters. The market still remains strong, however, and these cuts were expected.
As the export market strengthens, weanlings are up by €200/head and finished cattle prices remain strong, live exports are up overall by 11 per cent, year on year, and weanling exports are up 34 per cent, year on year. This leaves the sector in a very strong position for the first half of 2023.
Merchants are reporting that fertiliser is starting to move out of their yards but there are significant differences in prices nationwide. Credit terms are now a major factor in where farmers are getting their fertiliser, and there is certainly an element of ‘shopping around’ going on as farmers sniff out the best terms.
I was in the Netherlands recently and, while there, all the talk was about the farmers’ political party –  BoerBurgerBeweging (BBB) – that won almost 20 per cent of the vote in recent provincial elections. This rural-friendly party, the Farmer-Citizen Movement, headed up by Caroline Van Der Plas felt that getting elected was the only way to have fair representation on farming issues and farmers’ concerns going forward. There are only 50,000 farmers in the Netherlands but they got more than one million votes. Farming in Ireland has a big influence on our economy, is it time to put more rural bums on seats in Dáil Éireann? 

The Health and Safety Authority recently carried out a two-week inspection, nationwide, on tractor and quad-bike safety. In the five-year period from 2018 to 2022, there were a total of 34 vehicle-related fatalities on Irish farms. Of the 34 fatalities, 18 involved tractors and four involved quad bikes. Of the quad-bike-related fatalities, two involved children and two involved people over 60. Of the 18 farm fatalities involving tractors, 10 involved people aged 65, or over. We are entering one of the busiest seasons on the farm, so let us all be mindful of the dangers posed.
In machinery news, new-tractor sales are up 8 per cent over the same period last year. A total of 959 new units were sold during the first three months of the year, up from 887 for the same period in 2022, figures from the Farm Tractor and Machinery Trade Association (FTMTA) show. The FTMTA figures also show that there was an increase in secondhand tractors registered – 829 during the first three months of this year compared to 706 units in the same period last year. Telescopic loaders are up by 38 per cent, with 256 registered in 2023’s first three months and there have been 21 new wheeled loaders registered to date, an increase of 31 per cent, year on year.
The FTMTA machinery show is reporting a strong demand for stand space and the National Ploughing Association exhibition packs have gone out to clients. Exciting times to come. 

Until next month, farm wisely, farm safely.