Chris McCullough in Northern Ireland

With so many financial pressures leaning hard on farmers these days forking out bags of cash on new technology is an investment that needs serious scrutiny.

Dairy farmers in Ireland are feeling the pinch as prices just announced for October milk settle around a base price of just 25 pence per litre (30 Euro cents), causing some anger.

With prices at this level many farmers aren’t even breaking even, never mind returning a profit, slashing any chances of any mechanical upgrades on the farm.

However, with factors such as labour shortages and increasing feed costs across the sector becoming more common, dairy farmers are being told the only solution to get the work done efficiently is via new technology.

Dairy farmers in particular are caught in the middle of a real dilemma and the big question is if they can afford to invest in new technology or can they afford not to?

One of the key messages the 450,000 visitors to the huge Agritechnica farm machinery show in Germany took home with them at the start of November was that new technology is there to enhance their businesses and hopefully increase profits.

But at what cost?

Machinery manufacturers used the show to launch their latest innovations and technology that may or may not make it into full-scale commercial production.

The agricultural world of machinery is changing rapidly in terms of engines, design, size, and of course price, and exhibitors at Agritechnica were keen to highlight why theirs was better than the next one.

The show was full of massive self-propelled manure spreaders, tractors, slurry tankers, mowers, tedders and balers. You name it, it was there.

Some of the key focuses included producing engines fuelled by alternatives to diesel, developing smart technology that is affordable to smaller farmers and increasing the use of autonomous vehicles.

While the machinery comes from a wide plethora of countries and are manufactured for a huge number of uses the one sentiment that connects them all is that smart farming should provide for a better future.

In total, 2819 exhibitors from 53 countries exhibited, with a number of joint ventures between competing brands surprising some of those in attendance.

The end goal though, of developing a machine that is efficient and saves costs, remains the primary focus for manufacturers even if the guaranteed future of that machine is a good few years down the line.

As more technology is developed, sometimes faster than demand, prices of that technology also increases.

If dairy farmers are to invest then prices paid for milk must give a margin that allows them to do so. However it seems the processors do not share that sentiment as they have cut the Irish prices again.

Both farmers and the farming unions are questioning why the processors have dropped the prices in both Northern Ireland and the Republic.

“We have issued eight press releases since January voicing our concern at the pricing policy of local dairy processors and these have been met with appalling apathy,” Ulster Farmers Union deputy president Victor Chestnutt said.

“Local processors have ignored dairy commodity indicators and instead used Brexit as an excuse not to pay the true price for milk, leaving farmers angry and frustrated.

“The reality is many dairy farmers are struggling to cover their overheads, specifically animal feed bills. Meal companies are reportedly carrying an increased level of debt with clients including some of our members, and this is a hidden cost that cannot be overlooked during these challenging times.

“This milk price drop is a further kick in the teeth for our dairy farmers and is having a serious impact on family-run farming businesses.”

So with commodity prices taking a battering in many sectors, perhaps it’s time the machinery manufacturers or the technology developers sat down with milk processors and meat plants to try and save the farmers.