And so it begins - the start of my Nuffield Journey. I have been very fortunate to have been awarded a Nuffield farming scholarship. This year for the first time ever Nuffield Ireland has the honour of hosting the Contemporary Scholars Conference (CSC).
This week 79 scholars from across the globe have converged on the town of Cavan. I have to admit that at the outset it was somewhat overwhelming to network with such a diverse group of fellow scholars. I am enjoying meeting and conversing with new people at every opportunity.
Time and time again, it becomes apparent very quickly that we all share common challenges. The most common issues that we all face include climate change, too much or too little rain, commodity prices and making that connection to the consumer.
For me the challenge to get away from my busy farm is proving very difficult.
Calving started at the end of January and when I left on the 3 March almost 110 cows had calved. Thankfully calving is going very well. Calves are healthy so far and we are managing to graze the cows as best we can without doing too much damage.
Cows were out fulltime for most of February and 40% of the grazing platform has been grazed. Average farm cover is 561 and with almost all of the cows calved now demand is going to be very high for the rest of March. Cows will need to be supplemented with good quality bale silage for the next few weeks and like every other farmer will agree, it’s time for the rain to stop and lets have some spring weather.
Stepping away from the business has been a greater challenge than I had imagined. Experienced farm labour seems to be as plentiful as rocking horse poo! Another challenge I face is it matching stocking rate and cow numbers. Last year I pushed the farm to its limit with a SR on the milking platform of 4.2 supplemented with some high quality bales and about 600kg of meal. The plan now is to sell off most of the March calving cows and all the April ones to bring the SR back to 3.7.
Getting back to the challenge to hand here in Cavan to open my mind and expand my horizon. All Irish Nuffield Scholars must take part in the Global Focus Programme (GFP). The GFP that I am taking part in commences immediately after the conclusion of the CSC. I will visit a range of countries including UK, US, Brazil and NZ.
The aim is to get a deeper understanding of how agriculture and trade works and develops across the globe. Its going to be a full on couple of weeks with a very full schedule every day and I hope to keep my readers up to date on my travels and experiences as I go. All this travel sounds very glamorous but I am under no illusion as to how challenging it is really going to be.