THIS year’s Ulster Grassland Society (UGS) Annual Meeting saw CAFRE’s Ian McCluggage taking over the reins as President with Greyabbbey beef and sheep producer John Martin selected as President elect.
Ian is Head of CAFRE’s Dairying & Pigs Development Branch and is based at the college’s Greenmount campus. He is a past Chairman of the Northern Ireland Institute of Agricultural Science (NIIAS). For many years Ian has been to the fore in espousing the introduction of innovative production and management practises throughout agriculture as awole in Northern Ireland.
John Martin is one of the most innovative livestock farmers in Northern Ireland. A Focus Farmer, he runs a self contained 540 strong composite ewe flock – 420 breeding ewes and 120 ewe lamb replacements. His core aim is to maximise lamb output per acre. Other enterprises on the farm include the growing of spring and winter barley, for home feeding purposes and 15 acres of willow, grown for the purposes of biomass production and a small herd of suckler cows. For the past number of years John has worked closely with staff at AFBI to develop easycare sheep production systems that suit the prevailing conditions here in Northern Ireland.
Both Ian and John are particularly strong advocates of maximising the potential of our grassland areas. This is particularly so, given the increasing pressure on concentrate feed costs.
The UGS Annual Conference, which followed the AGM, provided four excellent speakers with an opportunity to speak on a range of issues within the overall theme of the event: “Sustainable Farming for a Profitable Future.”
Mike Hamell is currently Head of Unit for Agriculture, Forests and Soil European Commission. The Unit is responsible for environmental integration issues with respect to both pillar 1 and 2 of CAP, implementation of Nitrates Directive, EU internal environmental policy related to forestry and for the EU’s soil strategy presented to the European Parliament and Council in 2006. He told attending delegates that farming sustainably must be a key goal for agriculture in the future.
Neil Dyson farms in partnership with his wife Jane at Holly Green Farm near Bledlow which is 40 miles West of London and 20 miles from Oxford in a significant commuter belt. They are currently milking 480 cows producing over 8800 l per cow, through making good use of quality forage and by-products. Neil and Jane have accepted the challenge of farming under the scrutiny of the general public as they farm in the UK’s main commuter belt. Courtsy of his presentation Mike explained that there is a profitable future for dairy farming, provided producers optimised quality and sought to drive to drive down margins
Darren Carty is a leading livestock journalist. His weekly role in the Farmers Journal is to inform and advise farmers on markets and management issues that will positively influence their enterprises and increase potential profit. He is a member of the Management Team of the BETTER farm programme in the Republic of Ireland. During his presentation he outlined the market prospects for the beef and sheep sectors over the coming months and discussed the steps that can be taken on-farm to improve profit margins.
Michael King farms in partnership with his brother Chris at Two Pools Farm, Gloucestershire. They have grown their farm from 50ha (120 acres) to 460ha (1,135 acres) and now milk around 450 cows. In the last four years significant investment has taken place on his farm for enhanced cow welfare and new slurry handling facilities. Michael confirmed to delgtaes that it is possible for small groups of producers to join together and market their milk in a very efficient manner.
1. Grassland Farmer of the Year - Overall winner 2013: Albert O’Neill, Strabane
2. Grassland Farmer of the Year - Grazing round award 2013: Brian McCracken, Newtownards
3. Grassland Farmer of the Year - Dairy award 2013: Stephen Morrison, Armoy
4. Grassland Farmer of the Year - Silage round award 2013: Roger & Hilary Bell, Kells
5. Grassland Farmer of the Year - Beef/sheep award 2013: Jonathan CARSON, Strangford
6. Grassland Farmer of the Year - Environmental practice award 2013: James Brown, Ballywalter