Expert Learnings at the Dairy Summer Tour
It’s all go for Paul Hyland at the moment. He was hoping to have a cup of coffee in hand for our interview but was called into action instead. He laughs: “The weather turned and I had to make the most of it with the silage.” Despite his busy schedule, Paul kindly took a quick break from his 400 strong dairy farm to tell us what we can expect from this month’s Dairy Summer Tour. He explains: “The Grasslands Association run two main dairy events each year. They have a Spring conference that happens in January just before the cows are dry and we get into the calving season. Then the next event is the Dairy Summer tour.”
Farming in Challenging Environments
This year, the theme for the event is farming in challenging environments - with visits planned to Sean O’Riordan’s farm in Kiskeam Co. Cork, and Conor Creedon’s farm in Rathmore Co. Kerry. Paul explains: “This year we’re featuring two guys doing a very good job on more challenging land, the wetter type of land. They are using techniques that people may have forgotten about and reinventing them.”
“We want to demonstrate to people that no matter what your land conditions are, it shouldn’t be too much of a challenge or obstacle to you growing grass. What we’re trying to showcase is that regardless of your land type, it’s a challenge that people can actually step up to. By making the most of what you’ve got, you can make a success of dairy farming.”
Paul finds taking the time to see what other people are doing invaluable.
“It’s very important to visit different farms and learn about their insights, experiences and new processes,” he says. “We start a discussion and the amount of information that you pick up from other farmers is incredible. It’s the business of farming that we’re all interested in at the end of the day. Most people are there to get the latest information, to educate themselves, and to plan their business based on that.”
Managing Budgets and Cashflow
It’s been a hard year for the industry, and as Paul notes, the short-term outlook for this year is challenging.
He offers the following advice to fellow dairy farmers: “Our incomes are going to be down and it’s just about sticking to the core principles of farming. You have to focus on what you have, manage your cashflow, and make your way out through the other side. I have no doubt that milk prices will recover. But at the moment, it’s an endurance test.”
He advises: “The first thing to do is assess your situation. Find out exactly where you stand. Cut out any unnecessary spending. The advice I’d give to any farmer is that if they need working capital or if finance is required, talk to your bank and don’t wait until it’s too late.”
With AIB involved in the Dairy Summer Tour as chief sponsors, Paul says it’s important to have financial advisors who understand the industry.
“Banking has never been more important in the farming business so we don’t underestimate the value of that to us,” he says. “The AIB Agri advisors are very knowledgeable as well and it’s useful to be involved with people like that.”
A Bright Future Ahead for Dairy Farmers
Looking ahead, Paul believes the future is bright for Irish farming. He notes: “We’re in a bit of a downturn at the minute, but I have no doubt that things will turn around and we will be able to produce milk at a reasonable price.”
He explains: “Irish farmers are extremely good at innovating and keeping up with trends. We have a really technically-minded industry and it will show with the amount of people that will attend this Dairy Summer Tour.”
Advice for Next Generation Dairy Farmers
Paul offers the following advice for anyone thinking of starting their own dairy business – get a mentor.
He says: “Get as much experience as possible and if you can, get yourself a mentor. It could be your father, neighbour, uncle or brother. There’s no established network of mentors. But if you take the guys who hosted this tour in the past, or any former council members, there’s a huge body of information there. All of those people would be very happy to impart the information they have. One thing about farmers is that they’re very willing to help other farmers, so don’t be afraid to ask.”
Along with reaching out to mentors, Paul advises next generation farmers to make the most of any opportunity to experience new ways of farming.
He adds: “Go see the world, meet other people, and educate yourself. You need to be positive and open-minded. Don’t listen to anyone who says you can’t do it.”
Allied Irish Banks, p.l.c. is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland.