Farmers who are members of Teagasc beef discussion groups were found to have higher output, higher costs and higher overall gross and net margins than non-members.

That’s according to an independent evaluation report, ‘Impact of Farmers Participating in Teagasc Beef Discussion Groups, 2012 to 2014’, carried out by Broadmore research for Teagasc.

Also evidence from the farmer evaluation survey shows that the majority of discussion group members surveyed made improvements to overall profit (61%), liveweight gain (70%) and days at grass (75%).

Furthermore half of discussion group members have seen a financial benefit from their involvement in the group and the same proportion anticipates future financial benefits.

On average, beef farmers who are members of groups had higher output (€363 per hectare) and higher net margin (€95 per hectare). Discussion group members had higher stocking rates and achieved higher prices per head for their livestock.

According to the report social interaction within groups, outside of groups during regular farm activities and in nonfarm settings is an important benefit of discussion group membership.

It found group members provide emotional support to each other in managing and developing their farm businesses. Social interaction also builds trust between farmers and between farmers and their facilitator.

The author of the report, Pat Bogue from Broadmore Research said; “Farmers are clearly benefiting from being members of groups and are satisfied with the delivery of the service from Teagasc. Members are focussed on productivity and the financial benefits emerge as practices change on farms. One of the main motivations behind farmers joining group was to learn and to get more information and new ideas. “

The report also found that three quarters of participants intend to stay in groups after the BTAP scheme comes to an end.

Teagasc Director, Professor Gerry Boyle said Teagasc is committed to further developing discussion groups as a means of engaging with farmers.

“The publication of this report is timely as we reach the end of the current BTAP Programme. Teagasc is committed to working with farmer discussion groups towards improving the technical efficiency and profitability on beef farms,” he said.