Sustainability is a difficult area to look at for our young farmers. We’re not talking about environmental sustainability (though its important) but economic sustainability.
Farming with the heart and farming with the head are different things and its often hard to separate one from the other.
We need to ask ourselves is the industry I have chosen in agriculture sustainable. Is there a long term future in it? And not just for you but for your potential family. What works for a single man or woman farmer may not work for a farmer with a family. Lifestyle clashes, work hours or indeed just plain and simple economics may not work.
Take a look at beef farming. Right now we are facing every lowering prices for our cattle that’s despite an increase in beef cattle in the country. Looking down the line things are not so rosy with Teagasc advising a global increase in beef numbers in the next few years, and beef consumption falling, its all leading to lower prices for beef and pushing many beef farmers bar the very biggest to other off farm income sources.
Dairy on the other hand seems to be growing indeed That’s Farming understands Teagasc are trying to entice more young farmers to switch to dairy. It’s a strange thought considering the milk collapse happened so recently. Dairy will get bigger as time goes on, there will be less farmers with bigger herds. Is this something that you want to do, to manage a bigger herd? You’ll need to ask yourself that question now. If the answer is no then you will need to diversify and look at alternate dairy methods, that model might be the organic route, or supplying a specific milk for example jersey milk for cheese making etc.
Economic sustainability is an integral part of our forecasting for the future. We need to set clear goals and milestones of what we want to achieve with our farm and maximise our ground ensuring that it too is meeting its full potential.
Are you working at a good stock density? Can you increase? These are all questions we must ask ourselves.
We also need to look at saving money, where can we add profit to the farm. Lean years may come where prices are not good in our chosen sector and we will need extra or saved income to see us through those times. Saving money in a good year is a sensible thing to do. Having the newest machinery is no good if you cant make the payments for it in 6 months time. So start small and set some saving plans. Consulting with your bank can help on this or if you don’t control the purse strings talking with your partner or backer be it family or investor.
Farming is changing every day. The bank manager wants to see that your farm is an agri business. Otherwise he wont be signing on the dotted line. And that’s something we all need to think about.