Researching the future of Irish co-ops

How co-ops can grow and work together is the main area of research by Andrew Gow, a 2012 Nuffield Scholar, who presented his work at the Nuffield Ireland‘s autumn conference in Mount Wolseley in Cavan today.

Courtesy of his presentation, Gow explained that his area of research is targeted at the stakeholders in the industry who will shape the growth of the Irish dairy industry.

“The greater the number of likeminded, well-informed farmers who partake, the more efficient and sustainable their co-op will be,” he outlined.

Gow’s background is as a monitor farmer for Dairygold Co-OpThe and as a committee member of Dairy Ireland. He also works as a promoter of the Kerrygold Brand and the Irish Dairy Board. “It became very apparent that there is a very clear disconnect between Irish dairy farmers and the coops they supply,” he said.

“This situation has come about as a result of a number of factors: milk quota imposition and stagnation of on farm growth. Lack of direct farmer investment in their co-ops. Leading to disinterest amongst farmers in partaking in the co-ops election systems. Low standards for selection and election of highly motivated and qualified committee and board members.”

Gow has travelled to many of the most successful co-ops in the world, including Arla of Denmark, Friesland Campina of Holland, Vallio of Finland, Fonterra and Westland Co-Ops in New Zealand, Murray Goulburn and Bonlac of Australia and Dairy Farmers of America.

His research revealed a number of key findings, in summary: a constant, transparent and compulsory individual farmer investment in their co-op; a structured process for selecting new candidates for the election to committees and boards; training of board members; regular updates from the chairman and CEO; co-ops and dairy businesses working together for a common benefit;  world view rather than national competition and a clear milk pricing policy among others. 

According to the Dairygold monitor farmer: “We are exporting 90 per cent of our product, yet we are not operating on a scale to compete or ally ourselves with our international competitors.”

Among the recommendations, presented by Gow at today’s conference were: to develop a farmer’s sense of informed ownership through an Annual National Co-op Dairy Open Day, focusing on international comparisons and future products; to develop an open milk pricing model to transparently show product prices and trends; to develop Kerrygold as Dairy Brand Ireland; and to select and elect the best new board candidates.”

Nuffield Ireland is an organisation that promotes excellence by developing and supporting people with leadership potential. All this to positively influence Irish agriculture. It has championed more than 50 Irish scholars, agriculture ambassadors of Ireland, who have travelled the world learning, researching and networking. 

More features on the Nuffield Ireland’s Autumn Conference will follow on AgriLand over the weekend. 

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