Livestock legacy lives onTuesday 30 July 2013
With the Northwest Livestock Programme funding (for events and group meetings) coming to an end this month, it is worth reflecting on what it has provided farmers and the legacy it leaves for the future.
Aside from the monitor farms, since 2009 new groups have been established and existing groups have been supported as the farmer-led programme worked with you to share and develop ideas and put on demo events up and down the region.
A drive to continue...
There is a drive for these group links to continue and each county’s farmers will be taking things forward their own way, with as much, or as little, support as they require...
Cumbria committed to helping farmers >> - Veronica Waller explains how the Farmer Network in Cumbria will work to get the best out of future funding
Lancashire to form a Farmer Network >> - Michelle Fare explains how Myerscough College is helping Lancashire farmers establish a farmer network to take group work forward.
Cheshire learning from one another >> - Reaseheath College's Lesley Innes and Plain Farmers' John Allwood reflect on the support received by groups in Cheshire
Veronica Waller - Cumbria Farmer Network
(2,362 farmers / 169 events)
One of the benefits frequently mentioned by farmers is the opportunity the programme has given them to access nationally recognised specialists on a wide range of topics.
The funding has enabled us to provide invaluable advice from speakers free of charge and we have been asked time and again for the most popular speakers. This is in addition to working with vets with their knowledge of local animal health problems such as liver fluke and worm resistance.
Another benefit has been how the meetings and events have enabled farmers to learn from each other. This is typified by the monitor farm programme where advice provided to the monitor farm and demonstration of best practice has given a local example of how changes, monitoring and testing can benefit profitability.
An example is the beef and sheep monitor farmer, Ken Pears who, in trying to breed more of his own heifer replacements,has trialled bulling them at 2-years-old.
Likewise, the dairy monitor farm run by Matt and Sue Bland has undertaken a massive herd expansion during the programme and their experiences provided the basis for a dairy conference we held inPenrith in September 2011.
As well as the monitor farmers, many other farmers have hosted events on their own farms and been prepared to discuss the management of their livestock enterprises - having farmers prepared to share their knowledge and experience at meetings has been critical.
Farmer and topic-led discussion
When organising events, The Farmer Network has tried to respond to local issues and a good example last year was the issue of saut.
This is a disease of young lambs caused by the ingestion of bog asphodel and was mentioned to us by a farmer from Selside who had noticed an increasing problem on his farm. The first meeting to explore the issue was so popular, we were then asked by farmers in other areas to hold two further events as the publicity then revealed the problem was widespread.
Other issues that have resonated throughout Cumbria have been control of rushes, which is again an increasing problem, and liver fluke and we have held a number of meetings on both topics in the last 12 months.
So what will happen to events in the future when the Livestock Programme funding is no longer available?
The Farmer Network is committed to helping farmers access advice through group meetings. We have successfully applied to the Cumbria Economic Partnership for Rural Growth Network funding and this will provide support for 21 meetings for six farmer groups over the next two years.
This is less than has been available under the Northwest Livestock Programme but in addition to this, we are in discussion with AHDB (Eblex and DairyCo) and ADAS about helping them co-ordinate meetings in Cumbria for a range of topics and workshops for which they have received national DefraRural Skills funding.
Overall, there will be less funding available for meetings so we will need to make a number of changes to maximise the number of events that can be held with thefunding available. Mailing out of invites is expensive both in postage costs and time in stuffing envelopes so increasingly we would like to send invites out by email where at all possible and even by mobile phone.
If you are able to provide us with email addresses and mobile numbers then this would help. We also will not always have the funding available to put food on free of charge at events so you may be asked to pay for refreshments if provided.
The Farmer Network has always been about farmers helping farmers and we would like to continue to develop the "Knowledge Bank" of resources used by farmers (like this website) as well as make links between farmers who have particular technical knowledge or experience.
Using farmers’ own expertise as well as the expertise of industry speakers will continue to be part of the future. If you would like to know more about our plans please contact Veronica Waller or Kate Gascoyne through the Farmer Network office Tel: 01768 868615 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Michelle Fare - Myerscough College
(1,473 farmers / 190 events)
Over 1,400 individual farmers have benefitted from attending one or rmore of the 190 events that have run in Lancashire and Greater Manchester over the last four years, and although the funding is about to come to an end there is a real demand for activity in the county to continue and for groups to keep meeting.
