Opinion

Corn versus horn – it’s a question of balance

I sense that the coming weeks will see the old corn-versus-horn debate re-visited as cereal growers complain bitterly about the prices they are getting for grain while, at the same time, their livestock colleagues will be expecting to see this downturn in the market reflected fully in the price they pay for compound feeds.

I am not an economist, so far be it from me to comment about the forces now impacting on the international commodity markets. But, two fundamental facts do stand out in my mind when it comes to assessing the financial wellbeing of farmers in Ireland. From a tillage perspective, the overall driver is that of getting crops harvested safely with the minimum level of associated stress and hassle. Too often, in the past, the harvest has become a salvage operation, characterised by heavy rain and atrocious ground conditions just as the combines started to roll. Let’s hope that events of this nature do not unfold over the coming weeks.

So far, it has been a tremendous year for local cereal growers. The yield potential of crops is truly staggering. Growing conditions have been almost perfect throughout 2014: crops got the moisture they needed when required and the sunshine of recent weeks is helping to maximise ear fill. So let’s hope that all of this potential can be transformed into fruitful reality.

On the other hand, livestock farmers – beef finishers in particular – have been enduring fortunes of an entirely different nature. Cattle prices have floored over the past months with the added challenges of carcass specification changes, the number of residencies that cattle have notched up during their lifetime and the general uncertainty associated with the new CAP deal adding to the mix of challenges now confronting them.

A drop in compound in feed prices over the coming weeks would, undoubtedly, help the cause of beef producers in this part of the world. Any factor that can reduce their production costs will go some way to easing the burdens they now face. So, at the end of the day, the corn-versus-horn debate really does come down to a question of balance with farmers on both sides of the argument getting a fair crack of the whip. Let’s hope this can be achieved as the coming weeks unfold!

 

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