NI applications invited for this study tour to Britain

Northern Ireland dairy farmers have the chance to see for themselves how two large Yorkshire enterprises manage their staffing and stock.

According to the last official figures, the average Northern Ireland dairy herd comprises 94 cows – one cow bigger than the UK average and exactly twice as high as the EU’s 47-strong average herd size.

The region’s growing herds have resulted in a range of new challenges for farmers with managing staff often proving as challenging as managing cows.

The tour, run by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA), will include visits to two large scale dairy farms in Yorkshire – A. & E. Banks and Son and Metcalfe Farms.

Both businesses milk over 650 cows selling more than 11,000L/cow/year.

Each business employs large numbers of staff, many of whom are part-time and have little previous farming experience. Both have very detailed protocols for each activity on the farm.

The trip will look at how the farms achieve key performance targets and at the protocols which have been developed to help achieve these.

This study tour is part of the Farm Innovation Visits Scheme which is being delivered by DAERA’s College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE).

The areas that will be studied in more detail on the trip include:

  • Managing large herds to achieve optimum performance;
  • Recruiting, training and managing staff;
  • Developing and implementing clear work protocols.

The group will leave from Belfast International Airport on the morning of Monday, March 9 and return on the evening of Tuesday, March 10. The tour will be led by CAFRE dairying adviser Michael Verner and Kenneth Johnston.

How to apply

Applications are invited from one member or employee of a farm business that milked 200 cows/year in 2017/2018 or 2018/2019, is over 18 years old on the application closing date and not in full-time education.

Preference will be given to applicants who complete physical and financial benchmarking of their dairy business.

To increase the benefits arising from the study tour, all applicants must identify a group of farmers to share their findings with upon their return. A total of 16 places are available and these will be allocated on a competitive basis.

The Farm Innovation Visit Scheme, which is part of the NI Rural Development Programme and part-funded by the EU, will cover the costs associated with setting up the visit, accommodation, travel outside of Northern Ireland and meals when in Great Britain.

Participants will be expected to meet any additional costs, including farm relief and travel insurance.

Dairy farmers who are interested in participating in this study tour can find out more details and complete an application here on the CAFRE website.

Applications close on Monday, February 17 at 4:00pm.