Grassland Farmer of the Year 2022
Overall Winner and Young Farmer Category Winner
Diarmaid Fitzgerald – Dairy Farmer, Cratloe, Co. Clare
Diarmaid farms on the banks of the river Shannon, milking 160 cows stocked at 2.5 cows/Ha. Diarmaid’s land is in one block & his cows can access it all. Heifers are contract reared keeping the system simple with just milking cows & young calves in the spring. The farm is 67.5 Ha. 60% is free draining limestone soil & 40% is more challenging low lying land under the levees of the Shannon estuary. In 2022, Diarmaid fed 800kg meal/cow & they produced 460Kg MS/cow. He has excellent clover on the farm. 60% of paddocks have a high clover content. 13.5TDM/Ha was grown in 2022 from 149 Kg N/ha
Drystock Enterprise and Innovation in Grassland Winner
Michael McGuigan. Suckler Farmer, Longwood, Co. Meath
Michael McGuigan farms outside Longwood in Meath. He runs a 30-cow suckler to weaning and store system with 100% autumn calving. Michael purchased the 24ha farm in 2016 and has made massive improvements to what was a stud farm. A lot of work has gone into correcting soil fertility. There is an excellent paddock system and grass measurement. In 2022 the farm grew 11.4 T DM/ha from 116 Kg N/ha chemical fertiliser applied. Michael forward grazes his calves (see creep gate above) to ensure maximum weight from grass. Last year his weanling bulls weighed 469 Kg Lwt at 10.5 months of age.
Dairy Enterprise Winner
David Gannon, Dairy Farmer, Craughwell, Co. Galway
David & his father Robbie milk 160 cows on a milking platform of 52 Ha. A new entrant in 2018, David corrected soil fertility on the farm with nearly all the milking platform optimum for lime & 80% and 60% optimum for Phosphorus & Potash respectively. The farm grew 14.6T DM/Ha in 2022 from 147kg N/Ha on the milking platform and 182 Kg N/Ha across the whole farm. The reduction in N is achieved by David’s drive to establish clover across the farm. About 40% of the farm has a high clover content. These paddocks receive no N from 1st May on & receive a mix of ½ bag/acre of 0-7-30 & soiled water
Clover/Sustainable Farming Winner
John Casey, Dairy Farmer, Causeway, Co. Kerry
John Casey farms with his father Michael near Causeway in Kerry, with full exposure to the wild Atlantic Ocean. They Milk 120 cows on 44.5ha and in 2022 grew 12 T DM/ha from 199 Kg N/ha chemical fertiliser. The milking block is split and 70% is relatively dry and free-draining while 30% is wetter in nature. They have permanent spur roadways installed and multiple access points to keep cows out at grass. 35% of the milking platform has clover with two-thirds of this area getting reduced nitrogen applications.
Mixed Soils Winner
Michael Walsh, Dairy Farmer, Ballinakill, Co. Laois
Michael Walsh is an entrant in the young farmer category and is farming with his father, Michael and brother, Martin at Ballinakill in Laois. They are new entrants to dairying and began milking cows in 2021. They all work off farm and run a successful dairy enterprise between them. They milked 64 cows last year on 30ha of mixed and heavy soils. Upgrading grazing infrastructure is a key priority for them. The farm grew over 14.5 T DM/ha in 2022 from just 129 Kg N/ha chemical fertiliser. 100% of the farm has been reseeded in the past 10 years.
Drystock Enterprise Runner-up
Michael Cunniffe, Suckler-bred Heifers, Roscommon, Co. Roscommon
Michael took over the family farm 12 years ago and has specialised in producing suckler-bred heifers. He purchases 160 suckler-bred heifers each year and these are put in-calf to a Limousin bull and are sold out of the yard between 2.5-3 years of age. Michael puts a big emphasis on grass and silage quality to drive animal growth. Only 1 T concentrate was bought in 2022. He likes to sell heifers off grass and groups them according to weight, breed and calving date. Michael measures grass weekly and began measuring in 2008. Last year his farm grew 11 T DM/ha on 180 Kg N/ha chemical fertiliser.
Dairy Enterprise Runners-up
Jimmy Cotter, Dairy Farmer, Coachford, Co. Cork
Jimmy is milking 110 cows on a 35ha milking block near Coachford in Cork. Heifers are contract-reared and there is a 12ha outblock used for silage which was reseeded with red clover silage last year. Jimmy has grown an average of 13.3 T DM/ha over the past three years, and last year applied 173 Kg N/ha of chemical fertiliser. He has 50% of the milking block with good level of clover which explains the lower amount of chemical nitrogen applied.
Kyle Hanbidge farms in partnership with his parents Philip and Jane in Kiltegan, Co. Wicklow. They milk 170 cows with roughly 70% spring calving on a 47ha milking platform. Most of the land is long-term lease and a lot of reseeding has been completed in recent years allowing Kyle to grow 14.5 T DM/ha from 166 Kg N/ha of chemical nitrogen applied in 2022.
Alan Duggan – Dairy Farmer, Foxford, Co. Mayo
2021 new entrants to dairy Alan Duggan & his wife Trish milk 67 cows beside the busy Ballina to Foxford road in Co. Mayo. The farm is 37.4Ha in total & the cows have access to 18.5 Ha leaving a stocking rate of 3.6 cows/ha on the milking platform. The Duggan’s have focused on creating a simple & profitable pasture based system with good grazing infrastructure to allow a long grazing season. Alan works off farm so it is important the farm is labour efficient & easy to run if relief help is employed. The farm grew 16T DM/Ha in 2022. The Duggan’s aim to continue on their clover journey in 2023.