Teagasc Publishes Annual Report

8th October 2014

Speaking at the publication of the Teagasc Annual Report and Accounts for 2013 on September 7th, Teagasc Chairman Dr Noel Cawley said: “At farm level, farmers had a mixed year in 2013, depending on their individual enterprises. Dairying continues to offer the best returns for producers and is on the verge of entering a new era with the removal of milk quotas in 2015. The other enterprises present more challenges at farm level for producers to earn adequate returns on their land, labour and capital employed. The average income on Irish farms increased slightly in 2013 to €25,639.”

Teagasc Director, Professor Gerry Boyle said: “A number of important initiatives were undertaken by Teagasc in 2013 to improve the competitiveness of the agricultural sector in the longer term. These included the establishment of the Next Generation Dairy Herd at Teagasc in Moorepark and a Beef Maternal Index Herd in Grange. These initiatives are significant in advancing animal breeding in the national dairy and beef herds.”

Knowledge Transfer activities by Teagasc advisers centred on farm discussion groups, which yielded higher levels of technology uptake on participating farms resulting in higher overall profitability as measured by the Teagasc eProfit monitor. There is an average of 25 discussion group meetings facilitated by Teagasc advisers per working day.

Demand for education courses in 2013 continued at the elevated levels of recent years. Demand increased again in 2014 when applicants for the Teagasc Distance Education Green Cert and the Regional Part Time Green Cert increased threefold to 1,500 applicants. This is in addition to close to 2,000 students who have enrolled in Further Education courses and Teagasc linked Higher Education courses delivered in the agriculture colleges in 2014/15 academic year.

Key themes that Teagasc worked on in 2013 included CAP Reform, the fodder crisis, greenhouse gasses and climate change, the Chalara disease of ash trees and developing cooperation between the UK and Ireland in the food sector.

Key outputs for Teagasc during 2013 included:

3,700 students on courses in the 2013 academic year
Over 800 farmer discussion groups involving 12,500 farmers participating
Over 40,000 farmer clients
89 research projects completed
76 technology updates published
381 refereed scientific papers
48 Walsh Fellows completed their PhD’s or Masters
MOU signed with Chinese Academy of Agricultural Science
Two new potatoes varieties bred in 2013 – Bikini and Casino
Three new grass and two clover varieties added to recommended lists
New cheeses developed with the Irish Dairy Board
Promotion of Collaborative Farming arrangements
Drainage Manual published
Total income for Teagasc for 2013 was €163.16 million, excluding net deferred funding for pensions. The net surplus for the year was €330,000 on the current account. Transfers for capital expenditure of €1.53 million left a deficit for the year of €1.2 million. The balances at the year-end were €9.03 million.

Teagasc continues to adapt and change its business. The Teagasc Change Programmes 1 and 2 have been implemented over the last 5 years. Change programme 3 was agreed by the Teagasc Authority and is being implemented over a 3 year period. The biggest challenge facing the organisation is the continuous reduction in staff numbers.

To view the full report, go to http://www.teagasc.ie/publications/2014/3326/Teagasc_Annual_Report_2013.pdf

Tellus North Midlands Airborne Geological Survey

1st October 2014

The Geological Survey of Ireland is conducting an airborne geophysical survey – the Tellus North Midlands project.

Please find attached a map indicating the scheduled flying zones for the week ahead.

This map is for indicative purposes only. Flight plans are subject to change at short notice.
See www.tellus.ie for up-to-date flight lines on an interactive map with aerial imagery and map details, or freephone 1800 303 516.
Please get in touch if you require more detail on when and where the survey aircraft will operate in your area.

The aircraft will fly at an altitude of 90m in rural areas with an instrument towed beneath the aircraft at an altitude of approximately 45m.
The aircraft are C208B Cessna Grand Caravan planes with registrations ZS-FSA and ZS-SSA.

Teagasc & HSA Launch Farm Safety Training Programme

25th September 2014

Teagasc and the Health and Safety Authority launched its annual Farm Safety and Health Training programme at the National Ploughing Championships at Ratheniska, County Laois.  The programme will assist farmers to complete the Risk Assessment requirement of Safety, Health and Welfare at Work legislation. Half-day training courses will be held at Teagasc Advisory and Training Centres throughout the country over the coming months.

A new joint Teagasc/Health and Safety Authority leaflet on the dangers associated with slurry handling was also launched.

Speaking at the launch, Minster for Business and Employment, Mr Gerald Nash T.D., emphasised the importance of risk assessment training and slurry safety. Minister Nash said, “It is important that we focus our energies on reducing the large numbers of serious and fatal accidents that are occurring on farms each year. So far this year, 22 deaths have occurred compared to an annual average of 18 over the last 10 years.”

