Three years ago Matthew Adams, from Glarryford in Co. Antrim, was a top student at Greenmount College. Today, thanks to the Land Mobility Programme, he is involved in a profit sharing arrangement on one of the most productive dairy farms in Co. Down.

The farm in question is located close to Strangford. It is owned by Cavan Johnston. Extending to 400ac, the unit is currently home to 220 cows and 130 followers.

Matthew takes up the story: “I have always wanted to farm and the opportunity to work with Cavan has made this a reality for me.

“The relationship was brought about by John McCallister, the man in charge of the Land Mobility Programme.

“Cavan had previously indicated to John that he wanted to step back a bit from the day-to-day running of the business. But, at the same time, he also wanted to work with a young person who would have the enthusiasm to drive the business forward.

“John suggested me as the person who might fit the requirement. And that was the beginning of it. Two years later, the relationship is going from strength to strength."

Matthew discussed his farming experiences in Co. Down to date with John McCallister earlier this week, courtesy of a land mobility webinar, hosted by the Young Farmers’ Clubs of Ulster (YFCU).

The profit sharing arrangement entered into by Matthew and Cavan sees the Glarryford man earning a monthly salary from the business. Cavan takes a monthly land rental fee from the farm and all profits are then shared on an agreed basis at the end of the year.

Investment with a tremendous dividend

Matthew continued: “The arrangement has been agreed on an informal basis up to this point. I am involved in all the day-to-day management decisions with regard to the running of the farm.”

Matthew went on to confirm that a 10-year development plan for the business has been agreed.

It should be possible to push cow numbers up to 300. My preference is for a Holstein-type animal that will produce up to 10,000L of milk. It should also be possible to get 4,000L of milk from forage.

The focus on milk from forage is already evident on the farm. This year, six cuts of silage were taken with the first in the pit by the middle of April. Home grown maize is also helping to boost milk output from forage at the present time.

Matthew explained:

“The cows are currently averaging 32L/day at a concentrate feeding rate of 8.5kg. We are currently getting 14L of milk from forage on a daily basis.

“A lot of focus has been placed on heifer rearing since I arrived. Previously, heifers would have been calved down at 36 months.

“We have managed to get this figure down to 24 months and, in some cases, 22 months.

“Giving more care to replacement heifers comes at a cost. But it’s an investment with a tremendous dividend. It means that we are getting animals in to the milking group at a much earlier age. Earlier calving also allows us to boost milking numbers so much sooner.

From a breeding point of view, we intend using high milk bulls over the next couple of years.

Courtesy of his remarks, John McCallister confirmed the growth of the Land Mobility Programme, since its inception just over two years ago. He added:

“A total of 43 arrangements have been facilitated up to this point, covering 8,000ac of land.

Matthew is a perfect example of what land mobility is all about. The fact that he was prepared to travel made the forging of the relationship with Cavan so much easier.

The webinar also facilitated a general discussion on tax changes that need to be made in order to make effective farm succession planning and land mobility more feasible options.

There was general agreement that the decisions taken over recent years by the Irish government on these matter should be mirrored in Northern Ireland. Steps to facilitate longer term land leasing, as opposed to conacre letting, should also be looked at.