Discussion groups offer farmers a relatively easy and practical way of gaining new information, skills, solutions and technologies, according to Teagasc’s Phelim McDonald.

The Carlow-based Tillage Advisor said that farmers who actively participate in discussion groups tend to run more successful and profitable businesses.

McDonald told over 500 delegates at the National Tillage Conference in Co. Kilkenny, that this is the case across the tillage, beef and dairy sectors.

In 2013, e-Profit Monitor results from Teagasc show that tillage farmers that were involved in discussion groups had better grain yields and margin per tonne than non-group members.

He also said that members of dairy discussion groups had better farm performance, as 55% of these farmers hit their production targets, compared to 39% of non-discussion group members.

This is important, he said, as it shows the potential benefits that tillage farmers could experience in terms of farm output and performance from joining a discussion group.

The Teagasc representative also said that farmers tend to learn more from their peers and attending discussion group meetings allows this to happen easily.

McDonald said that the number of tillage farmers expected to join discussion groups is set to rise in the future, due to the introduction of Department of Agriculture funding.

“While such a service will never be demanded by all, there exists tremendous potential to improve the uptake of technology by tillage farmers,” he said.

Also speaking at the event, Co. Carlow tillage farmer Gilbert Smith said that he has been a member of a discussion group for almost 20 years and it has benefited his farming career greatly.

“Initially our focus was on walking crops to improve our knowledge of crop husbandry, but eventually we started going to social events as a group.

“Crop knowledge was one of the main benefits I gained from membership. I now have confidence in knowing what sprays and chemicals I need to use.

“Personally I think I am producing better crops,” he said.

Why do farmers join discussion groups?
  • To get new and updated information
  • As a source of information and to thrash out ideas
  • Way of learning and problem solving
  • To acquire and adopt new skills
  • Addressing specific challenges
  • A social outlet
  • For payment through schemes