Farmers told to lean in to 2020 with confidence

January 15th, 2020 11:50 AM

By Emma Connolly

c29 & c30 Pictured at Fernhill House Hotel, Clonakilty, on Tuesday night at the Carbery 2020 – Farmer Ready Health and Wellness Conference were – from left – Jason Hawkins, CEO, and TJ Sullivan, chairperson, Carbery Group, and Tom Curran, Cork West regional manager of Teagasc; right – farmers Joyce and Eric O'Sullivan, Courtmacsherry, Sheila Collins, Clonakilty, and Kevin O'Neill, Clonakilty. (Photos: Denis Boyle)

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WEST Cork farmers are being urged to count how many times they leave the pit during milking, and why, in a bid to streamline their process and save valuable minutes in the working day.

This was just one of many useful nuggets of advice shared at Tuesday night’s ‘Carbery 2020 – Farmer Ready’ in a packed Fernhill House Hotel.

Organised by Carbery Group, the event was MC’d by their director of sustainability Enda Buckley and was designed to motivate and inform suppliers to take on 2020 with confidence and positivity.

Among the original line-up of speakers was Teagasc’s Marion Beecher, who introduced the concept of applying Lean principles to farming. Commonly used in the manufacturing sector, Lean principles create more value but with fewer resources.

Marion pointed out that, without realising, farmers were already using Lean techniques by doing things like measuring grass.

But she further encouraged them to look at areas like transport (is poor layout impacting use of vehicles?); inventory (over or under-stocked?), over-production (leading to waste) etc and see if they could be streamlined.

Even the simple introduction of a white board to keep an eye on the bigger picture of the business was a step in the right direction.

Pointing out that milking accounts for one-third of all work on a dairy farm in a year, she highlighted a case study she conducted on a Waterford farm which saw the farmer leave his pit 14 times during milking for various reasons.

Very simple things like having equipment to hand and improving cattle flow into the parlour, saw him reduce milking times by 20 minutes per session.

Standardising repetitive farming processes, such as milking, calf-feeding/rearing etc, and breaking them down step-by-step was another worthwhile task so the the job could be easily outsourced.

‘It’s all about preparing as much as you can in advance to free you up to deal with unexpected events such as weather,’ said Marion.

Farmers were also surprised to learn that, despite having active lifestyles, they may not necessarily be fit. Representatives from Cork Sports Partnership pointed out that farmers should be involved in 30 minutes of continuous exercise, five days a week, outside of their work.

Advanced paramedic Tomás Allen presented sobering farm accident statistics including the fact that 30% of agri accidents are fatal.

Coming into calving season, he emphasised the dangers cattle pose and the importance of exit points; and that a calf poses as much a risk to a child as a cow does to an adult.

Other basic, but life-saving measures he reminded farmers of were keeping your phone on your person; reversing cameras on trailers; PTO covers and slurry sensors in the right locations.

Chillingly, he said, ‘Three breaths of slurry gas and you’re dead. Simple as that.’

Motivational speaker and former priest Declan Coyle rallied the crowd when he said: ‘Dare to be joyful, to be the magical people we were born to be.’

And, continuing that positivity, Carbery CEO Jason Hawkins said while the sector may be under attack from certain quarters, West Cork farmers were the best in class. Progress is being made overcoming climate challenges and obligations, he said.

‘There’s work to do, but we’ll get through it. We need to focus on what we do, rather than feel we have to jump for every ball. Dairying is not going away from a consumption perspective and there’s lots of opportunities out there. There’s a tough few months coming up but we have to be positive. We in Carbery will support you and you us,’ he said.

• Courtmacsherry farmer Harold Kingston is the IFA’a new Munster regional chair. Read his plans in next week’s Farming pages.

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