Eradicating BVD is a step in the right direction: Henning

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Danske Bank’s Head of Agricultural Relations, John Henning, has welcomed the decision by Northern Ireland’s Farm Minister Michelle O’Neill to push ahead with a statutory Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD) eradication programme

“It’s a disease that is costing local agriculture millions of pounds annually,” he said.

“But this should represent the start of a campaign to eradicate a number of other diseases impacting on our livestock sectors, Leptospirosis being a case in point.

“Individual producers can do little to influence the market returns they receive. But they have total control over what happens within the confines of their farms. Small, incremental improvements made across a range of management-related activities can soon mount up to major advances, when it comes to assessing the overall sustainability of a business.”

Mr Henning cited the need for dairy farmers in Northern Ireland to identify ways of improving milk from forage levels as another way of optimising business performance.

Looking ahead, he said that it may well be the second half of 2016 before international dairy markets strengthen.

“A strong pound is hindering exports of food products from Northern Ireland to the rest of the world while imports from the Euro zone are extremely price competitive within the UK market,” he said.

“The past few days have been marked by the distribution of the new CAP Pillar 1 payments into farm bank accounts across Northern Ireland. Dairy farmers have also received their EU aid packages. This is all helping to aid business cash flows at the present time.

“But the weakening of the Euro against Sterling has served to take the edge of these vitally important support measures.

“The Basic Payment Scheme Euro Exchange rate used in 2015 was £0.7312. That’s 6% down on the 2014 value. Since then rates have fallen as low as £0.70.”

He concluded: “Global commodity prices and unfavourable exchange rates will continue to impact on farm incomes highlighting yet again that we operate on a global market place.

“These factors are largely outside farmers’ control, which emphasises the need for them to focus on the control of the controllable. Producers must actively address those aspects of their businesses which they can directly influence. These include better utilisation of forage, soil health, improved livestock fertility, disease control, overhead costs and so on.”