"Macra Agricultural Skillnet courses are designed around farmers; what they want to be taught and at times of year that suit them best."

James Barber, Dairy Farmer


Benefits of Joining Macra Agricultural Skillnet



  • Cash flow management and improving business
  • Time management and introducing lean farm practices



James participated on a range of different courses through the Macra Agricultural Skillnet, including Livestock Handling Course, Grass Management Walks, Farm Business Management, DIY AI and embracing technology.

Personal and professional ambitions were the driving force behind his reasons for training. He wanted to increase efficiencies in all areas of his farming practices; “I’m trying to tailor the farm to be more efficient, including labour time. Labour management will be a bigger challenge in the future as the scale of farms are going up.”

Participating in the Farm Business Management course in particular was a huge benefit to James, as it enabled him to understand what information the banks wanted, it gave him confidence and enhanced his negotiation skills.

“There isn’t always money in the bank so farmers are more reliant on credit. As a result of the Farm Business Management course, it doesn’t phase me now if I need to get a loan. I recently switched banks and got 2% off the interest rate.””

As programmes delivered through Macra Agricultural Skillnet are subsidised it means that certain courses like DIY AI, which he wouldn’t have been able to afford, were more accessible. This course alone has enabled James to spread his risk and develop his business: “With the insights from this course I’m no longer dependent on just one company, I can now breed better stock and get a better return commercially.”



  • Training insights resulted in better stock breeding and increased commercial return
  • Understanding of Farm Business Management enabled James to reduce his loan interest rate by 2%

James saw the return from his training in improvements to his work practices. “I get more and more confident with each training course I do. The courses make you more open to implement change.”

Courses like Animal Handling helped him improve animal welfare and farm safety in his business. He says: “The little things make a big difference, there’s less stress on the animal and yourself.”

With hopes to expand the business in the future, training in financial planning was extremely important to James: “The biggest challenge when you’re expanding is cash flow management, to sit down and do the financials, to do them right and to understand it. Doing the Farm Business Management course was a huge benefit.”

As farming can be a solitary lifestyle James also recognised the value in the collective Network approach and information sharing: “You’re meeting people from other parts of the country, you are learning that the challenges facing your farm business are not unique to you and there is huge learning and camaraderie through the networking, and that’s important too.”

Company Background

James Barber, 34 years old, took over the management of his family farm in Laois in 2011, following his father’s retirement. James manages the dairy herd over 110 acres, milking 120 cows daily. He is Chairperson of Ag Affairs in Macra na Feirme and sits on the steering committee for Macra Agricultural Skillnet. James was the recipient of the Stephen Cullinan Scholarship over 10 years ago which gave him an opportunity to gain experience of New Zealand farming methods over a 6 month period.

About the Network

Macra Agricultural Skillnet is a business network for farmers in the agribusiness sector. Network companies work collaboratively to share best practice and to respond effectively to the specific skills needs of the sector. The network addresses both technical and non-technical skills needs.


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