Grassland Farmer of the Year 2019
Overall and Sustainable Farming Award Winner
Bryan farms at between 780ft and 1000ft above sea level at Kilmoganny Co, Kilkenny. The land is reasonably free draining and of good quality. Average grass growth over the last three years was an excellent 17.3t/ha. The stocking rate on the milking block is 2.55 cows/ha and Bryan and his wife Gail plan to calve down 310 cows next year. Bryan's attention to detail with regard to fertiliser usage is very impressive with everything recorded on a foolscap page.
Dairy Category - Winner
Mike and Tina Bermingham are in their sixth year of milking cows. Their north-facing farm outside Fermoy in Co Cork is overlooking the Blackwater Valley and some of the best land in the country. The Bermingham farm is high and exposed; it starts at 500ft above sea level and rises to 600ft above sea level. They milk 108 cows and all the replacement heifers are being contract-reared. There’s 47ha in the milking platform and no outside land which gives a milking platform stocking rate and an overall stocking rate of 2.3 cows/ha. Grass growth over the last three years has averaged 14.2t/ha.
Disadvantaged Land - Winner
New entrant to dairying Paudie of Firies Co. Kerry is a panel-beater turned dairy farmer. He inherited his uncle's farm in 2005 and set up a 30 cow suckler unit until 2013 when he got new entrant milk quota. He started with 30 cows and is now milking 76. The milking platform extends to 30ha with some of this leased. He grows 15tDm/ha on what is considered heavy land in a high rainfall area. The farm is very well laid out with plenty of access points. Paudie puts a huge emphasis on soil fertility and is a passionate manager of grass.
Young Farmer - Winner
John has been managing the Clongowes Wood farm in Clane, Co Kildare for the last three years. There are 325 milking cows, 161 yearling heifers and 85 in-calf heifers. The milking block contains 116ha and there is an out block of 40ha. The stocking rate is 3LU/ha. Grass management on this dry farm is excellent with an average of 15tDM/ha grown over the last three years. There has been 9.6 grazings per paddock per year and John completes and average of 48 grass walks per year.
Grassland Merit Award - Grass Production
Mick and Mike Magan, Killashee.Co. Longford are milking 220 cows on a 52ha milking block. This gives a stocking rate of 4.23 cows/ha on the milking platform and an overall stocking rate of 2.85 cows/ha. Over the last few years extra land has been purchased, a new rotary parlour built and there's a new paddock layout. Paddocks are designed for 36-hour grazings which works well. Average grass growth over the last three years is exceptionally high at 17.7t/ha. Soil fertility is excellent, with nearly all of the farm on target for P, K and pH.
Grassland Merit Award - Most Improved Grassland
John is a member of the Teagasc heavy soils programme and is farming in Castleisland Co. Kerry. Rainfall in this area is high at over 1,300mm per year so infrastructure for grazing is essential. John has spread over 200t of lime in the last two years. This investment has been worthwhile as phosphorus and potash is now more readily available and grass growth has increased. The increased grass growth has led to an average of 12.5t/ha over the last three years thus ensuring that running low in silage is no longer an issue.
Grassland Merit Award - Grazing Infrastructure
William's farm at Currow, Co Kerry has grown an average of 15.6t/ha over the last three years. This is a major change from 2010 when due to carelessness regarding soil fertility grass stopped growing on the farm. A fertiliser plan rectified the situation on this free darining land. There is an overall stocking rate of 2.55 cows/ha and Williiam milked 87 cows in 2019. Recent investments in grazing infrastructure has improved access to all of the farm. William's target is to have an average farm cover of about 150kg/cow during mid-season.
Sheep Category - Winner
John's farm in Ballinamore, Co Leitrim is split in two blocks of 17ha each. The home farm at Cloverhill carries the sheep flock and there is a contract heifer-rearing enterprise on the outside farm. John is very happy with the contract rearing which he is doing since 2015. The main issue on this farm is the soil type. Rainfall is double what it is on the east coast yet over the last three years an average of 12.3t/ha has been grown. John measures with a plate meter and has done an average of 32 measurements per year. John measures with a plate meter.
Cattle - Suckling Category - Winner
A part-time suckler farmer Trevor also buys in cattle mostly to finish as beef. The land around Dromard in Co. Sligo where he farms is good quality. The farm grew an average of 9.7t/ha over the last three years. The farm is fragmented, with a combination of owned and leased blocks. Currently the stocking rate is just under 2 LU/ha. Trevor's goal is to increase the stocking rate on the farm and then to grow more grass. The farm is walked on average 34 times per year and he inputs the covers into PastureBase.
Cattle Non-Suckling Category - Winner
A contract-rearer of replacement heifers on his farm at Coachford, Co Cork, Philip is a part-time farmer. His farm has a 40ha grazing platform and he takes in 165 calves for one farmer. He walks the farm an average of 30 times a year using a platemeter to measure and records on PastureBase. Philip uses a spring and autumn planner at the shoulders of the year to ensure grass is properly managed. He has planted a grove of 450 trees and coppiced 750m of hedging. All slurry on the farm is spread by trailing shoe
Owen from Kingscourt Co. Cavan farms on the banks of Lough Ramor. Currently he is milking 194 cows on a 59ha milking platform. The topography of this farm is difficult, the top of the farm is 2.3km from the yard, up a steep slope. Grass growth is excellent, averaging 15.5tDM/ha over the last three years. The purchase of 50ac in late 2018 has brought the overall stocking rate is now 2.6 cows/ha. Owen is mindful of the environment, all slurry is spread using either a dribble bar or a trailing shoe and new hedgerows and trees have been planted around the farm.
Ths year Conor Kelleher undertook a major investment and this has changed the dynamics of this farm. The ambitious project built a roadway through a deep glen and linked up a 15ha outblock with the 43ha home block giving 58ha in the milking block. This will allow Conor to increase cow numbers from the current 140 to a planned 170. Grass growth is good with an average of 15.5t/ha grown over the last three years. As was the case with most farmers extra meal had to be fed and silage bought in 2018.
A beef and sheep farmer from Ballina in Co. Mayo Tommy is also a member of the BETTER Farm Beef Challenge. The land in this area is relatively good and free draining, average grass yields over the last three years are 13.5t/ha. Tommy farms 18ha in three blocks, 50 young bulls were reared on the 20ac out farm this year. There is an excellent network of paddock fencing and water system throughout the farm and the grazing season lasts from 14 February to late November. .