‘I had a herd of infertile cows and a farm that wouldn’t grow grass’

Sean O’Donnell, FBD young farmer of the year and Nuffield Scholar, told farmers at Moorepark that his first year on the farm was a baptism of fire.

“I never felt like I was going to go into farming, 2009 was my first full year and it was a baptism of fire.

“I had a herd of infertile cows and a farm that wouldn’t grow grass. I was pretty green in terms of technical knowledge.”

O’Donnell explained that continued training is a vital catalyst for his business. As a Nuffield scholar he has travelled to Holland, Canada and Australia to increase his skill base.

He also believes that farmers can learn a lot about improving their technical knowledge by doing the hard miles and visiting the very best of Irish farmer.

Anyone thinking of going into farming, should get an education and experience first, Kevin Twomey, Chair of the Dairy Industry Progression Group told farmers at Moorepark recently.

This was the resounding message from the Developing Successful Careers in Dairying forum at Moorepark 2015 – gain education and experience before you commit to a farming future.

At the event farmers were also urged to continue to learn and set aside time for professional development.

Kevin Twomey, Chair of the Dairy Industry Progression group said that farmers will face many challenges and that first-hand experience is key to developing successful farming businesses.

Young educated farmers are key to profitable expansion and upskilled farmers will create a better lifestyle, he said.

There will be many challenges facing farmers in the future. There are a lot of new skills that have to be developed to make the best of the opportunities that lie ahead.

“Young farmers have to develop a whole range of skills from increased financial investment, managing more people and trying to become efficient.”

Twomey advised young farmers to delay returning to the family farm and use this time as an opportunity to develop skills by travelling the world to look at farming and non-farming businesses.

“Farmers need to take time to broaden their skills as people, all these skills are important in the business of farming afterwards.”

Jim O’Leary, a lifelong dairy farmer for Ardfinnan, Tipperary, spoke of his experiences of farming.

“I was essentially forced into farming, when our family inherited a farm, I was sent to Mountbellew Agricultural College. I had to look up the definition of heifer in a dictionary”.

O’Leary also advised anyone considering a career in farming to learn from the best. He said.

“Young farmers need to go working on farms, don’t come home straight away, get the experience and then come home.

“Any parents with children considering a career in farming should send them away to gain experience before allowing them home to farm.”

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