While Teagasc has pushed farmer participation in Discussion Groups in recent times, Teagasc Director Gerry Boyle admitted this week that they are 'not everyone’s cup of tea' and participation is not a ‘must’ for every farmer.

Speaking to Agriland this week, the Teagasc Director say that it is obvious that Discussion Groups are not for everyone, and many farmers not in Discussion Groups do very well.

Some 45% of visitors to the Grange Beef Open Day last month are not members of any Discussion Group, he said, which showed that many farmers not in Discussion Groups were accessing information through other means. And, he said, regardless of the means of knowledge uptake, it is important that farmers receive up-to-date information through some means.

Although there are 13,500 farmers in 830 Discussion Groups around the country, Teagasc says the biggest challenge it faces is getting more farmers to join Discussion Groups. “It’s easier to deal with people who are motivated to learn. They are the ones going to Discussion Groups, and are wiling to participate and learn.” However, he said both Teagasc and the co-ops are concerned for the number of people outside Discussion Groups.

“It’s nonsense to say you have to be in a discussion group to do well. But there is a group out there, in every co-op catchment that could benefit from involvement in a Discussion Group and it’s a massive challenge to reach out to them.” He pointed to the area of somatic cell count and said it’s often small problems in the operation which is leading farmers to receiving penalties.

Persuading farmers to sign up to profit monitors though, he said, is difficult. “Some farmers don’t want to go there. They don’t want to look at the hard numbers and they probably also don’t like being in a discussion group where they have to disclose their figures.”