Regional Manager for Teagasc, Larry O’Loughlin’s has outlined his priorities for his area which covers, five counties, Laois, Offaly, Kildare, Meath and Dublin, comprising up to 4,500 farmers.
The Rosenallis man’s previous positions included Chief Agriculture Officer of Kildare and Wicklow, CAO Limerick, Head of PR, Marketing Manager, and adviser in Laois for 20 years. He also worked as a special adviser to former MEP Liam Hyland.
An agricultural science graduate of UCD, he is a former President of the Agricultural Science Association, and has acted as an election observer for the EU.
Larry also served as Chairman of the third-world development organisation, VITA, which was originally founded by another Laois man, Fr Kevin Doheny.
Larry is justifiably proud of the work undertaken by the NGO in Ethiopia and Eritrea on the critical issues of food production and security.
“We had a unique development in Ethiopia in creating a potato Centre of Excellence. We worked with our local farmers, the local Ministry of Agriculture and co-ops.
“The International Potato Federation also helped in encouraging and helping farmers produce potatoes. We supplied storage facilities to farmers and co-ops. The impact this is having on 2 million residents in South Ethiopia is immeasurable. We have created a significant template for food security in developing countries. VITA also sponsored three doctorships and currently has a PHD student based in Holland.
As Regional Manager for Teagasc, Larry has responsibility for Midlands and East.
“Our immediate aim in Teagasc is to extend our advisory and educational programme. Currently we have 35 special advisers and education officers.
“In the dairy, beef and sheep sectors, the target is to improve breeding and grassland management. We are aiming for a five per cent increase in grass production in the next five years.
“Efficiency and cost production are the key elements. To this end we are encouraging farmers to keep profit monitors.
“The main focus is our discussion groups. Discussion groups are a method by which knowledge is transferred through sharing information through small groups of farmers.
“These discussion groups are facilitated by professionally trained advisers. They meet every four to six weeks. The key to success is activities on farms. A farmer can expect to host a discussion group each year.
“They are run and organised by farmers and last a maximum of two hours. A farm member is chairman of the group and decides when it meets.
“The groups facilitate a process whereby farmers can learn from their peers and discuss problems. Clear and defined solutions to problems are offered through shared knowledge and pooling of resources.
“They also provide a strong social element, which is becoming more of an issue on farms. The results are good and beneficial, with an increase in efficiency and profit. A recent survey by Teagasc showed that farmers in the groups increased farm profits by ten per cent
“For dairy farmers the key issue at the moment is expansion post the abolition of quotas in 2015. Farmers should tread carefully. Teagasc is a firm proponent of efficiency before expansion.
“You should make sure you are an efficient farmer, and expansion is not the answer to poor efficiency. How big an issue is efficiency? Well our profit monitor results show big differences in profitability on dairy farms.
“In the coming year, Teagasc hopes to expand dairy group activity, as well as start new schemes for sheep farmers as well as new dairy ones. Farmers should avail of the new programmes, and the new dairy and sheep groups.
“Farm safety is another big issue. Fatalities have increased in the last few years
“Teagasc is endeavouring to create awareness through new programmes. Our monthly newsletter to every client features a section on safety. A farm is the most dangerous workplace you can work in.
“Every element is a potential danger. Farmers should minimise the inherent dangers by making sure that all precautionary and safety measures are put in place. A Farm Safety statement is of course a must.
“On the environment we advocate regular soil testing and assist farmers in every way with cross compliance and environmental schemes.
“We have a responsibility to reduce our carbon footprint.”