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Commissioner Mairead McGuinness visits Signpost Farm

EU Commissioner Mairead McGuinness, recently visited Signpost farmer, Alan Clarke at Kilinkere, County Cavan. Commissioner McGuinness had the opportunity to see first-hand the work that farmers are doing to reduce gaseous emissions and be more environmentally sustainable.

Commissioner Mairead McGuinness visits Signpost Farm
The EU Commissioner Mairead McGuinness, recently visited the farm of Alan Clarke from Kilinkere, County Cavan, a participant in the Teagasc Signpost programme - Farmers for Climate Action. Pictured during the visit were (l to r): Tom O Dwyer, Head of the Signpost Programme; Mairead McGuinness, EU Commissioner; Michael Hanley, CEO of Lakeland Dairies; Professor Frank O Mara, Director of Teagasc; Alan Clarke, Signpost farmer and Niamh Lynch Teagasc Advisor.

The Clarke family farm has three generations on the farm, Alan is farming with his wife Rachel, parents, Tommy and Carol who are still actively involved in the running of the farm. Alan and Rachel have three children, Sam, Max and Jane.

They are milking 144 high EBI cows in a spring calving grass based system. The farm is situated beside the River Blackwater in Kilinkere, County Cavan.

Speaking on the visit to the Clarke family farm, Commissioner McGuinness, highlighted the need for sustainability and resilience of farming systems in the face of external shocks.  The response to this has been farmers like Tommy and Alan putting a big emphasis on new climate mitigation technologies over the last number of years, including using low emission slurry spreading and protected urea. Breeding high EBI more efficient cows has been a focus for the Clarke farm for many years. The use of sexed semen was implemented last year for the first time.  Soil fertility and grassland management have become a very important part of the farm.  In 2020, there was 200 metres of hedgerow planted, in 2021, 500 metres of hedgerow was planted and currently 400 metres of hedgerow is being planted.

The Clarke family farm, is part of the Signpost Programme which is a collaborative programme, led by Teagasc, with over 100 demonstration farmers, over 50 partners across industry, state bodies, and farm organisations, all working together to improve environmental sustainability on Irish farms.  The focus is on reducing gaseous emissions but also to improve water quality and enhance biodiversity on Irish farms. 

Commissioner Mairead McGuinness complemented the collaborative nature of the programme with the local milk processor, Lakeland Dairies, Teagasc and farmers all working together. 

Speaking at the visit, Professor Frank O’Mara, Director of Teagasc, highlighted the importance of the Signpost Programme in delivering on the targets set out in the Climate Action Plan. Farmers need to adopt the key climate mitigation technologies and they need to be supported to do this by the industry.  The Signpost programme is unique in that it brings together all the stakeholders in the sector.