Global Conference in the West
Type Media Article
Catherine Egan, Grass 10 Specialist, Teagasc
Over the past week Teagasc has hosted delegates from around the world in a week-long series of events arranged with the agri benchmark Beef and Sheep Network. On Saturday the delegates visited the farm of John and Patrick O’Shaughnessy Turloughmore, Co. Galway which was facilitated by Teagasc advisor Damian Costello. There was lively discussion on technology adoption at farm level on this well run beef and sheep farm. The high output of beef and lamb per hectare being achieved from a mainly grass based system on this farm is impressive. The farm is a great example of how improvements in grazing infrastructure (extra paddocks) and improved soil fertility have helped them grow and utilise more grass. This year the farm has begun grass measuring and the use of the plate metre to measure grass was demonstrated on the day. The use of the prolific genetics of the Belclare to drive ewe output also generated a lot of interest from delegates. On viewing the impressive cow herd Patrick O’Shaughnessy outlined that all cows and replacements are bred to AI sires which was also discussed in detail.
The Global Forum on Monday, 18 June attracted an audience of over 100 delegates and a range of international and domestic speakers discussing a wide range of topics from recent policy and trade developments through competitiveness to sustainability. This is the 16th annual conference and it is the first time it will take place in Ireland.
Professor Gerry Boyle, Teagasc Director officially opened the Global forum of the 16th agri benchmark Beef and Sheep Conference. He highlighted a number of important initiatives in Ireland to promote sustainable beef and sheep production such as the Grass10 campaign and the Grassland Farmer of the Year competition. “This is the second year of the competition which acknowledges dairy, beef and sheep farmers who are achieving high levels of grass utilisation on their farms. This competition promotes the effective utilisation of the national grassland resource.”
Speaking in Galway, Anne Kinsella, economist with Teagasc, and Irish agri benchmark representative, said; “I am honoured that Teagasc are hosting the agri benchmark conference for the first time, which brings over 40 participants from almost 30 countries to Ireland to see first-hand the grazing system operated by Irish beef and sheep farms and to discuss the latest international beef and sheep developments. I am very proud as the Irish representative in this network, to have been given this opportunity to showcase my home county of Galway and the wider west region and the work of my Teagasc colleagues to our international partners. It is an opportune time for this event to take place in Ireland given the rising positive perception of grass-fed animals and associated meat quality and promotion programmes.”
Dr Claus Deblitz, coordinator for the network from the German Thünen Institute of Farm Economics, said: “I can see Ireland’s experience in grazing systems serving as an example for other world regions – mostly characterised by different natural conditions – because the principles of sustainable and productive grazing are similar around the globe.”
Teagasc researcher Dr Kevin Kilcline discussed the economic contribution and environmental impacts of the sheep meat sector across the value chain in Ireland, from farm to fork. ‘Sheep farming is an important agricultural sector and is highly embedded in the local economy, supporting rural jobs in areas with low population density and fewer alternative employment opportunities. Sheep farming has also been shown to provide an important range of ecological services and public goods including landscape management, preservation of biodiversity, traditional farming systems and cultural heritage and promotion of clean water supplies and recreation opportunities to name but a few'.
President of the Irish Famers Association, Joe Healy participated in a panel discussion with other delegates. Mr Healy highlighted the importance of addressing prices of beef and lamb at farm level on low income drystock farms which is necessary to ensure sustainability for farmers instead of focusing on Irish average farm incomes.
Galway and the West of Ireland has been designated as the European Region of Gastronomy for 2018, so this this week long event has provided many opportunities to showcase Irish agriculture and food, right through the value chain, from farm to fork.