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In conjunction with The Prince’s Countryside Fund, Lantra has delivered a project to help Northern Ireland farmers remain in business while raising their skill levels, and increasing their sustainability and productivity.
The project assisted farming businesses to evaluate their current position with regard to working practices, finance, equipment and the skills of their workforce, taking into account factors such as being able to identify ways to reduce business inefficiencies, consider potential for diversification, and planning for progression. The project also encouraged a number of individuals to participate on training courses to boost their business productivity through learning appropriate technical/management skills.
Check out the case studies to find out how people working in the sector have benefitted from the Prince’s Countryside Fund project.
The findings of this project are based on the views of 206 farm businesses in Northern Ireland.
Most farm businesses are very small and likely to employ one person (84 per cent). Farm workers are predominantly male, with the majority over the age of 45. Most farms are small, with half farming less than 50 hectares.
Approximately half of the farm businesses (48 per cent) use benchmarking tools, 19 per cent have a business plan in place and 19 per cent use an animal health and welfare plan. Around a third of the farm businesses surveyed did not use any tools for business management (35 per cent).
A large proportion of farm businesses haven’t spent anything on training in the 12 months prior to the date they undertook their survey. Furthermore, 64 per cent of proprietors said they hadn’t undertaken formal training in health and safety, first aid or animal health and welfare regulations.
Many businesses have a range of machinery and equipment available on their farm, but very few had any formal training in their operation.
The majority (73 per cent) stated that they had no plans to change their business practice in the future. Of those who advised they would consider diversification, 72 per cent advised that they would diversify into renewables.
The survey and the additional training needs analysis indicated that many farm workers have skills gaps. The main training needs identified include working with hazardous chemicals, health and safety, first aid, manual handling, working at heights and animal welfare. Training has been provided to a number of participants to fill these gaps and allow them to be better position themselves to meet the future needs of their farm businesses.
For those with an identified need for business planning, a tailored business plan was developed to give a clear overview of the farm business, with assistance provided in relation to potential business efficiencies, maximising farm resources, succession planning, diversification and best practice.