Minister Nash added: “I would encourage all farmers to get some level of safety training and be aware of the dangers that slurry can pose. I would also like to compliment the Health and Safety Authority and Teagasc for working together to help raise awareness on farm health and safety issues.”

Martin O’Halloran, CEO of H.S.A. said that “Given the continued level of serious and fatal injury in the agriculture sector, the Authority see it as more critical than ever, that every farmer takes the opportunity to upskill his/her knowledge of farm safety. We welcome and value greatly the efforts of Teagasc to continue to roll out this important training to farmers. The vast majority of farmers who have undertaken the course to date have found it very beneficial and improved their understanding on how to manage farm safety better. We would ask farmers to attend a course. What could be more important than to protect yourself and your loved ones? ”

Teagasc Director, Professor Gerry Boyle said that “Safety on farms is of the utmost importance to prevent tragedy, pain and suffering and to protect livelihoods. Teagasc is strongly committed to providing health and safety training and follow-up advice to farmers.  So far 30% of farmers have completed risk assessment training, and I now ask farmers who have not already attended a course to do so over the coming months.”

Teagasc Health and Safety Officer, Mr John McNamara who co-ordinates farmer training on health and safety, stated that feedback to the training had been universally positive, with almost 100% of participants recommending the training to fellow farmers. 

The Safe Slurry Handling leaflet which was launched aims to prevent drowning and gassing farm deaths. Mr Patrick Griffin, Senior H.S.A inspector responsible for the agriculture sector  stated that over the last ten years 14 persons have died in slurry related incidents. The leaflet emphasises the importance of having adequate guarding of access to slurry tanks to prevent drowning, and choosing windy conditions to prevent slurry gas poisoning.

A brochure on farmer training courses on risk assessment document and the Safe Slurry Handling leaflet can be obtained at Teagasc Advisory Offices or on-line at www.teagasc.ie

Minister Outlines Further Details of Commonage Meetings

10th September 2014

The Minister for Agriculture, Food & the Marine, Simon Coveney, TD, has outlined further details of the planned information meetings for commonage farmers to be hosted by his Department at a number of venues across the country.

Minister Coveney said “I believe that a lot of progress has been made and the forthcoming series of meetings will help to reassure Commonage farmers and provide the clarity they have been seeking”.

The purpose of the meetings is to provide information on future requirements under the Basic Payment Scheme under Pillar I and the GLAS scheme under Pillar II of the CAP. The dates and venues are as follows:

30 September : Westport, Co. Mayo Knockranny House Hotel
30 September: Kenmare, Co. Kerry. Kenmare Bay Hotel
01 October: Maam Cross, Co. Galway Peacocke’s Hotel
02 October: Ardara, Co. Donegal Nesbitt Arms Hotel
02 October Glendalough, Co. Wicklow Glendalough Hotel

Further details, including commencement times, will be notified by public advertisement next week.


Teagasc Clinics on Transferring the Family Farm

25th August 2014

Teagasc are hosting a series of clinics around the country titled “Transferring the Family Farm”. These events, which will commence on the 9th September at Errigal Country House Hotel, Cootehill, Co. Cavan, are open to all farm families to attend.
James McDonnell, financial specialist, Teagasc said: “Inheritance and succession, is an on-going issue for Irish farm families and must be dealt with in a timely fashion. At these clinics you will gain an insight into, not only the legal, social welfare, and tax implications, but also the best way to go about having the conversation in the family setting.”

Planning the transfer of the family farm to the next generation can be a difficult task for any parent. There are good tax incentives to promote early farm transfer, but this is a personal decision for every land owner. Completing this task, while looking after all of your dependants fairly and your own future income in the most tax efficient way, while fulfilling the requirements of the law, is not easy. Many people put off the event for as long as possible, but if the process started promptly and with careful planning some of the pitfalls may be avoided.

At each of the 11 clinics, a Teagasc Specialist will make a short address, covering all aspects that need to be considered when writing a succession plan. The clinic will then be open to the farm families present to go and have “one to one” private conversations with the professionals set up in booths around the venue.
Professionals in attendance will include;
• Accountants/Tax advisers
• Solicitors
• Succession mediators
• Social welfare advisers
• Citizens information
• Teagasc Education officers / Collaborative farming / financial specialists
Family involvement in planning for succession is essential. A key aim must be to have an open conversation with the people involved so that misunderstandings can be avoided. Some issues you can address with the relevant professionals could include:
• Writing a will / forming trusts
• Starting the conversation within the family
• Income security after retirement and pensions
• Fair deal scheme and its pitfalls
• Options to cater for other siblings
• Forming a partnership with your children
There are also a number of Tax issues to be considered. On life time transfer of farm assets, Capital Acquisitions Tax (CGT), Capital Gains Tax (CGT) and Stamp Duty are the taxes for which a return must be filed. Reliefs may be claimed from each of these taxes. With the drop in property values over the past few years the threshold of each relief has also dropped so care must be taken in planning the transfer to reduce any tax due.

