ICSA Beef chair Edmund Graham has called for nitrates figures to be updated on a rolling seven-day basis to enable farmers to keep on track of the levels of organic N/Ha on their farms. “Farmers are currently working off figures dating back to 31 August which is totally unacceptable given the focus on nitrates, and the importance of managing your farming system to comply with ever tightening regulations,” he said.
Continuing Mr Graham said, “How are we to ensure compliance if we do not have up to date figures? Working with outdated data it is virtually impossible to keep your farm compliant particularly in a trading system where animals are coming and going and can vary in age. At least with a dairy herd there is some predictability and stability with metrics not changing from one year to the next (assuming stable herd). The fact that calves can be registered for up to 27 days after birth is the argument the Department has put forward in the past to explain the delays in updating nitrates figures but that is not relevant regarding a trading herd.”
Mr Graham said lessons needed to be learned from the disaster that was the BEAM Scheme whereby many farmers had to repay aid money for not meeting a 5% nitrates reduction target. “The situation then was grossly unfair with farmers trying to comply but having one hand tied behind their backs due to not having up to date figures. We should not be finding ourselves with this same problem again. The data regarding cattle bought, sold, or slaughtered is updated daily so we know the technology should exist that could supply farmers with up to date and accurate nitrates information on a weekly basis at the very least.
Farmers cannot operate in a vacuum on nitrates. They cannot be expected to manage the levels of organic N/Ha on their farms without up-to-date data and it’s about time this was facilitated.”