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Offaly dairy farmers using short videos to keep in touch during Covid Lock Down

Three dairy discussion groups across south county Offaly have found a novel way of ‘virtually’ visiting each other’s farms during the current lock down restrictions. Jim Moyles, Teagasc Dairy Advisor, Tullamore explains how this came about and how it is working out for the groups he facilitates

Anybody familiar with dairy farming discussion groups will know that members meet once a month on one of the group member’s farms.  An annual planner sets out what farms are due to host a meeting each month.  Covid 19 restrictions threw discussion group annual planners into disarray last year, with typically only half the usual number of meetings taking place on farm.  The remaining meetings took place virtually through zoom.  This trend has continued into 2021, with the likelihood of on-farm meetings looking remote for the first half of this year.  Although the zoom calls have been very successful to date in keeping members in touch with each other, they will never replace the on-farm experience. 

Short videos encourage discussion

To try to compensate somewhat for this lack of on-farm experience, the groups are turning to technology to attempt to replicate some of what would normally take place at a group meeting.  A weekly group rota has been set up where each week, one group member will make a number of short videos of what is currently taking place on his or her farm.  These videos are then shared via their own group WhatsApp account.  Group members have decided to keep the videos confidential to their own group.  The content of these videos to date have included some of the following:

  • On farm infrastructural developments since the group last visited;
  • Current farm data, e.g. number of cows calved to date, type and level of supplementation, cow condition etc.;
  • Calf rearing practices;
  • Grazing management to date, % grazed, on-off grazing routine, severity of any poaching.

Farmer Feedback

Once the videos are shared, there tends to be very good interaction between members, where there may be questions or feedback for the farmer posting the video.  According to Kilcormac farmer, Fergal Daly of the Birr Discussion Group, “I was delighted with feedback from my group.  I had a question in relation to the different options regarding slurry scrapers and I got some good advice that will help me make up my mind”.

Steven Cole, Aghancon, who is a member of the South Offaly Group used the opportunity to record a piece featuring his out-farm.  “The group have never had a chance to see our out-farm and young replacement stock, as all previous meetings we have hosted on our home milking block.  There is a lot of knowledge within our discussion group, one of the big benefits of the videos is being able to continue using member knowledge and get group feedback on any farm problems or new project”.

There is a lot of knowledge within our discussion group

As there is an average of 15 members in each group, group members can look forward to weekly video updates from their peers into the month of May, by which time we all hope to be back on farm.

Learn more about Teagasc Discussion Groups here:  10 Benefits of joining a Teagasc Discussion Group

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