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'Personality key in farm partnerships'

'Personality key in farm partnerships'

FARMERS should carry out a personality trait test to see if they are compatible before venturing into any farm partnerships, says one of the men behind one of the largest farm partnerships in the country.

Pat Ryan, from Dungarvan, Co Waterford, is one of the farmers involved in Captal - named after the Cappagh and Tallow areas in the county - which now supports 12 families, milking 1150 cows over a 1,500ac area, with other enterprises including contract rearing.

Pat, who has 450 cows on his homefarm, explained there are many other key factors to a good working partnership, as the "personality side of doing business is hugely important" as well as the important technical expertise.

"They are hugely important skills that a lot of farmers that work on their own think they don't have to develop but do. Most farmers need the bank manager to be their friend or the milk processor," Pat said.

He urges farmers considering partnerships to look at the characteristics needed to work with others and then score themselves on them in the same fashion as they'd assess grassland skills.

"I'm 100pc certain there are plenty of courses and education on grassland management and slowly but surely in the business part of running a dairy farm but there is very little on working together with people. The Government strategy is collaborative farming, it is a massive area and for so many it will be hugely important," he said.

Tom Curran, the Teagasc farm structure specialist, said it is about managing relationships, describing it as a progression for young people to find someone with the same aims as themselves.

He says the stock relief is there for four years to help a young person set themselves up in a share or partnership arrangement. However, Tom said that it does require a "huge amount of commitment" and they have to calculate a profit they can live off and generate surplus cash to buy cows."Everybody is feeling their way into it slowly - the most enquiries I've had have been from large scale dairy farmers looking to set up second units. In many cases they are leasing those units and looking to bring a young person on board as a share farmer to carry out the labour," said Tom. "It will come in time." Pat also believes there will be strong take up of share partnerships in the future.

be a very strong instrument. A lot of landowners are more interested in tax incentives, if they go into share farming or something they are going to be taxed. That is why they are stepping away from it a little bit."

Pat says the "logjam" at the moment in terms of share farming would not be on the landowners side. "It would be on the young people with the potential to be share milkers currently," he says, adding that will change. "They are not long enough through the courses - the first step is a big step.

"It is half like getting married - that person once they buy their own cows they are making the commitment and they are going to be the main technical person on that farm. Currently, a wage is an easy thing, dare I say it, to take," he says, adding they offer support structure in terms of technical ability.

Pat says that in the future he thinks there will be strong take up of share partnership agreements. "You are on the bell curve, the early adaptors and they run very slow," he says. "Once it is seen to be a great opportunity, you have the stagnation of all the quota years and little opportunity like that. It is relatively new to this country, the bell curve again, it is a slow adoptive stage."

Mr Ryan explained it had taken many steps to build up Captal Farms, with 12 families now involved in all aspects from milking to contract rearing gaining their major source of farm income.

"It all started in the milk production - MPP phase - at that stage there were two of us together. Then we joined with a third party," he explains. "From when quotas went this year they are operating as non-registered farm partnerships ," he says, adding they operated it all in one entire partnership due to the quota rules.

He said the partnerships have allowed them improve skills and interpersonal skills. "It has improved the ability to have time off - you know work sharing and by being accountable you become more efficient. If I was a sole trader at home and I was answerable to no one. I could accept, like they say in the ad any bank will do or any standard will do. When I'm accountable to someone else it means standards have to be higher."

He urges farmers to consider what they want to achieve, and set out weekly, quarterly and yearly goals.

He says the career path to a share milker involves two years farming education, at least two years honing your skills, time as an on the ground manager, a stint as a contract manager and then moving up as a share milker.

However, he points out there were opportunities out there with Captal farms highlighting work, such as the option of being a contract manager in a 150 cow herd and owning up to 50 cows, with an opportunity in a 400 cow herd with the opportunity for a contract manager to progress up to 80 cows.

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"The point is there are opportunities out there," he said. "We think we have a good system so there is a good support available."

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