Minister visits lean, mean, Limerick farming machine

Donal O'Regan


Donal O'Regan

Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed launched Dairygold Leanfarm on the farm of Liam, Geraldine, James, Leanne, Daniel Herlihy Picture: Miki Barlok

Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed launched Dairygold Leanfarm on the farm of Liam, Geraldine, James, Leanne, Daniel Herlihy Picture: Miki Barlok

WHEN THE Minister of Agriculture calls your farm “top class”, “incredible” and “a model operation” you know you must be doing something right.

Minister Michael Creed visited Liam and Geraldine Herlihy’s farm in Bruree to launch Dairygold’s Leanfarm initiative. Wellingtons weren’t even needed as the place was immaculate.

Well over 150 attended to learn more about “lean”. It is an approach most commonly used in manufacturing to drive continuous improvements and efficiencies that utilise less time, effort and resources thereby giving greater returns.

Having achieved significant efficiencies and financial savings through lean in its processing and supply chain operations, Dairygold implemented a pilot programme in 2017 to examine if the same rewards could be reaped at farm level.

The pilot programme, carried out among farmers of varying scale and herd size, proved so successful that Dairygold has now launched the widespread roll-out of continuous improvement training to all its members through Leanfarm.

Among the benefits seen include potential cost savings of €1440 per year, a reduction of 18 labour days and a reduction in farmers’ walking distance of an astonishing 116km per year.

It also clearly demonstrated that the application of lean principles on-farm can deliver improvements in safety, reduce physical labour and have a significant positive impact on farmers’ quality of life and mental wellbeing.

One of the characters in Liam and Geraldine’s colourful display of flowers and ornaments is a farmer with the caption, “Never mind the dog – beware of the owner”.

Nothing could be further from the truth with the Herlihys.

 Liam said Leanfarm has cut down on time wastage and changed their mindset.

“It has made us more positive in our thinking and we are coming up with new ideas to make things easier and faster,” said Liam, who puts their success –  2017 FBD Munster National Farmyard award winners - down to him and Geraldine working together as a team.

“She’s doing one job, I’m doing another job and we meet in the middle. A lot of farmers are on their own and their wife is working so it is harder for them,” said Liam. Also part of the team are children James, Leanne and Daniel.

Through Leanfarm, all Dairygold’s members can now avail of training on the tools and techniques of how to implement lean at farm-level as well as ongoing support from Dairygold’s continuous improvement and milk advisory teams.

Minister Creed said with significant growth in milk production across the country in the last three years, the dairy farmer’s working day is becoming more demanding.

“I believe that Dairygold’s pioneering Leanfarm programme will be quickly adopted by farmers because of the very practical and useful help it provides. Seeing how the working lives of the participating farmers are now safer and more profitable, Leanfarm could have a transformative impact on dairy farming,” said the minister.

Dairygold chairman John O’Gorman said they firmly believe Leanfarm is an initiative capable of “changing farming forever”.

“Through Leanfarm, we want to drive a cultural shift in how farming is carried out and enjoyed with the right tools, techniques and a new perspective on every aspect of the farming process which enables and empowers farmers to identify and resolve problems and increase efficiencies to achieve improvements that can be life-changing.

“This knowledge-sharing programme is in line with our objective to help members maximise their return from farming,” said Mr O’Gorman.

Jim Woulfe, Dairygold CEO, from Ardagh, summed it up when he said: “What we are doing is extending what is best practice in dairy processing and extending it out the supply chain.”