Transferring the family farm with good professional advice will help make the task less daunting. It is important to make preparations early so that potential problems can be assessed and avoided before they arise. This will give peace of mind to the parent and give the successor the best possible chance of keeping the farm business together for future generations. The majority of farm families do not plan adequately for succession, so all land owners and potential successors are encouraged to be informed of the issues by attending one of these events.
Seminars will take place from 9th September to 14th of October at various locations around the country. Pre booking is essential.
• Book online at http://www.teagasc.ie/events
• Contact your local Teagasc Office


Department Announces Interim Nitrogen & Phosphorus Statements

July 28th 

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine has commenced notifying certain farmers of their interim Nitrogen statement covering cattle numbers held on the farm for the first 6 months of 2014. This is being done by text message with messages issuing to those farmers whose cattle numbers would indicate that they may be approaching or exceeding the limits set down in the Nitrates regulations.

Nitrogen and Phosphorus statements for the period 1 January to 30 June 2014 are also now available for all farmers online by registering on www.agfood.ie. These N&P statements are a valuable tool, especially for the more intensive farmers, and should assist them in deciding whether or not they need to change their farming practices before the end of the year to stay within the limits set down in the Nitrates Regulations.

Farmers not already registered for agfood.ie can do so by logging onto www.agfood.ie and clicking the ‘Register’ button. To register a mobile phone number for future SMS text alerts log on to https://www.agriculture.gov.ie/mobileupdates/ to access the sign-on form, or alternatively contact the regional office. If a herd owner does not have access to online or SMS text alert notification services, the interim N&P statements can be obtained from the regional offices or from the Department’s Nitrates Section, Johnstown Castle, Co. Wexford.

Similar arrangements will be in place later in the year for the period January to September 2014.

Teagasc Publish 2013 Enterprise Factsheets & 2014 Mid-Year Outlook

July 23rd 2014

Teagasc National Farm Survey Publish 2013 Enterprise Factsheets

The final results from the Teagasc National Farm Survey 2013 show that the average income level on Irish farms remained steady in 2013 at an average of €25,437 per farm (preliminary estimated were published on the 27th of May, 2014). However, the stability in the average income level, masks dramatically contrasting fortunes across the different farming enterprises.

Today, the Teagasc National Farm Survey also publish their Enterprise Factsheets for 2013, for the Dairy, Single Suckling, Cattle Finishing, Mid-season Lamb and Cereal enterprises.

For all grassland based farming enterprises, the late spring in 2013, following on from the impact of the fodder crisis in 2012, led to dramatic increases in purchased concentrate, bulky feed and fertiliser expenses, while in the second half of 2013 expenditure on fertiliser increased as farmers sought to restore stocks of conserved forage.
Average dairy margins and winter wheat margins in 2013 increased, but margins for all the other enterprises decreased due to higher costs of production.

Cattle Finishing
For the Cattle Finishing Enterprise, owing to the increase in average feed usage, there was a notable decline in the number of farmers achieving the concentrate feed usage targets as set out in the Teagasc Beef Production Road Map. Total direct costs of production increased by almost one fifth (18%) between 2012 and 2013. This increase was mostly due to the increase in expenditure on concentrate feeds (+20%) and pasture/forage costs (+19%). On average, Cattle Finishing enterprises generated a negative net margin of -€133 per hectare in 2013; this loss is 166% higher than the loss incurred in 2012. The sale prices for finished animals declined by circa 10% between 2012 and 2013. Anne Kinsella of the Teagasc Agricultural Economics and Farm Surveys Department said “There is a notable difference between the margins earned on the top performing and bottom one third of farms, mostly due to superior productivity rather than differences in prices paid and received for animals. In 2013 one tenth (11%) of cattle finishing enterprises earned a negative gross margin, i.e. where direct costs were greater than output value, representing a two fold increase relative to 2012 (5% 2012). Over one third earned a gross margin of €500 or more per hectare in 2013.”

