Fermanagh and Tyrone farmers have been recognised for their excellence in grazing management and silage making at the annual dinner and awards presentation at Fermanagh Grassland Club.
The event held in the Killyhevlin Hotel, Enniskillen, attracted a large turnout of farmers and included representatives of the sponsors: Margaret O’Malley from the Vaughan Trust, sponsors of the grazing competition and David Linton from Barenbrug, sponsors of the silage competition.
The winning farmers receive bursaries to enable them to attend an agricultural study tour of their choice.
The grazing competition was judged by Robin Clements, a past winner and David Downey and involved six dairy farms and four beef farms. Even though grazing conditions were difficult last summer and autumn, they found those entering the competition displayed a high level of efficiency.
The grazing competition results were as follows:
Dairy section - 1(Stevenson Cup), Kevin McGrade; 2, Trevor Dunn; 3, Nigel Graham. Beef Section - 1(Todd Cup), John Egerton; 2, Robert Graham; 3, Jason Elliott. Overall Winner(Crystal Bowl) - John Egerton.
The silage competition was judged by David Linton, Barenbrug, and Trevor Dunn.
The results were as follows: Under 900 tonnes - 1(Hermon Cup), John Egerton; 2, Irwin Little; 3, Raymond Johnston. Over 900 tonnes - 1(Tisdall Cup), David West; 2, James Campbell; 3, Edward Bruce.
The Houston Trophy, for a member who has made a significant contribution to agriculture, was awarded to David Brown, Florencecourt, who was described as an ambassador for agriculture and someone who had demonstrated best practice as well as hosting farm visits for the Ulster Grassland Society and British Grassland Society.
The speaker at the meeting was David Linton, regional manager, Northern Ireland, Barenbrug, who called his presentation, ‘Passion for Grass’.
He outlined the history of the firm, established in 1904 and now produced 70,000 tonnes of grass seed per year, involving some 400 proprietary varieties and had 11 breeding sites and research stations around the world. He said 50 per cent of the seed mixtures sold in Northern Ireland had at least one Barenbrug variety.
In partnership with AFBI Loughgall, new varieties are bred and tested to improve yield, quality, sward density, and palatability as well as possessing other traits that will benefit farmers in all types of conditions.
Researchers at Loughgall are now using cattle and sheep on trial plots to test for palatability.
David advised farmers to ask themselves if they needed to reseed, and if so, how they were going about it by destroying the old sward, and considering the type of mixture they needed.
He illustrated a number of mixtures to suit certain conditions such as Barmix, a low input sward containing a mixture of ryegrasses, Cocksfoot and Timothy for difficult conditions or Fastgrass containing Italian ryegrass and Westerwold for a quick silage crop.
He also explained the fundamental differences between diploid and tetraploid varieties and whether they were early, intermediate or late heading varieties.
He recommended mixtures with two-thirds diploid and one third tetraploid.
David also illustrated ways of establishing grass seed mixtures involving a Combi drill, a grass harrow and air drill, direct drilling, slot seeding and over-seeding.
He emphasised the importance of rolling the seed to make contact with soil but not burying deep.
He concluded that grass was the most important resource in grassland production.