Young farmers award helped me in the business

The end of this month is the closing date for applications and nominations in the search for Macra na Feirme’s FBD Young Farmer of the Year.

FBD company secretary Conor Gouldson says, “Between Macra na Feirme, FBD and the IFA, we hope to bring to the surface some excellent candidates to compete for this very prestigious award. We would encourage all interested parties — families, neighbours etc — to nominate candidates for the competition and we hope to see entrants of both genders from all regions of Ireland battle it out in the final.”

Applications are sought from part-time or full-time young farmers actively involved in running a farm. County winners will contest the all-Ireland final in September.

Last year, the competition brought special recognition for winner Dermot O’Connor, who farms at Shanagolden, Co Limerick.

*What have you learned from entering and winning the Young Farmer of the Year competition. Did you get any ideas from the judges on how to improve your farm?

>>Prior to entering the competition, public speaking would not have been my strongest attribute. However, I found that as the competition progressed, so did my confidence and ability to express my views and experiences of my farming career to date. Being able to speak openly to the judges about my plans for the future meant that they able to analyse and question all aspects of my business plan. Following the competition, the feedback I received from various farming organisations and fellow farmers has been invaluable, and I intend to use every nugget of this information to further strengthen my business. The FBD Young Farmer of the Year competition also offered me a platform to showcase my farm and to receive recognition for my hard work. I hope that other young farmers will see the potential opportunities that the competition can offer them.

* The past year has been very challenging, with dairy and beef farms running out of silage, mainly because they put their stock in a lot earlier due to bad weather. A lot of farmers are in financial trouble, tillage farmers did not get all their crops. How do you handle that kind of situation?

>>Cash flow budgeting is essential when money is tight. To know exactly what’s coming in and what you can afford to pay out can minimise the stress involved. I tackle a cash flow budget by printing off my current online bank statement, and then I quickly jot down the urgent direct debits and bills I have to pay in that month. What I expect to make in that month is worked out by totting up how many litres are on the milk lorry printouts, and assuming a realistic milk price. Suppliers are more understanding to farmers at present, so try negotiating better credit terms.

*How will abolition of milk quotas affect you and other young dairy farmers?

>>The dairy sector will enter a new era post-quota, and with any change, there will be uncertainty. Farmers who intend on expanding herd numbers need to be confident that expansion will add more profit. My motto is “Fail to plan, plan to fail”. If expansion in the long term will benefit the business, put it on paper, and set targets. The major risk to an expanding herd in the short term will be a super levy, which is unlikely in the present quota year due to the feed shortage. But with milk price set to rise in the coming months, expanding herds should look at putting aside a super levy fund once the farm finances get back to some normality.

* Have you any ideas going forward that are cost effective for improving farming for young people, that would make it more attractive for people thinking of going into farming?

>>There’s no quick fix to running a profitable farming enterprise, but definitely, young farmers add energy to the business. The demand for agricultural courses is a clear sign that these young people are going about it in the right way. By bringing a more technical, efficient approach to the business, a young farmer can pinpoint the areas that need attention, through profit monitors, benchmarking and realistic goals. I would like to see the return of installation aid or a similar scheme to financially support young people entering the sector.

*At the moment, a lot of farmers have not found a successor. The dad or uncle is still running the farm. Have you got any advice for sons or nephews thinking of taking over the farm?

>>Speak to your father or uncle, and make them aware of the incentives that a young trained farmer can bring to the farm enterprise. Personally, I found that the milk production partnership offered the ideal opportunity for me and my father to spread the workload while improving farm efficiency. There are also tax exemptions for older farmers leasing land to young trained farmers on a long term lease. I would also like to see the return of the early retirement scheme, as this has encouraged the transfer of land in the past.

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