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Teagasc Launches the Roscommon/Longford Advisory Region, Strategic Plan 2015-2020

Today Teagasc officially launched the Roscommon/Longford Advisory Region Strategic Plan 2015- 2020. The plan sets out the key priorities and strategic actions for the regions publically funded advisory service over the next five years. The main purpose of this exercise was to engage with stakeholders regarding the future services to be provided in the region in the context of Food Harvest 2020 targets and the post milk quota era. Each of the twelve Advisory Regions of Teagasc has produced a Strategic Plan. The plan was launched by Mr Padraig Gibbons, Teagasc Board member, dairy farmer and former board member of Aurivo Co-operative Society, who highlighted the critical role, the Teagasc Advisory Service in Roscommon/Longford has in supporting farmers over the coming years.

Farmers are facing many challenges including environmental protection issues, Health and Safety on farms, food safety, sustainable production and changes to the Common Agricultural Policy. Teagasc provide an independent advisory service providing guidance and clarity to farmers on these issues.

Speaking at the event, Mr Gibbons said that the detailed strategic planning exercise had highlighted the enormous opportunities for growth in the farming sector in the Roscommon/Longford Region. He underlined the need for a well-resourced advisory service if the Food Harvest 2020 targets are to be achieved. Teagasc Advisory Services have a vital role to play in leading and guiding growth and expansion in the Region. Teagasc has seen a 37% decrease in advisory numbers in the region since 2008. Consequently client numbers per adviser are reaching unsustainable levels and Teagasc has changed how it delivers its services with fewer advisers, by outsourcing some work and by embracing new knowledge transfer models such as discussion groups, in light of less time for one to one visits. Mr Gibbons said that ‘it is imperative that we maintain a strong advisory service in the Region. Because of increasing demand for Teagasc Advisory Services and reduced staff numbers, advisors are carrying unsustainable workloads and this is putting the achievement of Food Harvest 2020 at risk. This Strategic Plan clearly sets out the minimum number of advisors required to support the sector between now and 2020 and it is essential that impending retirements are replaced immediately.’

At the launch, Teagasc Regional Manager for Roscommon/Longford, Tom Kellegher, said that Teagasc is ‘committed to delivering high quality support to the industry locally and to working in close association with farmer clients, State agencies and local partners in achieving the 2020 targets. This process has provided us with a set of solid strategic actions for the next five years. Following consultation with our stakeholders we anticipate an increase in the order of 20% in milk supplies in the region over the next five years. In addition we anticipate increased output from our sheep industry (15 – 20%) and better profit from efficiency in cattle production. Our new education courses will help farmers implement low carbon environmentally friendly and safe farming. This is an exciting time for agriculture in the Region.’

The strategic plan profiles the farming systems, land type and fertility, and the farm sizes in Roscommon/Longford. Teagasc facilities and staff are then examined and the consequences for the service if current trends of declining staff numbers continue. Also highlighted are the partners with which the service works locally.

The document concludes with a listing of the main research requirements specific to the area and how stakeholders will be engaged with during the period of the plan. Hard copies of the plan have been printed and are available at each of the Teagasc offices in the Roscommon/Longford region.

Summary of Strategic Targets

Key Targets set out in the Teagasc Roscommon/Longford Advisory Region Strategic Plan

  • Target 20% increase in milk production, primarily from existing producers with 20 new entrants.
  • Promote an expansion in sheep output by up to 20%.
  • Maintain and further develop the joint programmes with Aurivo and Lakeland Dairies. Evaluate similar options with Arrabawn Co-op.
  • Increase numbers participating in discussion groups in all enterprises.
  • Maintain and develop educational training to meet increased demand and continue to provide an on line distance learning option for students.
  • Implement a programme to increase profit in beef and stabilise suckler cow numbers.
  • Continue to develop the BETTER farm programme in both beef and sheep.
  • Further develop the Kepak/Supervalu programme with emphasis on grassland management, breeding, profitability and carbon footprint awareness.
  • Continue with the Sheep Technology Adaption Programme in conjunction with the sheep BETTER Farm Programme.
  • Develop a dairy calf to beef focus farm in the region.
  • Evaluate contract rearing options for the region.
  • Work closely with the Health and Safety Authority in educating farm families on farm safety.
  • Organise more public events or meetings in lieu of less one to one visits, and accommodate clients who do not participate in discussion groups.
  • Facilitate maximum entry to GLAS for Teagasc clients.
  • Educate clients to meet Bord Bia Quality Assurance Scheme standards.
  • Foster rural development through continuation of our Options Programme.