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‘Herbal Leys – Milk Production for the Future’ wins Teagasc award at BTYSTE 2020

‘Herbal Leys – Milk Production for the Future’ wins Teagasc award at BTYSTE 2020

‘Herbal Leys – Milk Production for the Future’ wins Teagasc award at BTYSTE 2020
Declan Troy, Teagasc presenting the Teagasc award at the BTYSTE 2020 award ceremony to Darren Kiely, Bevin Murphy and Omar Daly, Millstreet Community School, Cork.

Herbal Leys – Milk Production for the Future’ wins Teagasc award at BTYSTE 2020

A project which investigated whether agriculture can be both profitable and sustainable for the future was the recipient of the Teagasc Special Award at the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition (BTYSTE) 2020. Three fifth year students from Millstreet Community School in Cork (Bevin Murphy, Darren Kiely and Omar Daly) received the award for their project entitled ‘Herbal Leys – Milk Production for the Future’. An herbal ley is a complex seed mixture of grasses, legumes and herbs, which bring a range of benefits to forage, livestock health and soil fertility. The project investigated if herbal leys could match or outdo the productivity of intensive farming and their influence on milk production.

The project was selected as the Teagasc Special Award winner by judges at the 56th BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition (BTYSTE) 2020, which took place in the RDS during January 9-11. They were presented with the award by Declan Troy, Director of Food Technology Transfer, Teagasc.

The students did a comparative analysis of four dairy farms – two using a conventional perennial ryegrass grazing system and two UK-based farms using herbal leys. Their analysis found that similar levels of milk production could be achieved on the herbal ley system. In addition, the average butterfat percentage was higher on the herbal ley system.

They also conducted a practical experiment using raised beds at their school simulating grazing conditions over a growth season. “One of the plants that stood out was chicory, which has a long tap root, making leys more drought-resistant. Certain herbs included in the mixtures such as Chicory, have anthelmintic properties, which helps to reduce the worm burden in livestock”, said student Bevin Murphy. The students also noted on their farm visits that there was a noticeable presence of wildlife on the herbal ley farms, particularly butterflies and bees, which are attracted to the plants.

“We believe that herbal leys are the future of farming in Ireland. This subject is close to our hearts as two of our group members are from farming backgrounds and would like to make a career in farming”, added Bevin.

The Teagasc special award is presented to the project that best demonstrates a thorough understanding of the science of agricultural or food production, or the use of science to improve technologies available to agricultural or food production.

Presenters at the Teagasc stand at BTYSTE 2020 kept visitors entertained with lots of hands-on experiments and displays throughout the event.