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Time for farmers to start thinking outside the box



The Friendly farmer is an example of an alternative business idea to supplement or replace farm income

Sheep and cattle farmers are under increasing pressure to boost farm incomes due to the lack of guaranteed prices and reduced EU baseline payments by 2019.


The Teagasc Options Programme is based on helping farm families survive with the concept of thinking, planning and acting.


A series of successful Teagasc Options workshops held in Winter 2013 country wide showed a positive attitude to diversification by the 389 participants attending them.

The areas of greatest interest were financial skills, tourism, LEADER grants, marketing skills, succession and innovation.


Over a period of five nights, workshops were run in the Teagasc Centre, Athenry where attendees were most interested when speakers were farmers and entrepreneurs who were able to show the ups and downs of getting an enterprise off the ground.

Gerry Daly, Alstrong (Soil Aerating Machine), Ronan Byrne (The Friendly Farmer), Jimmy Barlow (Roscommon Organic Farmer) and John Heagney (Cycle Holidays Ireland) gave ‘food for thought’ to interested participants.

Business idea:

These farming entrepreneurs developed their business by following up on an idea, hobby or niche food area.

Each business was born out of experience, knowledge and strength in the face of adversity. In most cases these family enterprises had been successful as a result of mistakes made along the way. T

he outstanding ingredient for success involved ‘being passionate’ about the venture. This passion is born out of skill, knowledge and confidence about the product or enterprise being developed.

Enterprise viability:

Peter Young of The Irish Farmers Journal, speaking at the workshop, advised giving star ratings as a guide to initial start-up costs and profit potential of the new business.

When these are weighed up against each other it is possible to evaluate the challenge levels of the business. High challenge levels are directly linked to high risks in a new or existing enterprise.

Examples of low cost, low challenge businesses ranged from tourism, horse rides, rural nature trails, school farm tours, agri retail sales, farm forestry, organic potatoes, readymade meals compared to high cost, high challenge businesses such as nursing homes, artisan cheese production, bottled water, wind farm projects and wood pellet manufacture projects.

Farm based food businesses:

Quality food production, particularly organic, is becoming more and more popular at food festivals and Farmers Markets all over the country. A group of like minded Mayo farmers formed a producer group under the label Lamb Direct for sale of lamb directly to customer to improve prices got for their lamb.

Agri-tourism initiatives:

Activities on farms are becoming much more popular for the health and adventure seeking holidaymaker. Horse-riding, hiking trails, cycling with on farm accommodation from cottages to glamping (upmarket tent accommodation) are potential money spinners in the countryside.

Networking and website development between local entrepreneurs can produce an enticing local tourist package. Useful contact is

For the future:

The success of the Teagasc Options Programme will be based on a collaborative approach with outside developmental agencies. Teagasc have held meetings with Galway Rural Development (GRD) to explore collaboration with local development companies to meet the training needs of previous course participants in basic farm finance, computer skills and start your own business courses.

Where it all ends or begins:

Teagasc plans to run national Succession and Inheritance workshops in collaboration with local solicitors, accountants and Teagasc advisors at local Teagasc Centres in Galway and Clare from September 17.

– Bernie Leahy is an advisor with Teagasc, Galway / Clare Regional Unit


Farmers losing out on beef grading machines



Deputy Denis Naughten

Beef farmers could be losing up to €168 per head due to the lack of accuracy on mechanical beef grading machines in meat plants across the country.

That’s according to local Deputy Denis Naughten, on foot of figures he obtained on the accuracy of these beef grading machines.

The figures show that Department inspectors have found machines to be out by a factor of at least 10% on 119 occasions over the last 18 months

Deputy Naughten pointed out that the legal tolerance limit set for beef grading machines currently in use in meat plants is a mere 60% accuracy.

Even though the Department inspectors found them to be out by at least 10% on 119 occasions, on only eight occasions was mechanical grading suspended because the machines had to be getting the grades wrong on four out of every ten cattle.

“The mechanical grading machines in use in beef plants across the country today were first trialled and tested 20 years ago by Teagasc,” said the Roscommon/Galway TD.

