‘If you like going to the mart every week, a producer group is not for you’
A discussion with three farmers who were members of producer groups was held at Sheep 2018 to find out what were the benefits, challenges and potentials of such groups.

In many areas of the country, farmers have organised groups and pooled resources to increase the end value of their product and create linkage, transport and marketing channels with potential customers.

At Sheep 2018, the Irish Farmers Journal chaired a discussion with three farmers who were members of such groups to find out what were the benefits, challenges and potentials of such groups.

With much of the stands at the event focused on increasing stocking rate and ewe prolificacy, there were criticisms from some that the sheep sector was going towards numbers and was forgeting about quality.

Donal Mee of the QuelEUtex Lamb Producer Group was keen to emphasise that was not the case in his group.

“We were set up in 2016 to get a number of Texel and Beltex breeders together to produce lambs for the Belgian market. It’s a niche market, but there are niche markets out there - it’s not all about numbers.”

That opinion was echoed by Joe Scahill of the Mayo Mule and Greyface Group.

“You’d get numbers any day of the week, but it’s the quality that’s important. We set that standard for ourselves and by doing that, we now have good-quality breeding sheep and then you collect a certain premium for that ewe.”

He said that it had taken a long number of years for his group to get to where it was when it came to securing a premium for stock.

Ken Mathews from the Offaly Lamb Producer Group pointed out that the primary function his group was to secure the best price it could for supplies, along with some added benefits.

“The real value is the ease. For people who are working off farm, their lambs are collected for them, so that they can get their day's work done. It definitely helps the part-time guys out,” he said.

All three members of the panel agreed that the most important things for a group to succeed were good organisation and committed membership.

While all three highlighted the positives of group membership they did say it was not for everyone. “If you like going to the mart every week you should never join a producer group because you’ll either cause so much hassle in the group or you’ll feel you’re losing out,” Ken said.

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The farmer's daily wrap: Energy in Agriculture and arrest over land dispute
Here is your news round-up of the top five farming stories today, Tuesday 21 August.

Weather

Wednesday morning will start misty and mostly cloudy, with the rain and drizzle becoming patchy and scattered over Leinster and east Munster, according to Met Éireann. It will dry out quickly elsewhere, with some bright spells developing. It will be bright in all areas in the afternoon, with sunny spells at times and dry apart from the odd light shower. Top temperatures will range from 15°C to 19°C. Moderate to fresh southwest breezes will veer northwesterly as the rain clears.

Wednesday night will be cooler, clearer and less humid than recent nights with lowest temperatures of 10°C or 11°C. It will start off dry but showers will develop in the west and northwest during the night.

In the news

  • Farmers and renewable energy professionals showed both eagerness for the imminent launch of support schemes and frustration at delays such as those in obtaining a connection to the national electricity grid at the Energy in Agriculture open day.
  • Skibbereen and Bandon credit union has launched a fodder support loan.
  • There was a strong turnout of store bullocks in Bandon on Tuesday with in-spec stock well sought after.
  • Two arrests were made in Ferns, Co Wexford, on Tuesday, where 150ac is at the centre of a land dispute.
  • Paul Clabby, a Roscommon farmer from Four Mile House, has claimed the 2018 escort of the year title at the Rose of Tralee festival.
  • Coming up on Wednesday

  • Full coverage from the Virginia Show.
  • We reveal the speakers at this year's ASA conference.
    Listen: hope and bottlenecks at Energy in Agriculture 2018
    Several hundred farmers attended the annual farm energy open day, where discussions swung between progress on Government support and continuing hurdles to renewable projects.

    Farmers and renewable energy professionals showed both eagerness for the imminent launch of support schemes and frustration at delays such as those in obtaining a connection to the national electricity grid at this Tuesday’s Energy in Agriculture open day.

    Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Denis Naughten and other Government officials confirmed that support schemes would open for renewable heat this year and electricity next year – but, in both cases, the tranches supporting farmers most directly will only open at a later stage.

    Grants

    The grants opened this month for domestic solar photovoltaic panels may also extend to farm buildings in the future, but this is at the “analysis” stage, Minister Naughten said. However, he insisted that “all of these policies will provide real opportunities for rural Ireland and for the farming community”.

    IFA renewables project chair Tom Short said the €300m pledged so far for the Support Scheme for Renewable Heat was “a pittance” and more incentives were needed to develop the industry. Yet, there was no sign of new farm-level support for energy crops from Department of Agriculture officials.

    Smaller attendance

    With attention focused elsewhere by the weather crisis, the attendance at the event in Gurteen College, Co Tipperary, was smaller this year than at previous events. There were fewer onlookers and more farmers with concrete projects in the pipeline – many of whom complained of continuing delays in obtaining a grid connection to sell their renewable electricity.

    Co Wicklow sheep farmer Ashley Bourne told the Irish Farmers Journal that he had been waiting for two years for a connection from ESB Networks for a planned solar farm on 4ac of his land and did not know how much longer he would have to wait. Listen to his interview in our podcast below:

    Listen to "Farmer waits two years for solar energy connection" on Spreaker.

    New priority rules for grid connections favour people like Ashley, who have secured planning permission. But they have only been in place since May and have not yet had an effect on the backlog of hundreds of applications in the queue.

    They have, however, increased confidence among European investors willing to put money into renewable energy projects on Irish farmland, according to Michael Moore of renewable energy development firm, Elgin Energy.

    Connecting farmers

    Along with the ESB, Bord na Móna was highlighted by Minister Naughten as the main future link to connect farmers with markets on the biomass side of the industry. Both semi-state companies were absent from the event’s exhibitors and speakers.

    Read more in this week's Irish Farmers Journal.

    Read more

    Bright future for on-farm renewables

    Renewable electricity schemes to generate questions at Energy in Agriculture

    Turning trees into cash

    Rooftop solar scheme attractive for smaller farms

    West Cork credit union launches fodder support loan
    The loan is for up to €20,000 and payments are offered on a monthly, seasonal or annual basis.

    Skibbereen and Bandon credit union has launched a fodder support loan. The new “acre fodder loan” offers a borrowing of up to €20,000. The credit union is offering repayments on a monthly, seasonal or annual basis. Rates start from 6.99%.

    Cashflow risk

    The aim of the loan is to minimise farmers’ cashflow risk by spreading the unforeseen cost over the next few seasons.

    Dominic Casey of Muintir credit union in Skibbereen said: “We recognise that farmers are in difficulty and that current cashflow is a problem. Our ethos in the credit union is to support the farmer and the local community. The loan is in response to the fodder crisis. Our aim is to allow farmers to buy what they need now.”

    Read more

    Farm loans now available from Co Cork credit unions