The Banbridge Sheep Business Development Group (BDG) recently had their first farm discussion on the farm of David Cromie, Rathfriland, Co Down. The group, which is part of the new Business Development Groups (BDGs), is funded through the 2014-2020 Rural Development Programme.
The farmers were welcomed by Senan White, CAFRE, who explained the workings of the programme and reiterated that the more members actively participated in the group discussions, the more they would benefit. Following an exercise where the group members introduced themselves, David Cromie gave an outline of his farm. He highlighted areas where good progress had been made, especially in relation to lambing. He was open and honest about areas, such as grassland management, where he hopes to see improvement throughout the lifetime of the programme and beyond. Senan White concluded by stating that he was looking forward to working with the group, welcomed the members’ views and encouraged constructive criticism throughout the programme.
Following some informative, and timely, discussion on their lamb dosing policy and the use of Faecal Egg Counts (FEC), the members broke into smaller groups and visually estimated the weight of a sample of ewes selected for the event. This created constructive debate, especially when the actual weights were revealed. It reinforced the animal health message of the need to accurately estimate the weight of livestock being treated.
Concluding the discussion, Senan White thanked David for hosting the first group and the members for their contribution. The next farm event will see the members focus their discussion on grass and grassland management.
Each BDG comprises of approximately 15 – 20 like-minded farmers who will meet up to eight times a year to discuss management topics agreed by the group. The group will be facilitated by a CAFRE Development Advisor and activities will include on-farm meetings, demonstrations and skills training.
Farmers participating in the scheme will benchmark their business to identify areas that have the potential to be improved. A business development plan will be created to identify the actions to be taken to improve the technical efficiency of the business and improve the sustainability of the farm.
By Senan White, College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE), Beef and Sheep Development Adviser, Armagh
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