Award Winning Forest Boosting Farm Viability
Andrew O'Carroll - winner of the RDS Teagasc Farm Forestry Award
The RDS/Teagasc Award winning farm forest of Andrew O’Carroll from north Kilkenny is the result of a land use decision taken in 2005 which he hasn’t regretted. Since their establishment, Andrew’s trees have “jumped out of the ground”.
Andrew explains “I was in the privileged position of being able to lease good ground in its place, so I can put my inputs into the good ground, facilitated by the premiums from the forestry. It’s all positive and all gone to plan”. The forestry is also a fast developing family pension pot that is “well ahead of schedule”.
Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine with responsibility for forestry, Andrew Doyle, T.D., recently visited Andrew O’Carroll’s farm forest as part of an event jointly organised by the RDS and Teagasc. The event also incorporated the launch of the 2018 RDS Forestry and Woodlands Awards which are now open to all forest owners with a chance to share in a €12,000 prize fund. Addressing the attendance, Minister of State Doyle commented “I presented Andrew with his Award at the ceremony in the RDS earlier this year and I look forward, as Minister with responsibility for forestry and as a forest owner myself, to seeing the forests themselves”, adding “A noteworthy feature of Andrew’s farm is the way in which forestry complements his other farm enterprises. I think that this is an excellent example of ‘whole farm planning’ – the integration of a drystock enterprise, forestry and GLAS measures in a complementary manner in order to maximise the benefits to the overall farm enterprise”.
Andrew O’Carroll of Rathcash, Clifden, Co Kilkenny is a highly deserving winner of the RDS Forestry and Woodland Awards in the Teagasc sponsored Farm Forestry category. His forestry is located in one of the potentially highest yielding locations for tree growth in the country. According to Andrew he is “looking out at a something that’s going to provide a valuable income in time to come”. Andrew’s forestry is highly productive and will be reaching first thinning stage in 2019, at age 14. A second thinning is scheduled to be completed before his final forest premium (20-year cycle) is received. The growth potential of the forest indicates it can achieve commercial timber sizes within 30 years.
Planting: A Win/Win Situation
Andrew, in conjunction with forester Mick Power, planted 19 hectares of land comprising three parcels in an outfarm which was inherited in 2005. The planted parcels were on wetter ground than the rest of the farm, had a shorter grazing season and presented regular difficulties for farming. According to Andrew, “tractors have got stuck, animals have got stuck, one would be thinking in the springtime: when will I get out there”. He added “I spread lime on the land in the month of April and didn’t mark it, but the previous June, cattle could be going to their knees in it”. Referring to his planted land Andrew can “pass up there now in a completely different frame of mind”. He concluded “The practical running of the day-to-day farm has been greatly helped by having leased ground available as well as my farm forestry providing an income source”.
Mr Terry Carroll, Andrew’s Teagasc drystock advisor, summed up the informed decision made by Andrew and his family very precisely, “You have the land bank and it is up to you to farm it and maximise the use that you can make from your land”. He explained how Andrew runs a suckler enterprise on 56 hectares of land including 26 hectares that is leased in. His farm carries almost 50 suckler cows, selling mostly as forward stores with a progeny of Limousin and using a Norbreck bull. Calving takes place in March and April. Andrew is “driving the system” well and constantly striving to improve on the good gross margins he already achieves. Andrew is also in the GLAS scheme since its inception in 2015 and has wild bird cover, traditional hay meadow and low input pasture.
Terry referred to opportunities available for marginal land and outlined how it is “great that there are schemes such as the forestry initiative which provide good support measures as well as premiums and planting grants”. He described how the selected combination of “suckler cows, GLAS and forestry are complementing each other” and added that “Andrew made that decision with his family and it has proven to be the absolute best decision”.
Dr Nuala Ni Fhlatharta, Head of Teagasc Forestry Development Department, said “Teagasc is delighted to be associated with the RDS Forest and Woodland Awards and commends the Royal Dublin Society for their continued involvement in promotion of Irish forestry. We congratulate Mr Andrew O'Carroll on his exemplar farm forest and being the inaugural winner of the RDS Teagasc Farm Forestry Award Category”. She added “The Teagasc-sponsored award recognises working farmers who are integrating forestry and farming for environmental, social and economic benefits. The category promotes the positive sustainable contribution of forestry as an integral enterprise within the wider farming profile. It also acknowledges the farmer’s role in actively managing the forest and promoting tree planting to strengthen wider farming sustainability”.