European Grassland experts meeting in Ireland
The European Grassland Federation (EGF) conference is taking place in Cork this week with over 450 delegates from 31 countries attending. This is the 27th meeting, and the first time the EGF conference returns to Ireland since 1988. The week-long international event was officially opened by Professor Gerry Boyle, Teagasc Director, on Sunday evening when he spoke to the theme of the event - ‘Sustainable Meat and Milk Production from Grasslands’.
Teagasc are the main organisers of EGF2018 which is taking place in the Rochestown Park Hotel, Cork. This is one of the biggest EGF conferences in recent years and has a range of sponsors and supporters notably, SFI, FBD, Yara, Lely, True North technologies, Teagasc, Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Dairymaster, Goldcrop, Dairygold, Failte Ireland, Nutribio, AFBI, Germinal, DLF Seeds, Grasstec and Irish Grassland Association, Cork Convention Bureau and the Stapledon Memorial Trust.
In the opening address to the EGF conference, Professor Boyle stated; “It clearly shows the importance of this grassland conference, and the industry interest in the conference, when there are 19 sponsors and supporters of the event. It highlights the importance of this event and the interest in grassland both nationally and internationally.”
This year’s conference has introduced new grassland research areas. Also the grazing Working Group and Masterclass visited Teagasc on Sunday, and allowed delegates to experience at first hand the grazing management tools, technologies and measurements in research and on farm. On Tuesday, delegates will visit Teagasc Moorepark for a mini open day in the morning and have the choice of 5 farm and industry tours in the afternoon.
Dr Michael O’Donovan, Teagasc and chairman of the EGF organising committee, remarked; “the farm tours will allow the conference delegates to experience top class grassland farms, grass and clover evaluation, and smart technologies on farms. It is great that some of the winners from the Grassland Farmer of the Year competition in 2017 will host farm visits. The farms of both Eddie O’Donnell and Ger Dineen will be visited. The other farms on the tours are also well worth visiting; Sean Dennehy is an outstanding sheep farmer, and John MacNamara and Donal Sheehan are excellent dairy farmers.”
The content of the conference programme has changed, to a more modern, enterprising format with Big Data and Smart Technology as new sessions in the conference, as well as incorporating a workshop on Knowledge Transfer. Professor Frank O’ Mara the current President of the EGF and Director of Research in Teagasc, has steered this change of focus. There are more than 70 scientific papers on these topics, indicating their growing importance in the international grassland research community. Teagasc have developed an offline App for Android devices for Pasturebase Ireland (Ireland’s national grassland database). Speaking at the conference Prof Frank O’Mara said; “developing the offline App is crucial to ensure farmers can access Pasturebase easily. Many farmers don’t have full internet coverage throughout their farms, so this is a really important step forward for increasing on-farm grassland measurement. We expect to have the App available for iphones in two weeks. At the moment there are about 1,300 farmers measuring grass cover weekly on their farms, and through technologies such as PastureBase Ireland we hope to significantly increase this number.”
The conference runs from Sunday 17th June to Thursday 21st June. A post conference tour will visit the Teagasc Athenry Research Centre, the Newford suckler beef demonstration herd in Athenry, the Teagasc Grange Research Centre in County Meath, and will finish with a visit to Hillsborough research facility in Northern Ireland