Knowledge transfer programme great way for farmers to learn new ideas

Knowledge Transfer groups (or Discussion groups as they were formerly known) are back for the dairy, beef, equine, sheep, tillage and poultry sectors. While the initial carrot to farmers to join these groups is the payment at the end of the year, they quickly find there is much more to be gained writes DoneDeal farming blogger and agricultural consultant Mark McConnell The Knowledge Transfer programme will see Department-approved groups operating over a three-year period. They consist of farmer meetings involving the exchange of information and best practices facilitated by qualified advisors. Facilitators and vets also assist participating farmers in the completion of a tailored Farm Improvement Plan that addresses issues such as profitability, sustainability, animal health and welfare and farm safety. I have been involved in Discussion groups for the past five years or more in the Dairy, Beef and Sheep sectors, as a facilitator. This has involved getting to know the most intensive farmers to some of the smallest farmers in Donegal. The first groups that I set up were Dairy groups and these were very challenging. The initial carrot to all these farmers to join these groups was the payment at the end of the year but they all soon learned that there was much more to be gained. Familiarity breeds trust One of the benefits is that there are the same people in each group for three years. Meeting the same faces at each meeting brings a familiarity within the group. Over time a feeling of comfort comes into the group as the members slowly started to get to know one another. The members then started to trust one another and they looked forward to our meetings each month to have the chat with the other farmers about the weather and the price of milk. They started to open up in the group and share their problems and someone in the group would have a solution to the problem. As the saying goes a problem shared is a problem halved. Focus of the programme Profitability & Financial Management Grassland Management and Sustainability Animal Health Measures Farm Health and Safety Farm Progression Planning Cell Check Farmer Workshop (Dairy) What’s involved and how much do I get? Participants in the Knowledge Transfer Scheme have to attend a minimum of five meetings per year or four meetings and a national event approved by the department of agriculture. Meetings will last two hours and attendance will be recorded. Topics covered will be relevant to the farming enterprise. A farm improvement plan will also have to be drawn up and updated each year. This will consist vary from the different enterprises but will mainly involve a profit monitor, a breeding plan, an animal heath measure, a carbon navigator, a health and safety requirement. Payment for the participant is €750 where all the terms and conditions of the programme have been met. Social benefits The benefits of groups vary across a lot of headings but ask anyone that has being involved in groups and they will tell you how much they enjoyed them. I have seen huge benefits from the groups from a social aspect and I have learned loads from the different farmers. Every farm we visit we pick up something new on how not to or how you should do something. We always have a cup of tea and a sandwich or biscuit after each meeting we the members can chat some more. There are farmers in groups that are not married and live on their own and these meetings are a great break from being on their own. Benefits of a group Monetary benefits of €750 per year which works out at €75 per hour. Gaining information and being able to fill a hunger for knowledge. Social interaction with other farmers can lead to improved confidence and more positive attitude. Reduces the alone factor in farming and builds a friendship with the same farmers meeting each month. Talking to like-minded positive farmers. Way to improve your farm profit. Up to date information made readily available to every farmer in the group from the advisor. For more information on the above check out the following Department of Agriculture link: What sectors and when 2015 will initially see groups being established under the Beef, Dairy and Equine sectors with Poultry, Tillage and Sheep commencing in 2016. Have you been involved in Discussion groups before? Share your positive experiences in the comments below. Just want to buy or sell farming-related items? Straight off to the farming section with you so. And don’t forget to call into us at the Ploughing! #Farming