Single Suckling
Single suckling to weanling is the most prevalent production system, operated on one third of farms. However, single suckling farms that take cattle to finish was the most profitable suckling system in 2013. Despite declining prices for majority of cattle categories in 2013, gross output on Suckling farms increased by 4%, on average. The increase in output value was, however, insufficient to cover the large increase in production costs, direct and fixed costs which increased by 20% and 4% respectively, with expenditure on concentrate feed increasing by almost one third (30%). On average the negative net margins (losses) on suckling enterprises were 167% higher in 2013, increasing from -€46 in 2012 to -€123 in 2013.
When farms are classified on the basis of gross margin per hectare, farms in the top group i.e. the best performing one-third of farms, typically achieve a 10 to 22% price premium for their animals when compared to farms in the Bottom group. Anne Kinsella of the Teagasc Agricultural Economics and Farm Surveys Department said “This suggests that the top group of farms are producing animals that are better aligned with what the market is demanding.” The natural advantage conferred by good soil quality on the top group is also evident with over two thirds (69%) of these farms operating on very good soils. This group earned a gross margin of €588 per hectare in 2013, more than 13 times higher than the margin earned by the Bottom Group

Mid-Season Lamb
In 2013 the share of mid-season lamb producers achieving the weaning and stocking rate targets that are set out in the Teagasc Road Map for sheep production has increased. The average weaning rate per ewe increased by 8% (to 1.3 lambs/ewe) while the average stocking rate per hectare increased to 7.5 ewes/hectare. Performance along the other technical indicators deteriorated with the poor weather requiring increased levels of concentrate usage. “The hard winter and late spring of 2012/2013 however meant that some of this improvement in weaning and stocking rates was offset by higher levels of lamb mortality, which increased by 13% in 2013”, said Dr Kevin Hanrahan of the Teagasc Agricultural Economics and Farm Surveys Department. Overall the volume of lamb carcass produced per hectare in 2013 increased by 14kg (8%) in 2013. There are just 16% of farms with flocks of 150 ewes or more, these farms accounting for 17% of total lamb production.
In 2013, a quarter of mid-season lamb enterprises earned a gross margin of less than €300 per hectare while at the opposite end of the distribution, one tenth of farms earned a gross margin of €1,000 or more in 2013. When Mid-Season Lamb farms are classified on the basis of gross margin per hectare; the gross margin per hectare earned is almost five times higher on the top farms as compared to the Bottom farms. Gross output on the best performing one-third of farms (top Group), is more than double the output of the Bottom group of farms, due to higher weaning and stocking rates. However, total direct costs are only 6% higher on the top Group verses the Bottom group, despite the significantly larger output. On average, total direct costs increased by a quarter (26%), with expenditure on concentrate feed increasing by 40%. Average net margin per hectare declined by 75% in 2013 as compared with 2012.

Tillage – Cereals
On the tillage side Dr Fiona Thorne of the Teagasc Agricultural Economics and Farm Surveys Department said ‘it is difficult to generalise about the outcome for 2013 margins on cereal farms as it was a year of mixed fortunes for individual crops’. Yields were however in general higher in 2013 than those experienced in 2012, and price generally significantly lower. Where the differences occurred was the magnitude of the yield increases and price decreases for individual crops. For example, for Winter wheat gross margins actually increased slightly in 2013 relative to 2012 as price decreases were more than compensated by yield increases. On the other hand, gross margins for Spring barley declined in 2013 relative to 2012 as a decline in price negated movements in yields and costs. The average gross margin for Winter wheat and Spring barley in 2013 was €915 and €534 respectively.
Dr. Fiona Thorne went on to say that “behind these average figures there remains a wide variation in terms of economic performance of individual cereal farms nationally”. The top half of Spring barley producers received a market based net margin €280 per hectare, while the bottom half of producers received a market based net margin of – €190 per hectare.

The final Teagasc National Farm Survey 2013 and the enterprise fact sheets can be viewed at www.teagasc.ie/publications

Teagasc Mid-Year Outlook for Irish Agriculture 2014

In its mid-year assessment of likely farm profitability in 2014, Teagasc economists have highlighted falling production costs as the main driver of farm incomes in 2014.

Speaking on the release of the Teagasc Mid-year Outlook for Irish Agriculture 2014, Teagasc economist Trevor Donnellan said; “Following two high production cost years in 2012 and 2013, Irish farmers are finally now seeing a reduction in their input spending”.

With generally good grass growing conditions to date in 2014, the main driver of the fall in production costs has been reduced expenditure on concentrate feeds, which have now reverted back to a level which would be considered normal. Compared with this time last year, feed prices are also lower, bringing additional savings to livestock farmers.

So far this year, farmers have also experienced reductions in their fertiliser and fuel bills, while inflation in other costs continues to remain low.

