'The plate-meter is a great job'
The last four years have been something of a revelation in Neil Boland's farming career.
In 2011, the 37 year-old came back to the 60ac home farm just inland from Enniscrone on the Sligo north coast, after many years working as a roofer in the construction industry
Two things happened in Neil's farming life over the subsequent 12 months - he joined the beef discussion group set up in his area through the BTAP programme, and he started interacting with dairy farmers that wanted him to contract-rear replacements.
"I only realised the true potential of my farm when I joined these discussion groups," said Boland. "I started measuring grass, and discovered that some fields were producing 15t of drymatter per hectare, while others were doing just half of that.
"It was only then that I realised that the dairy lads were even further ahead, so I'm part of mixed dairy and beef group now, called a grass measuring pod. I find it brilliant, training up both my eye and brain to know what grass is in front of them today, and how much they've got ahead of them for the next three weeks.
"The plate-meter is a great job - I was lucky enough to get that by volunteering an hour of my time to measure grass and input data on weekly grass growth on my farm into Teagasc's PastureBase initiative.
"It's really given me the confidence to graze down tight and push my stocking rates, because I know what's ahead of them for so many days ahead. But it still takes a bit of balls to make the leap, I suppose because nobody wants to be seen making mistakes trying new methods. That's one advantage of being young perhaps."
Despite the exposed nature of the Sligo coastline, he has weeks when his grass-growth is just as good as anywhere else in the country.