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Noel Dunne
Machinery Editor

Time for some sense and sensibility

And so, readers, 2023 begins. Last year went by in a flash for me. Post-pandemic travel restrictions were lifted and I was able to visit parts of Europe again, and machinery manufacturers there.

There is such a great sense of freedom when you can travel around without restriction and barriers to enter other countries, and see how they are operating culturally and business-wise. I spent a lot of time in north Italy, the hub of engineering, particularly around Bologna and adjoining cities. These places were hard hit during the pandemic but are starting to bounce back and shops, bars and restaurants are witnessing an increase in business from tourists and locals. Sadly, some closed over the pandemic, never to reopen and the same happened in certain parts of Ireland. 

As we move further away from the grips of Covid-19 restrictions and, hopefully away from the virus, we must spare a thought for the many loved ones who passed away over the last few years, many of whom didn’t get the farewell that they deserved. Let’s hope 2023 starts and finishes well for everyone.
Back to the business at hand, and it is great to see the price of diesel and fuel, in general, start to get back to some sort of normality. At the time of print, prices were 30-40c/L less than in November 2022, which is very welcome on the domestic and agriculture front. 

There is a large increase in farmers now going organic with beef or sheep farmers making up around 80 per cent of new entrants, some of whom also have tillage enterprises. This sees more than 4,000 farmers making the switch to organic in recent times. It is reported that the EU is stepping away from a complete ban on sprays after concerns were raised by Member States that all herbicides, fungicides and other pesticides would be disallowed from 2024. This is good news for the tillage sector. 

On the dairy side of things, there have been rumblings of a potential cow-number cap on milking-parlour grants under TAMS. Dairy farmers who are milking more than 120 cows may be excluded from grant support, it is understood, something that the ICMSA and IFA are not best pleased about.
Pig prices are set to increase by 22 per cent in 2023 – very welcome news, indeed, for this sector, which has seen price levels over the last 18 months put farmers into very difficult situations.
There has been a spate of sheep kills on farms by dogs over the past few months, which is very distressing for farmers and their families, and for the remaining sheep left in the flock. I am firmly in support of reckless dog owners being severely dealt with. If you own a dog, you should be responsible for its whereabouts and actions at all times. And we need robust laws to deal with this ASAP.
Teagasc has stated that farm incomes will come under pressure in 2023 due to fertiliser, feed and fuel prices. Connected to that, I have seen €450 to €510 an acre quoted in certain parts of the country, for land lease, with many bidders driving the prices up and up. Is this the bridge too far? Will it be the norm for the coming year? It is time for some sense and sensibility when it comes to paying these prices per acre. I suppose it is down to supply and demand, but it doesn’t half hit the bottom line. 

On the machinery front New Holland has just introduced a prototype methane tractor that is set to run on liquified natural gas instead of compressed natural gas like the T6.180 model currently on the market. This could be a game changer for tractors!
It was great to see Agromek 2022, Northern Europe’s largest joint agricultural show, take place in Denmark last month after a four-year absence. Irish machinery was well represented at the show, which was attended by more than 45,000 people and featured 540 exhibitors in 12 halls. This is certainly a show to put on the list to visit this year. Later this year, in November, sees the return of what is considered the world’s leading agricultural machinery trade show, Agritechnica, and my advice is to get booking straight away for this as accommodation will be at a premium. Congratulations to Kellys of Borris, run by the Kelly family, who have been named Claas dealer of the year.
And last but certainly not least, don’t forget to browse through our comprehensive 2023 Tractor Guide in this issue to see what is on offer.
Until next month, farm safely and farm wisely.