Ulster Bank concludes roadshow events for dairy farmers

Ulster Bank has delivered a series of roadshow events for dairy farmers.

Taking place throughout the month of October in Markethill, Ballymena and Loughry College, the events offered an opportunity for Ulster Bank’s agri specialists to hear directly from dairy farmers about the issues impacting their businesses and how Ulster Bank might offer support to mitigate against growing concerns.

At each of the events, Ulster Bank’s Head of Agriculture, Cormac McKervey began by updating attendees on the overall state of the sector and outlining how and where dairy farmers might look to find greater efficiencies as costs continue to rise. While many farmers may have benefitted from DAERA’s decision to issue farm payments early it is still important to plan for higher costs which are likely to come into force next spring, explained Mr. McKervey.

“Currently we are seeing overdraft facilities and finance arrangements working as expected but we are not complacent about pressures coming down the track. Some dairy farmers with significant TB breakdowns are already finding it tough to manage extra stock and costs and we anticipate cashflows to tighten across the board as rising meal bills, fertiliser costs, tax payable in January and higher base rates all coming into effect.

Cormac McKervey

“It’s crucial that all farmers take the time to update cashflow projections and if additional support is required, now is the time to put such measures in place. To this end, we felt it was important to undertake a series of engagement events with dairy farmers from across NI, introduce them to our team members and offer information on the options available to support anyone facing difficulties at this time.”

A number of guest speakers joined Ulster Bank at each of the events, bringing much valued insight and intel to those in attendance. This included Jason McMinn from FarmGate Consultancy who walked guests through various production systems from grass-based through to fully confined and robotic. Mr. McMinn reminded those in the audience that high-performing, well-managed units are often the result of making slow, steady improvements throughout a range of areas and not down to one single intervention.

CAFRE Advisers Martin Calvert and Martin Reel spoke at length about the importance of farmers readying their businesses for climate change. They stressed that while farming contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, farmers can play a key role in transitioning to lower emissions and offered advice on CAFRE’s carbon audit services which will identify areas for savings.

Finally Chris Osborne, Dairy and Energy Chief at the UFU briefed guests on the energy market and announced that farmers would be eligible for the government’s energy relief scheme. Something Cormac McKervey hopes will give some respite over the winter months: “The feedback we received at each of the events confirmed that many dairy farmers are concerned about rising energy costs. Thankfully Chris was able to provide some positive news and it is welcome that this package of support will be available to farmers.

“What is clear from our roadshow events is that we need to see more engagement with the sector and work collaboratively with our partners across the board to ease the pressures and reassure farmers that support is out there.”​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​