Northern Irish Farm Resilience Programme farmers on Scottish exchange

July 28, 2018

On 24 July 2018, farmers from Northern Irish groups of The Prince's Farm Resilience Programme set sail for Scotland on a two-day farm visit tour of various dairy, beef and sheep farms in Dumfries.

The visit was to help them learn and engage with Scottish participants of the programme, on how they have diversified their farms and the challenges they have overcame along the way. It was a chance for the group to gain a better understanding of farm business management and gain inside knowledge they could replicate on their own farms.

Since 2016, Rural Support have been responsible for coordinating The Prince’s Farm Resilience Programme in Northern Ireland, and farmers have benefitted from the expertise made available to help them manage their business more efficiently and improve resilience.

Farmers felt that David Keiley from Kite, who lead the cost saving workshop, provided them with excellent practical advice together with realistic challenges for them to make meaningful business improvements. This then paved the way for a farm visit tour to Scotland so that they could see first-hand the changes farmers have made to their farms and the benefits of doing so.

Philip Richardson, a group participant commented, “I was very intrigued by the trip as David often referred to various farms in Scotland when providing examples of good practice and therefore I was excited to experience it for myself and hopefully learn a thing or two that could help develop prospects on my own farm.”

The first visit was to Doug & Lorna Greenshield’s farm where they have 600 Blackfaced ewes, 700 home bred mules and 190 Stabiliser suckler cows. Here the group observed excellent examples of how rotational grazing has improved their profitability and also discussed why Stabilisers work for them.

The next visit was to Crichton Royal Farm at SRUC where the group were given a guided tour by the Farm Manager Hugh McClymont. Hugh provided an overview of the college and the dairy herd to include the Langhill Herd where cows are genetically selected for high milk solid yields. Also discussed were cost controls to include feed purchase and contractor costs.

That evening the group were delighted to welcome Sam Carlisle as a guest speaker who discussed with the group his butchery and abattoir business and how that has developed over the years to include the whole field to fork process.

The following morning the group visited Torr Organic Farm where they gained an insight to Organic Farming and the benefits and issues facing these farms today. The second visit of the day was to Robert Parker, a QMS farmer who rears ‘Black Baldies’ and runs easy care sheep. Robert shared his reasons for changing to these breeds which included maximising profitability while maintaining a good work/life balance.

At all visits the group had open and honest discussions and questions and answer sessions. Each farmer also discussed their plans to deal with the potential forage shortage which is also relevant to Northern Ireland.

Overall the group gained valuable information with significant learning at all farm visits. The trip covered a lot of key points about the future of farming and the importance of diversification. Furthermore, some of the key aspects that were taken from this trip, which were repeated at all four visits included – focus on maternal breeding stock, keep it simple and establish your forage management plan and revise it according to weather/costs.

“It was interesting to see how each farm has changed and adapted according to their land, weather and soil PH. Each farmer was inspirational and extremely knowledgeable in each of their own areas and honest in sharing the challenges they have faced throughout the process. The key information I have gained from this is to keep it simple and don’t overwork the land and animals you have. You need to be adaptable as well as flexible”, said a group participant.

Find out more about The Prince’s Farm Resilience programme here.