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Farmers in Discussion Groups Generate Higher Profits

By   /  June 8, 2015  /  1 Comment

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That’s a headline from Teagasc, the agriculture and food development authority in Ireland. The
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  • Published: 6 years ago on June 8, 2015
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  • Last Modified: June 8, 2015 @ 10:05 pm
  • Filed Under: The Scoop

About the author

Publisher, Editor and Author

Kathy worked with the Bureau of Land Management for 12 years before founding Livestock for Landscapes in 2004. Her twelve years at the agency allowed her to pursue her goal of helping communities find ways to live profitably AND sustainably in their environment. She has been researching and working with livestock as a land management tool for over a decade. When she's not helping farmers, ranchers and land managers on-site, she writes articles, and books, and edits videos to help others turn their livestock into landscape managers.

1 Comment

  1. Paul Nehring says:

    I used to run the Wisconsin Grazing Conference, a job which I held for seven years, and we would try to bring in some of the best graziers and advisors from around the world, yes, even Kathy Voth. After a few years I started to notice a pattern. The really good graziers were almost always involved in discussion groups regardless of whether they came from Ireland, Argentina, New Zealand, or elsewhere.

    Now, those weren’t just groups that met to take a pasture walk, these groups were “closed” groups in that they were members only, because the producers would talk about anything related to how those farms/ranches ran including financial and relational issues. Issues that can be difficult to discuss amongst family let alone with other producers. They needed to know that they could trust one another. Their common creed was, “What’s said in the shed stays in the shed.”

    Though it is a challenging, humbling process to go through, the producers who where involved with these types of groups were gaining insights from their peers–the true experts in the business–and from occasional invited consultants, that really helped them out. Additionally, they had the peer group holding them accountable to making changes that they agreed needed to be made.

    While it is difficult to take criticism from your peers, one Kiwi farmer pointed out that at least when the group kicked him in the pants, they would also pat him on the back as well. Whereas, the market just seems to kick you in the pants.

    One Irish dairy farmer who had been part of a discussion group for over 20 years pointed out how important it was to have a closed member only group that shared financials and measured key performance indicators. He said, “I live near the town of Blarney, so I know what blarney is, and discussion groups that don’t share these things are just a bunch of blarney.”

    We discovered that as well, as our organization set up creating discussion groups. Over 13 groups got going, but only two created were closed, member only groups that shared financial information and other pertinent information. Those are the only groups that survived, to this day, over 9 years later, because the members actually found real value in continuing them. The groups have saved some farms from going under–sorry folks, but grazing is no panacea, and even some of the best pasture managers were doing poorly financially–and even spawned some new farms.

    You can run a closed group with or without a paid facilitator. It works either way. In fact, one problem some groups have that have a paid facilitator is that if the facilitator quits, the groups seem to fall apart. Either way, it’s worth the effort for most producers.

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