Mayo man is top young farmer

Sean O’Donnell from Co Mayo has been named this year’s FBD Young Farmer of the Year.
Mayo man is top young farmer

The dairy farmer, from Ballina, was bestowed with the honour in Bantry, Co Cork, on Tuesday night.

Some 28 farmers took partin the competition run by Macra na Feirme in partnership with the Irish Farmers’ Association and sponsors FBD.

Along with Sean, five other contestants were shortlisted for the final interview stage of the contest, which took place at the Westlodge Hotel.

They included William Morris, from Ballydehob, Co Cork, representing the Carbery region, who milks 86 cows produced on spring grass; Donal O’Connell, from the county’s Avondhu region, who works in a milk production partnership with his father in Mallow; and John Fagan from Collinstown, Westmeath, who farms 1,100 ewes and 125 heifers.

Eamonn Burke, who runs a mixed farm of beef and tillage in Corrandulla, Co Galway, came second, while Padraig O’Connor, from Limerick was third. Padraig, from Abbeyfeale, milks 100 cows and plans to take over the farm.

All entrants were judged on farm business initiative and innovation, farm efficiency and enterprise quality, farm safety, environmental protection, agricultural knowledge, and community involvement.

Sean, who milks 110 cows, was presented with a €3,000 international travel bursary to study farm practices. He plans to increase to 150 cows and is in talks about share farming some land with a neighbour.

Sean is the chair of his local discussion group and plays football with his local club.

Michael Berkery, chairman of FBD, headed the adjudicators who included Karina Pierce of UCD; Willie Fahey, IFAC Accountants; Pat O’ Toole, Irish Farmers’ Journal; and Edward O’Riordan, head of Teagasc Grange Beef Research Centre.

Macra national president Kieran O’Dowd said: “This is a prestigious competition which recognises the drive, ambition, and hard work of the young farmers working in the sector today. Farming, in a new CAP era and with quota abolition in the near future, is an exciting industry full of opportunity.”

FBD’s Conor Gouldson said: “This is an exciting but crucial time for those young farmers who aim to expand their farms to meet the growing global demand for top quality Irish produce.”

Eddie Downey, the IFA president, said: “The FBD Young Farmer of the Year competition is the perfect platform for the next generation of farmers to set out their plans for the future. It allows a motivated and single-minded group to benchmark themselves against each other and develop skills that will stand to them in the years ahead.”

Sean follows in the footsteps of John Buckley from Aughaville, Bantry, Co Cork, who took the title last year.

In all, four Cork finalists made the shortlist this year. Joining William and Donal were Andrew Ferguson, representing Seandun, a dairy and sheep farmer from Whitecross, and Kevin Deasy, representing Muskerry, a dairy farmer who runs a spring dairy herd of 160 cows.

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