Thursday 29 September 2016

Making your group fit into KT

Mary Kinston

Published 10/08/2016 | 02:30

Pens of Suffolk crossbred hogget ewes wait to go under the hammer at Tullow Livestock Mart Sheep Show. Photo: Roger Jones
Pens of Suffolk crossbred hogget ewes wait to go under the hammer at Tullow Livestock Mart Sheep Show. Photo: Roger Jones

My first official Knowledge Transfer (KT) group meeting was held last Wednesday.

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It's not a newly formed group, but an existing group that realised the value of the scheme. So I submitted them for approval. To be honest, it's going to take a while for both myself and the farmers to familiarise themselves with the scheme's requirements.

While I have informed myself from the appropriate documentation and feel we can meet and complete the requirements, putting it all into practice will take time.

If you are taking part in the KT scheme, it might be useful to go over the scheme requirements that I'm aware of for 2016. Remember I'm just a facilitator, reading between the lines, not a department official.

My group chairmen have always determined the date of the meeting and venue of the group meetings in consultation with their members.

They would then inform me if they wanted my attendance as a facilitator, at which point I would take over its preparation.

However, the new scheme will require a longer lead-in time because the online system requires a minimum notification of five working days (or seven farming days, since apparently Saturday and Sunday don't count).

If you haven't these five working days the group date simply can't be registered.

When registering the group meeting the topic, the start time and duration, and also the host herd number, name and address will be required. These details can be amended up to three working days prior to group meetings.

Group members must sign an attendance sheet that is specific to the meeting. Then the facilitator has to upload it within five working days and record attendees.

Obviously these are the responsibility of the facilitator but it's no harm for farmers to be aware of them. You also must attend five group sessions, with a national event also counting, by May 31, 2017.

For a group meeting to be valid a minimum of 60pc of the members need to attend.

For example, if there are 12 in the group and less than seven attend, the meeting won't be valid and for those that turned up it will have been a wasted journey, so your attendance is key.

In terms of topics, a meeting on health and safety is mandatory, as is a meeting with a veterinary practitioner to complete the animal health and management measure. This must cover calf health and biosecurity, parasite control, lameness and fertility.

If the group has signed up to do progression planning or get additional expertise this also must be covered.

Then there is a requirement for each farmer to complete a Farm Improvement Plan with the assistance of your facilitator.

This involves a profit monitor, a breeding plan on ICBF, a spring rotation planner, a summer wedge and an autumn rotation planner, completing a cell check workshop (if you haven't done one in the last year), a carbon navigator and a farm work efficiency sheet for health and safety.

While it all can feel like a lot of hoops to jump through, what's required here are generally things that will help a dairy farmer to be more efficient and to improve awareness on safer farming methods.

Generally these sort of tasks aren't completed due to time restraints on a dairy farm, but now it's a shared responsibility where the facilitator is charged with assisting you to complete these tasks.

For example, grass growth has repeatedly gotten out of hand on many farms this year and this has affected milk production, especially in terms of milk protein, and potentially in terms of fertility where long returns and increased repeats are becoming an issue.

Being able to complete a summer wedge will assist you in making good grass management decisions.

Another example is farm safety. If the scheme can make improvements here, it can only be a good thing.

Finally if you complete the scheme's requirements there's €750 at the end, but only after the vet has been paid.

However, if on-farm efficiencies are achieved the financial rewards will be much more than that.

Mary Kinston is a discussion group facilitator and consultant, and farms with her husband in Co Kerry.

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