Wednesday August 13th 1980 marks the date that National Co-op Farm Relief Services (NCFRS) set up the national co-ordinating body over 30 Co-ops around Ireland. It all began with farmers helping other farmers with relief milking and FRS was formed to give structure to this and over the last 40 years has diversified into the successful  businesses of Farm Relief Services, Fencing, Training, Recruitment, Agri Technology through Herdwatch and Employability Services through Turas Nua.

These diversified businesses were cleverly chosen and developed by FRS to service the local communities and businesses evolving needs over the years.

FRS Network is the umbrella company for FRS Farm Relief, FRS Fencing, FRS Recruitment, FRS Training, Herdwatch and Turas Nua which all work within the co-operative ethos  to provide the people and services people need, when they need them. The co-operatives values of trust and integrity, customer care, quality and innovation and collaboration binds all the businesses together to achieve their collective vision to sustain, develop and grow the communities they serve everyday.

This is a good news story of a co-operative organisation that began deeply rooted in the rural farming community and has evolved and diversified into services in clear response to community needs and also took innovative and proactive moves to bring services to the rural community to enrich their lives and make their businesses more efficient. The story also shows how a business sustained and scaled services and widened its scope to keep steady through two recessions and come back stronger each time. During the Covid-19 Pandemic parts of the business soldiered on to service its customers as they were providing essential services.

Peter Bryne, CEO of FRS Network, has been at the helm of the business since the very start and is highly regarded by Colleagues, Staff, Board and Industry. Peter commented about how he views the success of the co-operative, ‘The early relief milking group got off the ground through the dedication and commitment of voluntary committees and the foresight they had in setting up self help services. These committees welcomed the involvement of full-time staff to allow the range and scope of services to grow. That openness and willingness to change and move with the times is the backbone, culture, and ethos on which the organisation has been built. Voluntary board members continue to play a key role in the organisation alongside a team of very experienced professional staff with management expertise across a wide spectrum.’

FRS Farm Relief continues its core business of supplying trained and experienced staff to farmers to meet both short term emergency type situations but also on a more regular and permanent basis to many expanding farms throughout Ireland. Along with milking as its core business their specialised services include Hoof Care, Freeze Branding, Scanning, Dehorning. There are over 1,000 FRS operators through the country operating from their 14 FRS offices nationwide.

FRS Fencing is a professional contract fencing business, which was initially focused on Farm fencing but has now branched into residential,  Industrial, security, sporting and recreational industries and also operates a very significant retail fencing business with stores throughout the country.

In response to the need for rural based Employment Agencies, FRS Recruitment was set up back in 1999 and today has grown to be one of the leading Employment Agencies in Ireland with turnover of some €18m. FRS Recruitment is unique in that it is the only Employment Agency in Ireland which is a farmer owned Co-operative, and provides recruitment services across every sector from  Financial, Pharmaceutical, Industrial, Health services, IT, Sales and Marketing etc.

FRS Training is another example of where FRS responded to the needs of rural Ireland for Training of all types in the Construction, Healthcare, Health & Safety, Agricultural, Employability, Soft Skills and Professional Development and most recently in their delivery of COVID 19 compliance courses to get industries back to work safely.  They also won the tender to deliver training for ETBs in recent years.

In the realm of innovation and being proactive to the evolving needs of farmers FRS launched Herdwatch. This leading and award winning Farm management software has over 12,500  farmer users in Ireland and the UK and has helped farmers to embrace App technology. Herdwatch was founded in 2014 and developed as part of the FRS’s proactive response to the needs of farmers  to cope with the high level of compliance and record keeping on their farms with the use of technology. This innovative easy to use technology allows farmers to embrace Agri technology to drive efficiencies in their business.  In February 2020 the 1 millionth calf was registered  through Herdwatch with the Department of Agriculture, which was a truly monumental milestone.

FRS successfully  tendered back in 2014 for delivery of JOBPATH for the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (DEASP) across all of Southern Ireland, through a joint venture company Turas Nua, and today this a fully owned FRS Company, headquartered in Roscrea with 40 offices and over 300 staff across Ireland,  south of the Galway / Dublin line.   To date Turas Nua has placed over 30,000 people in Jobs through the Jobpath Scheme.

Overall, National Co-Op Farm Relief Services (FRS Network) as the parent body employs over 1,500 staff and has a payroll in excess of €40m. This has all grown and developed from the decision back in 1980 to set up NCFRS as the co-ordinating body based in Roscrea. The official 40th anniversary date is Wednesday 13th of August 2020.  

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