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Teagasc Launches the Sligo/Leitrim/Donegal Advisory Region, Strategic Plan 2015-2020

Today Teagasc officially launched the Sligo/Leitrim/Donegal 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 Kieran O’Dowd the National President of Macra Na Feirme who highlighted the critical role that Teagasc Advisory Services in the Sligo/Leitrim/Donegal region has in supporting farmers over the coming years.

Speaking at the event, Chairman of the Teagasc Authority, Dr Noel Cawley said that the detailed strategic planning exercise had highlighted the enormous opportunities for growth in the farming sector in the Sligo/Leitrim/Donegal 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 57 % decrease in advisory staff numbers since 2008. Dr Cawley 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 Sligo/Leitrim/Donegal, Ben Wilkinson 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 30% in milk supplies in the region over the next five years. In addition we anticipate increased output from our sheep industry and better profit from efficiency in cattle. 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 Sligo/Leitrim/Donegal, Teagasc facilities and staff is 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 Sligo/Leitrim/Donegal.

Key actions and targets set out in the Teagasc Sligo/Leitrim/Donegal Advisory Region Strategic Plan.

  • The use of Discussion Groups and group events as the basis for delivery of the Business and Technology Programme.
  • The use of “Public Good” farm walks and seminars to deliver key information to the wider farming community.
  • Target a 30%+ increase in milk output through the joint programmes activities.
  • Maximise the use of data from dairy Focus Farms targeting grass utilisation and breeding for milk solids.
  • Target the stabilising of suckler cow numbers through the use of data from the region’s BETTER Beef Farms, focusing on calving interval and compact calving.
  • Use the data from the regions BETTER Sheep Farms to target an 8% increase in lowland sheep numbers, focusing on lambs weaned per ewe and finishing lambs from grass.
  • Work with Hill/Mountain sheep farmers using the BETTER Sheep Farms to develop sustainable systems.
  • The development of a Tillage Focus Farm as a resource for local tillage discussion groups, the creation of a Potato Discussion Group.
  • The continued availability of the Forestry Advisory Service to all farmers in the region.
  • Meeting the agricultural education demands of the region by the continuation of the Certificate in Agriculture courses at the three Educational Centres and the annual Options course.
  • Working with our partners to facilitate Teagasc client’s entry into the GLAS scheme.
  • Through one to one consultation and information events guide our clients through the Basic Payment Scheme and Cross Compliance issues.
  • Target Discussion Group members to complete Carbon Navigators and organise courses for the Sustainable Use Directive.
  • The highlighting of the importance of the Good Soil Fertility Profile at all farm walks.
  • To always have a Health and Safety theme running through our courses and events.
  • Organise yearly seminar dealing with Farm Transfer and Land Mobility issues.