Construction activity on farms is back by between 30% and 50% this year, building services firms estimate.

A combination of atrocious weather, reduced cashflow and uncertainty around the nitrates derogation have resulted in building projects being either stalled, scaled back or mothballed.

Aidan Kelly of Tipperary-based Agri-Design and Planning Services said he has seen a number of jobs being put on hold or being split-up this spring.

These decisions were due to cashflow problems or farmers being unable to work around yards and sheds due to the delay in getting stock out on grass.

While some projects have completely been put on hold, Kelly said a shortage of slurry capacity means that a lot of tanks are still being built.

“In some cases, where the farmers had intended to build a slatted unit, they’re just going ahead with the tank because they are under pressure for slurry storage capacity,” he explained.

“They need to put in the tank to be compliant, even if they can’t afford it,” Kelly added.

Kelly also said clarity on the derogation was required for on-farm investments to recover.

The slowdown at farm level is seeping into the wider building industry, he maintained.

“Builders are ringing me asking if I have any jobs starting this year that they could price. That’s a sure sign that things are slowing,” Kelly commented.

This slowdown is also being felt in concrete sales, with a number of suppliers reporting a marked fall-off in on-farm work.

“Farm building work is on hold. In many cases, remedial work is not even being done,” one midlands concrete supplier told the Irish Farmers Journal.

Bertie Troy of Grasstec Group said that after a good start to 2023, farm building work stalled last summer but things were “beginning to stir again”.

Slurry storage remains an issue at farm, Troy said.

“There is likely to be a requirement to increase the level of slurry storage per cow, but many farmers are waiting for more information on this issue and the possibility of grants for such works,” he said.