Discussion Groups may not be for everyone, according to Gerry Boyle of Teagasc, but they do have quantifiable benefits he says.

Not only do Discussion Groups give participants face-to-face time with an advisor and peer-to-peer interaction, which isn’t possible with most other communication mediums, being part of a Discussion Groups also brings increased profits, according to Teagasc research.

Teagasc has quantified this benefit to be in the region of €12,000 per annum. “We have quantified the benefits and on a 40ha dairy farm, the benefit of joining a Discussion Group is probably increased income in the region of €12,000 or 3c/L reduced costs. They are fairly serious numbers,” Gerry Boyle said.

However, the Teagasc Director said that, despite these figures, it is still a challenge to persuade farmers to join Discussion Groups. “Some farmers don’t like others coming onto their farms and you have to try and understand where the farmer is coming from. They are often working on their own and it may be difficult to keep the farm tidy and for some people find that overwhelming. So we have to find different communication channels to get to them.”

There are approximately 13,500 farmers in 850 Discussion Groups around the country, he said. Teagasc, he said, can best serve farmers in the future by focusing on the transfer of technology and knowledge, such as grassland management, through Discussion Groups.

The recent announcement of a joint venture between Dairygold and Teagasc, he said, allows Teagasc to recruit four new staff over three years. The joint farm development programme is aimed at helping the Society’s 3,000 suppliers achieve profitable and sustainable expansion in the post-quota era.