From the 1st until the 3rd of July 2019, 5 Belgian agricultural experts visited Ireland for the first of our Newbie exchanges. This exchange was hosted by the research centre Teagasc with a focus on meeting newbies and getting acquainted with the Irish dairy sector. The experts present for the exchange were – company or organisation in brackets – Wim Vranken (Crelan), Kevin Delvaux (Belgian department of agriculture), Patrick Pasgang (Innovatiesteunpunt), Jacques Swennen (SBB) and Siska Vanpeteghem (Groene Kring). The first three are members of the Belgian national steering board. Jacques is working for the main agricultural bookkeeping firm and Siska represents the young farmer organisation, as well as being a farmer herself and a newbie award 2019 candidate. Joining them from the Newbie team was researcher Mertijn Moeyersons.
We meet four Irish newbies, all with different stories and motivations, as well as join for the Moorepark Open Day held by Teagasc. Keep up with the Newbie projects to read about our exchanges taking place in the near future.
Day 1 – 1th of July 2019
As part of our exchange organised by Teagasc, we visited one of the many Teagasc sites around Ireland. We opted for the one close to Dublin on our way to the first farmer. Besides being the main research facility for food and meat, the site provides some interesting opportunities for newbies. Food processing is a very expensive process and usually outside the budget of farmers and especially new farmers. As such Teagasc has decided to buy the newest food processing equipment and make it available to anyone interested (for a reasonable fee). They mentioned some inspiring examples like someone experimenting with the recipe for their own pizza dough, a farmer looking to get into wasabi production (with his own processing) and a apple farmer looking to experiment with way to valorise apple juice and vinegar. Our experts could not think of a comparable facility in Belgium and were certainly
Newbie 1: David
In the afternoon of day 1 we met David and his father on their dairy farm. David has only been officially working on his father’s farm since 2014 when both decided the time was right to think about generational renewal. Motivated by declining meat prices and his son coming in, both decided to change the farm from meat cow production to dairy production. As, so we learned from the Teagasc advisor, dairy farming is currently one of the most profitable sectors in Ireland. David explains how the inheritance rules in Ireland are quite different from Belgium. As a parent you are not obliged to give each child an equal share. This should make the renewal easier. David is not free from trouble however. Access to credit is a big problem in Ireland, even for David, as the capital of the parent can not be used as a collateral for a loan by the son. We will find this is a recuring entry barrier for the next newbies. In his spare time David has helped set up a local young farmer division to meet with the on a regularly basis.
Day 2 – 2nd of July 2019
Newbie 2: Michael
Michael: “The first newbies of day 2 were Michael and his brother. Neither of them had any experience with farming before starting their farm only a few years ago. They lease the land and farm buildings from a former meat sheep farmer who retired. As one of the only farmers in Ireland they produce sheep milk for dairy products. While Michael learns the ways of holding herd, his brother takes care of the marketing side by finding suppliers and buyers. As mentioned before access to credit is a huge problem in Ireland, also for Michael. No bank was willing to use the sheep heard as a collateral so they are limited to a credit loan without collateral (up to €40 000). This limits their ability to invest, but the brothers are managing their farm very well anyway. They do not own any tractors or buildings (using contractors for their work) to keep their investments down.”
Newbie 3: Donal
Donal: “For our third Newbie, Donal, farming is a side project on top of his main job of being a farming contractor. His farm became available after a family member retired his meat cow farm. In Ireland contract rearing heifers is quite profitable and, with the predicted increase in dairy farming, considered a safe investment. The labour intensity is much lower than conventional farming, but it does require a trust relationship with your dairy farmers. Donal is being guided very well by his Teagasc advisor. His son might be interested to take over the activity in a few years.”
Newbie 4: Rory
Rory: “When Rory returned from a long stay in Australia and lost his job, he knew he wanted to live differently. He turned the plot of land he had acquired a few years prior into a small scale farm. Rory and his wife started a biodynamic farm, initially producing a large variation of crops and selling it on local markets. Currently they have focused their attention on leaf which are sold in local supermarkets. Packaging is done on the farm itself. Rory is sure to grab on to any information he can get, but most of all he listens to his plants and soil. He rotates his crops as much as possible and makes sure there are always a large mixture of crops in the same corridor. This way he keeps weed and pest pressure down without needing to spray. He is looking to slowly expand, but never extending beyond his own labour capacity. You can check out his website here: http://kildinanfarm.com/“
Day 3 Moorepark Open Day
On the last they of the iterinary our experts could join the Moorepark Open Day. Once every two years the research facility of Teagasc Moorepark invites all interested dairy farmers to come over and see what they have been working on. Research is being displayed, Teagasc experts give presentations on market activities and PhD students present their research via poster presentations. With over 200 PhD students Teagasc has no shortage of research to display and our experts were eager to read and listen to as many as possible. Some examples of topics are ‘Increasing Grass Utilization’, ‘Sustainable Milk Producing Systems’, ‘People Farming Smarter’, ‘Keeping you & your family safe on the farm”‘ as well as many demos on grazing and spraying. We also noticed the large amount of young farmers walking among the group! One presentation that was especially striking, was the call for an increase in dairy production. Ireland has a long term plan to extend its production and, according to the representative, will do so in a sustainable way while also attracting new farmers to the dairy sector. They aim to be 100% grass fed as they see this as their competitive advantage compared to other EU countries. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g_CNmjIRDJ8.”