“At that time google was just invented and people needed an encyclopaedia if we wanted to look something up.

“Technology has changed a lot in 20 years and we now need new hi-tech beef grading machines and new modern rules to operate them so they can accurately reflect the actual grade of the animal. These new rules then need to be properly enforced by Departmental officials to ensure that farmers will not be exploited,” he added.

See full story in this week’s Farming Tribune. The Connacht Tribune is on sale now, or you can get our digital edition here.

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Farmers urged to take part in Brexit seminar



Farmers urged to take part in Brexit seminar

GALWAY farmers and IFA members have been asked to consider attending next Monday’s special seminar on the Brexit issue to be held in Goffs, Kill, Co. Kildare.

A number of high profile speakers will address the seminar including EU Agricultural Commissioner, Phil Hogan; the Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed; IFA President Joe Healy as well as senior representatives from the Irish meat industry.

The conference – that runs from 9am to 4pm – is open to all IFA members, although booking is essential in order for the organisers to ‘get a handle’ on the numbers attending. An attendance of about 600 farmers is expected.

Galway-Mayo IFA Regional Officer, Roy O’Brien, told the Farming Tribune that Brexit was the single biggest issue facing the agricultural industry in Ireland over the coming months and years.

“We are looking at a UK market which takes a large percentage of our agricultural produce – what we desperately need is for this market outlet to stay open to us without any tariffs being imposed.

“Ireland does have a special relationship with the UK but we really need to press this issue home with our own political representatives, the EU and Britain as well.

“We’ve all seen over recent months the impact that currency fluctuations alone can have on markets, so the last thing we need is any form of tariff being applied to our exports to Britain,” said Roy O’Brien.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Celebrating half a century of co-operative spirit



Attending the celebrations of the opening of Kilconnell co-operative (now part of Arrabawn) fifty years ago

The 50th anniversary of a game-changing moment for the dairy industry in the county – which saw the development of co-operative milk processing facilities in Kilconnell – was marked with a gathering of founding members and others associated with the plant and the former Midwest Farmers Co-op last week.

Held in Kilconnell Hall, Friday night’s event was one of deep nostalgia as the establishment of the plant in Kilconnell was recalled but also one with a strong sense of positivity for the future as the plant’s as one of Ireland’s finest was equally celebrated.

The journey commenced over 50 years ago with the decision to develop a central creamery in Kilconnell and three separating stations in Athenry, Athlone and Clonberne, which were to be operated by Kilinaleck Co-op.

The Co Cavan co-op had won the tender to develop the facilities but such was the transformative effect it would have on dairying in East Galway that supply would quickly outgrow the Cavan co-op’s capacity and lead ultimately to the establishment of Midwest Farmers Co-op.

According to Brendan Lynskey, a retired dairy farmer synonymous with Kilconnell and Midwest Farmers Co-Op, the existence of a state-of-the-art facility today at the East Galway plant is testament to the foresight and hard work 50 years ago and more of those involved in the then fledgling dairying community.

“As one farmer put it to me all those years ago, not long after the co-op was up and running, we would never be short of a pound after this. It was a different time. A big dairy herd back then was 30 cows and some people were happy to milk five or six cows and leave the can out on the side of the road for collection.

“The start at Kilconnell was a great time and I worked there for a number of years.  There was an awful lot of farmer involvement to get that up and running and the key moment probably was a meeting in Athenry at which it was decided that Kilconell would be the central location and that we would have three separation stations.

“The projected cost of the creamery at the time was €120,000 for Kilconnell and €60,000 to install the additional equipment. That might not do much today but it was an awful lot of money back then and we were up and running in ’66.  The building of it was mostly manual work. I don’t think there was any ready-mix at the time, it was all done manually. There was very heavy concrete work because there was an old time churn with a big base so it needed a lot of concrete,” he recalled.

But it wasn’t long, he continued, before Kilinaleck Co-op would no longer have the capacity to handle growth at Kilconnell.

For more of the history and background of the co-op see this week’s Tribune here

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