The French farms visited by 14 farmers from the Kilnamartyra discussion and purchase group in Co Cork last week displayed varying degrees of cooperation and pooling of resources, giving the Irish visitors plenty of options to consider for potential adaptation at home.

The visit took in:

  • A so-called CUMA machinery co-op sharing 45 pieces of equipment across 37 farms.
  • A €400,000 suckler shed built by four farmers through a partnership.
  • A 200-cow dairy and tillage farm with farmhouse cheese and yoghurt production operated by five partners.
  • A sheep and rabbit farm selling its meat directly to consumers as well as the products of other farmers engaged in direct sales, who in turn stock the farm’s range.
  • Discussions between French and Irish farmers were thought-provoking, with strong differences in the production systems at work in grass-based Co Cork dairying and on the mixed tillage and livestock farms of the western Loire valley area visited.

    Listen to "Irish impression of farms in western France" on Spreaker.

    With weather too dry for grass to grow from June to August, irrigation and maize silage are widely used here. The winter can be a productive period, however, with Michel Prézelin, head of the Trinottières local dairy research herd, saying trials had delivered 20t DM/ha in one year by growing and harvesting a rye-grass crop in between two maize rotations.

    The visiting Irish farmers saw most potential in the CUMA model to share farm machinery. Patrick McSweeney said members of the purchase group have already established “a fierce level of trust – there is never an issue of a fella not paying his due”.

    “It would not be a big jump to go towards a CUMA,” he added. Discussions within the group pointed to a slurry tanker and trailing shoe as a potential piece of equipment to purchase together.

    “In Ireland, traditionally, we had the Meitheal years and years ago before everything got mechanised, and farmers always shared resources,” said Brendan Hinchion. “If it was redeveloped and udpated as the French have done, I think that there are many advantages to be had.”

    Read more about the French CUMA and partnership models explored by the Kilnamartyra farmers in the coming weeks in the Irish Farmers Journal.