Farm Ireland

Monday 19 March 2018

Good time to join discussion

John Donworth

We handed out the application form for the Dairy Efficiency Programme at the discussion group meeting last week.

The group was having its annual profit monitor meeting and it was a good opportunity to get the group signed up to the programme on the night. This group has been together now for 10 years and all will qualify for the payment this year, provided, of course, that they fulfil the requirement of the scheme.

Each dairy farmer who participates in this programme as part of a dairy discussion group will receive €1,000 each year for three years. That's not an insignificant amount of money and I imagine any dairy farmer reading this will want to get his/her hands on the money.

So, what will you have to do to earn the €1,000 each year? First of all you should go to your local Teagasc office and ask for an application form for the scheme. This is a simple, straightforward document but the important point is that it must be returned to the discussion group facilitator for your group by Friday, February 19.

What have you to do to fulfil the requirements of the scheme in year one? For the purposes of this programme you will be required to attend at least eight meetings of the group this year. This will increase to nine in year two of the programme. An attendance at the Moorepark Open Day or a visit to other research farms, such as Ballyhaise, can also count as an event.

Once you decide to become involved in the programme, you must first complete a 'five-year physical plan' for your farm. Teagasc advisors have been completing these plans with their farmer clients for several years now. The plan must address each of the three key areas of the programme: grass and management, breeding and financial management.

A key area of the programme is grassland management. This will form part of most discussion group meetings. I would be surprised if your grassland management skills don't improve to the point where you are getting more milk of protein from your cows.

One feature of grassland management practices that you will be exposed to will be how to complete a summer grass wedge for your farm. A grass management plan for the autumn must also be produced.

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In year two of the programme, all calves will have to be registered through animal events. If you are still using the white card to register calf births, you will have to cease using them in year two. In year three of the programme, you will have to repeat the activities recorded in year two, plus the completion of the Teagasc profit monitor or its equivalent.

This programme will revolve around your facilitator. You can be a Teagasc advisor or a private consultant. However, you must be trained by Teagasc to a FETAC-accredited standard. The facilitator will be required to record the attendance of all participants at meetings and at events. You will also be required to record completion by all participants of the required projects and the hosting by all attendants at a minimum of one group event.

The cheque will arrive as part of your Single Farm Payment.

What do you think? If you are not already part of a discussion group, now is the time. New groups will be formed in your area. And, while I have no doubt the money will be a major incentive to join, I also have no doubt that if you join the programme, you will benefit, not only from a financial point of view, but also in terms of personal development. Groups also provide a social outlet. Believe me, I have worked extensively with groups for the past 17 years. Join today.

Irish Independent