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Building a career in dairying from scratch

One of the highlights at Moorepark 2015 open day is the forum that will showcase six farmers all at various stages in their careers but who share the experience of having built up their businesses from scratch.

Titled 'Developing a Successful Career in Dairying', the panel will include some of the stars of the future, along with well-established operators, all keen to share their insights on how to build a successful business in a post-quota world.

"They all demonstrate the importance of spending time away from the home farm to build a sense of perspective and expose themselves to new ideas," said the forum's co-ordinator, Brendan Horan.

"Too often sons and daughters are expected back on the home farm as soon as their year in agricultural college is over. But we need to put a higher premium on the informal training and education that people get by working on several farms, and even different cultures.

"We should really be looking at trying to replicate the raft of training opportunities that exist in New Zealand through companies such as ITO. This includes courses in everything from milking technique right up to asset management.

"Getting involved in these types of courses also enables farmers to mix with other progressive people, which is also an undervalued element of the development of any farmer's skillset," said Dr Horan.

One of the panellists - David Baker - is a good example of someone that has put a very high premium on upskilling both himself and his wife, Tori.

Together, they have built up a 500 cow herd on a farm leased from Birr Castle Estate to the point where they are almost totally reliant on labour to run their business, with the aim of enabling them to step back from the day-to-day management.

Their key focus is building a business that can attract the very best employees. For this reason, providing good facilities and time-off, along with opportunities for staff to upskill themselves and develop a range of management skills are important elements of their dairy farm.

Andrew Cronin is another panellist that looks set to rise to the top ranks of Irish dairying, having bought his way into 200 cows that are being managed as part of a 400-cow herd on a recently converted tillage farm at Mallow in Cork - all at the ripe old age of 26.

However, the focus of the forum is not only on farmers looking to milk hundreds of cows. Jim O'Leary has built up a farm and herd of 65 cows at Ardfinnan in Co Tipperary. Jim succeeded in overcoming the accepted wisdom in the 1970s that the highly sought after places on the Farm Apprenticeship Scheme should be reserved only for those from farming backgrounds.

After completing the programme, Jim borrowed and bought a farm and built up a dairy herd to the point where he has succeeded in repaying all his debts and makes a good living from his farm.

Offaly's Padraig Keane is another man unafraid of breaking from tradition. Despite being still only 24-years-old, he has completed an ag degree, worked on some of the top dairy farms here and in New Zealand, and is now home to convert the beef farm over to milking 67 cows.

Ciaran Fogarty is at the other end of the dairy ladder, having another year to complete in the Dairy Farm Management course run by Teagasc. Despite having trained as a chef, Mr Fogarty is focused on eventually working his way into his own farm.

The final panellist is Mayoman Sean O'Donnell, who was crowned young farmer of the year last September. He is expanding numbers on his farm near Ballina, while also exploring expansion opportunities through sharemilking arrangements with his neighbours.

• The forum starts at 2pm at the Moorepark Open Day tomorrow (July 1).

Indo Farming