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Meet the finalists as Grassland Farmer of the Year to be crowned this week

Meet the finalists as Grassland Farmer of the Year to be crowned this week

The winner of the Grassland Farmer of the Year Competition will be crowned tomorrow, May 24, in Teagasc Moorepark.

Applications from farmers have been shortlisted down to nine finalists, who will gather in Teagasc Moorepark for the announcement of the category winners and the overall Grassland Farmer of the Year Award.

The awards are sponsored by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and the category and overall winner will be crowned by the Minster for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue. These awards are part of the Grass10 campaign, which is supported by Teagasc, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, AIB, FBD, Grassland Agro and the Irish Farmers Journal.

The finalists

Jimmy Cotter, dairy farmer, Coachford, Co. Cork

Jimmy Cotter milks 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 13.3t DM/ha over the past three years, and last year applied 173kg 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.

Jimmy Cotter pictured with wife and daughter on his farm

Kyle Hanbridge, dairy farm, Kiltegan, Co. Wicklow

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. This has allowed Kyle to grow 14.5t DM/ha from 166kg N/ha of chemical nitrogen applied in 2022.

Kyle and Philip Hanbridge

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, Co. 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 14.5t DM/ha in 2022 from just 129kg N/ha of chemical fertiliser. 100% of the farm has been reseeded in the past 10 years.

Michael Walsh

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 12t DM/ha from 199kg N/ha of 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.

John Casey

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% of the cows calving in the autumn. 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 11.4t DM/ha from 116kg of N/ha chemical fertiliser applied. Michael forward grazes his calves (see creep gate) to ensure maximum weight from grass. Last year, his weanling bulls weighed 469kg liveweight at 10.5 months of age.

Michael McGuigan

Michael Cunniffe, suckler-bred heifers, Roscommon, Co. Roscommon

Michael Cunniffe 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 1t of 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 11t DM/ha on 180kg N/ha of chemical fertiliser.

Michael Cuniffe

Alan Duggan, dairy farmer, Foxford, Co. Mayo

New entrants to dairy in 2021, Alan Duggan and his wife Trish milk 67 cows beside the busy Ballina to Foxford road in Co. Mayo. The farm is 37.4Ha in total and the cows have access to 18.5ha, leaving a stocking rate of 3.6 cows/ha on the milking platform. The Duggans have focused on creating a simple and 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 and easy to run if relief help is employed. The farm grew 16t DM/ha in 2022. The Duggans aim to continue on their clover journey in 2023.

Alan Duggan

David Gannon, dairy farmer, Craughwell, Co. Galway

David and his father Robbie milk 160 cows on a milking platform of 52ha. A new entrant in 2018, David corrected soil fertility on the farm with nearly all the milking platform optimum for lime and 80% and 60% optimum for phosphorus and potassium, respectively. The farm grew 14.6t DM/Ha in 2022 from 147kg N/Ha on the milking platform and 182kg 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 and receive a mix of 0.5 bag/acre of 0-7-30 and soiled water.

David Gannon

Diarmaid Fitzgerald, dairy farmer, Cratloe, Co. Clare

Diarmaid Fitzgerald farms on the banks of the river Shannon, milking 160 cows stocked at 2.5 cows/ha. Diarmaid’s land is in one block and his cows can access it all. Heifers are contract reared, keeping the system simple with just milking cows and young calves in the spring. The farm is 67.5ha. 60% is free-draining, limestone soil and 40% is more challenging, low-lying land under the levees of the Shannon estuary. In 2022, Diarmaid fed 800kg of meal/cow and they produced 460kg MS/cow. He has excellent clover on the farm. 60% of paddocks have a high clover content. 13.5t DM/Ha was grown in 2022 from 149kg N/ha.

Diarmuid Fitzgerald