Ireland’s most sustainable, efficient and environmentally friendly family farms were honoured tonight at Bord Bia’s Origin Green Sustainable Producer Awards. Over 230 farmers and senior representatives from farming organisations and the agri-food industry gathered in Portlaoise for the celebratory event. A total of 28 farms from across the country selected as finalists for the competition, from which eight producers were awarded as winners of their particular category. As part of its Quality Assurance Scheme, Bord Bia conduct audits and carbon assessments each year on almost 60,000 beef and dairy farms. According to Bord Bia, tonight’s winning, and shortlisted entries, are among the top performing beef and dairy farms in the country particularly with regard to their carbon footprint, biodiversity and water management.
Opening the awards Bord Bia’s CEO, Aidan Cotter, commented “tonight we celebrate Irish farmers as champions of sustainable, quality assured and world class food production. Each of the 28 finalists is here on the strength, firstly, of the outstanding scores they achieved in their farm audits and, secondly, the truly impressive commitment they have shown to sustainability in their farming activities”.
“That sense of leadership is what will help us win in the marketplace, is what brings us here tonight and makes this an opportune time to celebrate what is best in Irish farming.”
BEEF AWARDS – OVERALL CATEGORY WINNERS:
- Suckler to Beef Category: Alfie Kirwan’s suckler herd near Killimor, Co. Galway has one of the highest calving rates in the country and is now converting to organic production, encouraged by demand for this premium niche market.
- Suckler to Weanling/Store Category:Neville Myles, from Ballyshannon in Co. Donegal, who runs a 70-cow suckler herd, was recognised for his quality breeding and grassland management that produces high-performing weanlings.
- Weanling/Store to Beef Category: Tullamore based,Kieran Dooley, along with his brother Brian and son Joe, specialise in the intensive finishing of well-bred continental young bulls and heifers, and have a keen focus on market demand.
- Dairy Calf to Beef Category:Brothers Pat and Tom Redmond operate a significant calf to beef enterprise in Gorey, Co. Wexford. Production is coordinated so as to finish 10 high-quality Angus-cross heifers per week, to supply beef to the family’s two hotels in Gorey.
DAIRY AWARDS – OVERALL CATEGORY WINNERS:
- Small/Medium Herd Category:According to the judges John Joe and Theresa O’Sullivan’s dairy farm in Rosscarbery Co. Cork, supplying Lisavaird Co-op, is a hive of productivity. They milk 70 cows on 45 hectares, with cows grazing over 300 days a year every year. Biodiversity was noted to be a key feature on this excellent dairy farm with a habitat, some woodland, an ancient fort and an orchard where John Joe practices his hobby of beekeeping.
- Liquid/Winter Milk Category:Dermot Sherry, Drumhillock, Co. Monaghan is using grass measurement and management to improve productivity on his farm. Supplying LacPatrick Co-Op, cow numbers this year reached a peak of 118, up from 70 just a few years ago.
- Carbon Footprint Reduction Category: Patrick Brennan, a farmer outside Ballingarry, Co. Tipperary, who milks over 170 cows and supplies Arrabawn Co-Op, has made small changes resulting in large efficiency gains. Patrick’s attention to detail and tweaks to his system have resulted in a reduction of the carbon footprint of this farm.
- Large Herd Category: The judges were particularly impressed by John Hanniganfrom Dromcollogher Co. Limerick who supplies Kerry Co-Op, who has focused on breeding to build a solid foundation for his farm of over 110 Friesian cows.
Speaking tonight Aidan Cotter said “The data from the farm audits revealed a sometimes significant but not surprising gap between the very best performing farms and those that most needed to improve. However, the report found that, for every 5% footprint reduction on beef and dairy farms, we could potentially reduce emissions by over 550,000 tonnes of CO2 equivalent annually. By bringing beef and dairy farms that are currently running behind up to just the average score, we have the potential to reduce emissions by almost 1 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent annually – a figure that equates to 6% of total emissions from Irish agriculture.”
He added “Our nominees are not just showing what the very best of Irish farming looks like, they are providing ideas, solutions and inspiration for others, and thereby helping to secure the future of the entire farming community. That, I think, is worth rewarding and celebrating tonight.”
Over the past few weeks, a panel of judges representing Bord Bia and Teagasc visited each of the 28 shortlisted farms. Overall, the judges were impressed by the farmers’ technical knowledge, clear understanding of sustainability and how each of the finalists have achieved a standard that allows them to maximize production while minimising impact on the environment and other resources.
On the dairy side, the judges were highly impressed by the management practices in place on farm resulting in excellent grassland management, EBI figures, production figures and nutrient management. Meanwhile, the beef finalists also demonstrated a very high level of technical efficiency in relation to improving daily liveweight gain, herd health and fertility, while controlling inputs such as concentrate feed and fertiliser.