The competition was set up with the aim to recognize and acknowledge those farmers who consistently achieve high levels of grass utilization in a sustainable manner.
The competition is being run in conjunction with Teagasc, as part of their Teagasc Grass 10 four-year grassland campaign. The focus of ‘Grass 10’ is to increase grass quality on livestock farms and also with the objective of achieving ten tonnes grass dry matter per hectare per year.
Speaking at the launch, Minister Creed said outlined the main aims of the competition, and also highlighted its importance to the environment, he said “The focus in both the Grass 10 campaign and the Grassland Farmer of the Year competition on utilisation of existing grass production is very important from the perspective of improving the sustainability credentials of our grass based livestock and dairy sectors. This campaign will also have an important environmental impact in that production of meat and milk per hectare will increase, without a similar increase in the level of inputs’.
This year will also see the launching of the Department’s Sustainable Grassland initiative. This initiative aims to support the goals of the Food Wise 2025 strategy. It also aims at raising awareness on the critical role that grass plays in supporting competitive dairy and livestock production.
These sectors possess a significant cost advantage in the form of an environmentally sustainable, rain-fed, grass based production system. It is this grass based system that provides Ireland with its comparative advantage in increasingly competitive international markets. Although it can be said that there is significant room for improvement.
The Teagasc Grass 10 Campaign is a very important element in delivering on the priorities of the Sustainable Grassland initiative.
To strengthen coherence between the two initiatives, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, along with other stakeholders which include Allied Irish Bank, FBD Insurance, Grassland Agro and Irish Farmers Journal are all supporting the Grassland Farmer of the Year competition.
Minister Creed also added that the competition will lead to better grassland practices amongst farmers and will help reduce negative environmental impacts caused by farming, he concluded by saying “This competition will bring the message to farm level that more effective utilization of the national grassland resource also has the potential to further reduce negative environmental impacts while supporting increased productivity. I encourage grassland farmers to apply.’
The Coordinator of the Teagasc Grass 10 Campaign, John Maher said of the competition and its aims, “Grass is the key to profitable and sustainable milk and meat production in Ireland. Through the Grass 10 campaign and through this Grassland Farmer of the Year competition, we want to encourage farmers, across the country and across the enterprises to optimize the use of the valuable resources that grass is on Irish farms.”