From the two business groups that have regularly supported our monitor farmers, to the nine new groups established by the Livestock Programme, the six vet groups that have benefitted from our support and the wide range of one-off demonstration events that many of you have enjoyed, the general opinion seems to be that the Northwest Livestock Programme has been a real success. After all, the meetings would not be so well attended if they were not useful and interesting!
The grassland and soil improvement events have always proved to be a real hit with so many of you realising how important your forage is in underpinning the performance of your business.
Similarly all the animal health meetings have been well received and we have covered a range of issues including fluke,worms, BVD, anthelmintic resistance,lameness and fertility to name but a few.
The resource efficiency demonstrations focusing on saving water and electricity have also seen good attendance with many of you looking at different options for how you can make savings on your farms.
Relevant and informative
We have received many positive comments over the course of the programme with the overriding opinion being that the content of the meetings is relevant and informative and, particularly for the farmer groups that meet regularly, the social aspect of getting together with like-minded people and realising that you are not on your own with a problem that you might be having on your farm has been invaluable. So too has the sharing of knowledge and experience with other farmers.
- When the Northwest Livestock Programme started in 2009 one of the key aims was to help create and develop farmer groups that would continue after the project ended. I am pleased to say that after consulting with the groups, six have decided to continue.
These groups are:
- Blackburn and Darwen;
- Burnley and Pendle;
- South Pennines Farmers;
- NW Pig Group
- The Beef and Sheep monitor farm group based around Lancaster.
Two representatives from each group have come together to form a management committee and they have elected Littleborough farmer Gary Davies to be chairman of the Lancashire and Gt.Manchester Farmer Network.
Myerscough College will provide management and administrative services to the Lancashire and Greater Manchester Farmer Network.
Membership subscriptions will be £60 per year for six meetings (each group will have six meetings). In the short term, the first meetings for each group will be supported with some RDPE funding from Defra to help get the groups established, so far one meeting is planned for each group every month up to Christmas. Long term, it is hoped that membership will carry the group forward which is why membership is being requested now to show a commitment to making the Network work.
We will be writing to all of you that attend regular group meetings with further details, if there isn’t a group in your area but you are interested in becoming a member of the network, please contact me, Michelle Fare at Myerscough College on 01995 642 206.
As far as the future goes, Myerscough College has been sub-contracted to deliver some of the RDPE National Skills Training in the North West and so we hope to still be coming into contact with many of you.
Please keep an eye on our website (www.farmnw.co.uk) for more information on everything we, and other organisations delivering similar events in the North West, are offering, or call Myerscough College on 01995 642 206 if you want to know more.
Lesley Innes - Reaseheath College
(1,081 farmers / 158 events)
I know myself that I have learned a lot by attending the Northwest Livestock Programme discussion group meetings. However, what I have noticed is that farmers not only learn from the specialists that are involved, but also from each other.
These meetings gave farmers the opportunity to get together to discuss topics, sharing information and ideas that have worked for some and perhaps not for others. This is all useful information that the groups learn from.
All farming systems are different so creating discussion at these group meetings really does enable a cross section of ideas and information to be discussed.
Proactive and Positive
Over the project period, I believe that farmers have seen the value of attending these meetings as a means of learning.I have met many proactive and positive farmers and enthusiasm for achieving the best results for their farm business has to be commended given the nature of farming and the challenges they faceat times.
Out of the groups, Plain Farmers will continue as a group as they always haveand the Beef and Sheep Monitor Farm Group would like to continue learning in agroup situation, but how the group will bemanaged and run has still to be decided.
What dairy farmer John Allwood (of Plain Farmers) had to say about the support his group has received:
The Plain farmers group have been supported by the NorthwestLivestock Programmet in many meetings over the years of the project.The project support has been greatly appreciated and, as a group made it a more sustainable means of planning andcarrying out the meetings held.
We have had quite a few Benchmarking projects and have found these to be an invaluable way of concentrating on cost of production,highlighting producer’s strengths and weaknesses. This gives the producer a spring board to go out and attack their costs and compare with group peers. All in all we have greatly benefitted from all of these financial evaluations.
Our maize growing evaluation days have given rise to a host of cost growingcomparisons. We have looked at total DMgrowing costs between farmers, farms,soil type and site location. This has givenrise to improved growing, cultivation andspray techniques.
We have also benefited from support on various study trips as well. Last year was a superb trip to a very large producerin South Wales. This involved comparingour production costs against a large scale operator and seeing if we could collectively use our buying power to drivea tighter deal with some of our suppliers.
Many thanks to Livestock Northwest for all the support over the years. Our meetings greatly improved all of our business strategies for members of the Plain Farmers Group.