Northern dairy farmers wanted for knowledge sharing scheme

AgriSearch, The Northern Ireland Agricultural Research and Development Council, is looking to recruit a small number of innovative dairy farmers as “pilot farms” for a new European project.

EuroDairy aims to foster the development and circulate practice-based innovations in dairy farming right across Europe, according to Jason Rankin, General Manager at AgriSearch.

“The EuroDairy scheme looks to work on the basis of connecting the wisdom of crowds,” said Rankin.

EuroDairy will be working alongside 20 partners in 14 countries, from Ireland to Poland, and from Sweden to Italy, encompassing 40% of dairy farmers, 45% of cows and 60% of European milk output.

EuroDairy aims to establish a network of 120 innovating dairy farmers (pilot farms) across Europe to demonstrate best practice, and push boundaries in the application of new knowledge.

AgriSearch is seeking to recruit a small number of Northern Ireland dairy farmers to participate in this European network.

“We are in the early stages of the scheme having just signed off on some of the finer details last week. We are beginning to start into the more practical elements now, such as recruiting pilot farms,” said Rankin.

Pilot farms should be implementing innovations in one or more of the following areas:

  • Resource efficiency.
  • Animal care.
  • Biodiversity.
  • Socio-economic resilience.

Pilot farmers should have:

  • Good physical and financial performance.
  • Good communication skills.
  • Good record keeping.
  • Be willing to host farm visits from both local and international farmers.
  • Be willing to participate in local meetings (including operational groups).
  • Be willing to go on an exchange to visit other farmers in Europe.

As the programme stands participating farmers will not receive a direct payment for taking part in the scheme according to Rankin.

Pilot farmers will be financially benchmarked for two years using the European Dairy Farmers financial comparison system.

For this reason, applications from farmers who are already participating in the EDF financial comparison programme would be particularly welcome according to AgriSearch.

Farmers will also be required to submit additional information, which will depend on the type of innovations they are implementing on their farms.

AgriSearch will be seeking to form farmer-driven ‘Operational Groups’ to target specific problems or opportunities for the dairy sector.

The EuroDairy network will link these groups cross-border, so that innovations identified in one country or region, can be shared with another according to Rankin.

EuroDairy is partnered with Teagasc in the Republic of Ireland with details regarding the recruitment of farms in the Republic still to be announced.

The EuroDairy scheme began in February and will run for three years.