As a result of these falling production costs, dairy, sheep and cattle rearing farms should see an increase in their gross margins in 2014.

However, Dr Kevin Hanrahan, Teagasc economist said; “It is not all good news, with the fall in the costs of production being insufficient to offset the fall in the price of cattle received by beef finishers, whose margins are now forecast to decline in 2014”.

With a large global crop harvest now forecast for 2014, it would appear that cereal prices this year will be lower than those of the 2013 harvest. Nevertheless cereal producers will also benefit from a reduction in their costs, although not to the same extent as grassland farmers.

Dr Fiona Thorne, Teagasc economist said; “Even if yields in 2014 are to exceed average trend yields as indicated by crop growth and early harvest indications, it is unlikely that this would be sufficient to overcome the impact of lower cereal prices and therefore cereal margins in 2014 are forecast to be lower than in 2013”.

The Teagasc Mid-year Outlook for Irish Agriculture 2014 is available at http://www.teagasc.ie/publications/2014/3236/Review-and-Outlook-July23_final.pdf

Teagasc: Demonstration Farm Walks to Highlight Organic Opportunity

July 9th 2014

A nationwide series of twelve organic demonstration farm walks to showcase successful organic operators will commence on 17th July. These farm walks will highlight the opportunities which exist in the organic sector. Organised by Teagasc, in conjunction with the Department of Agriculture, Food, and the Marine, the first farm walk in this year’s series will take place on the farm of Oliver Dixon, Ahena, Calaremorris, Co. Mayo on Thursday, 17 July at 2pm.

Organic farming can be a profitable system of farming with some of the most profitable farmers in the country farming organically. Maintaining high output levels, coupled with lower production costs and premium market prices contribute to higher margins. Earlier this month, in a show of commitment to growing the sector, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney T.D. announced an increased budget of €44 million to be allocated to the new Organic Farming Scheme due to re-open in early 2015.

Irish organic food enjoys an excellent reputation both at home, and especially across Europe. There are shortages in the domestic market especially in grain, milk, fruit and vegetables. There is considerable scope for import substitution of fruit and vegetables. Demand for Irish organic beef is on the rise, particularly in Europe. The Irish organic market is worth around €98 million, up from €63 million in 2004.

The EU market has quadrupled in size over the last 10 years and is now worth over €20 billion euro.
In Ireland, just over 1 percent of land is farmed organically, a doubling of area since 2000. There are in excess of 1,500 organic operators including 40 organic farmers in Co. Mayo. The majority of these (about two-thirds) are drystock farms.

Dan Clavin, Organic Specialist at Teagasc, Athenry said: “The series of farm walks are a great opportunity for conventional farmers to see the developments and innovations currently taking place on organic farms. For organic farmers, the walks also provide the opportunity for the sharing of information and experiences between producers in an open and informal manner”.

Oliver Dixon, Ahena, Calaremorris, County Mayo, operates an organic suckler to beef enterprise on 43 hecatres. He started his organic conversion period which lasted 2 years, in 2010 and now finishes about 25 cattle per year all of which end up in the organic beef market. Price premiums of +15% to +20% have been available over conventional beef factory prices, over the past number of years. Commenting on the conversion to organics, Oliver said: “I went into organic mainly for financial reasons, but also because I had an interest in it. I wanted to cut down on my costs which were simply too high to justify the price I was getting for my cattle. Now I am making higher margins, mainly because of my lower costs and higher prices which I now get for my cattle”.

Oliver has placed a lot of emphasis on maintaining productivity on the farm by sowing clover, judicial use of slurry and manures from both his own farm and imported, and selecting quality breeding stock which suit his own system. “Clover is the main driver of production on my farm,” said Oliver. “Since I started to sow clover, I find that I can grow plenty of cheap, quality grass without the cost of artificial nitrogen. This year I plan to sow some red clover which will help to provide even more quality silage for finishing more cattle”.

At the upcoming farm walk, topics for discussion will include, steps to successful organic conversion, white and red clover establishment and management, cattle breeding, cattle housing, organic market requirement and financial performance.

Oliver Dixon, along with representatives from Teagasc, the Organic Certification Bodies and Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, will be on hand on the day for questions. Farmers, and their families, along with members of the public are welcome to attend. This is a Beef Technology Adoption Programme (BTAP) approved event. Admission is free of charge.

The full list of twelve farm walks can be seen at

For further information on organic farming contact:
Dan Clavin, Organic Specialist, Teagasc Mellows Development Centre, Athenry, Co. Galway
Tel: 091 845285, 087 9368506