Ireland’s most sustainable, efficient and environmentally friendly family farms were honoured recently at Bord Bia’s Origin Green Sustainable Producer Awards.
Pictured above: Award winners at Bord Bia’s Origin Green Sustainable Producer Awards ceremony in Portlaoise: John Joe O’Sullivan, Rosscarbery, Co Cork; Kieran Dooley, Tullamore, Co Offaly; Neville Myles, Ballyshannon, Co Donegal; Alfie Kirwan, Ballinasloe, Co Galway; John Hannigan, Dromcollogher, Co Limerick; Pat Redmond, Gorey, Co Wexford; Patrick Brennan, Roscrea, Co Tipperary; Dermot Sherry, Drumhillock, Co Monaghan.
From 28 finalists, eight farms were category winners.
All the shortlisted farmers are top performers, particularly with regard to their carbon footprint, biodiversity and water management, which are measured in Bord Bia’s Quality Assurance Scheme audits and carbon assessments each year on almost 60,000 farms.
Suckler to Beef:
Alfie Kirwan’s suckler herd near Killimor, Co Galway has one of the highest calving rates in the country, and is now converting to organic production, encouraged by demand for this premium niche market.
Suckler to Weanling/Store:
Neville Myles, from Ballyshannon in Co Donegal, who runs a 70-cow suckler herd, was recognised for his quality breeding and grassland management that produces high-performing weanlings.
Weanling/Store to Beef:
Tullamore-based, Kieran Dooley, along with his brother Brian and son Joe, specialise in intensive finishing of well-bred continental young bulls and heifers, and have a keen focus on market demand.
Dairy Calf to Beef:
Brothers Pat and Tom Redmond operate a significant calf to beef enterprise in Gorey, Co Wexford. Production is co-ordinated so as to finish 10 high-quality Angus-cross heifers per week, to supply beef to the family’s two hotels in Gorey.
Overall dairy winners
Small/Medium Dairy Herd:
According to the judges, John Joe and Theresa O’Sullivan’s dairy farm in Rosscarbery, Co Cork, supplying Lisavaird Co-op, is a hive of productivity. They milk 70 cows on 45 hectares, with cows grazing over 300 days a year, every year. Biodiversity was noted to be a key feature on this excellent dairy farm with a habitat, some woodland, an ancient fort, and an orchard where John Joe practices his hobby of beekeeping.
Dermot Sherry, Drumhillock, Co Monaghan, is using grass measurement and management to improve productivity on his farm. Supplying LacPatrick Co-Op, cow numbers this year reached a peak of 118, up from 70 just a few years ago.
Carbon Footprint Reduction:
Patrick Brennan, a farmer outside Ballingarry, Co Tipperary, who milks over 170 cows and supplies Arrabawn Co-Op, has made small changes resulting in large efficiency gains. Patrick’s attention to detail and tweaks to his system have resulted in a reduction of the carbon footprint of this farm.
Large Dairy Herd:
The judges were particularly impressed by John Hannigan from Dromcollogher Co Limerick who supplies Kerry Co-Op, who has focussed on breeding to build a solid foundation for his farm of over 110 Friesian cows.
Origin Green is a sustainability development programme developed by Bord Bia to internationally demonstrate the commitment of the entire Irish food and drink industry to operating sustainably in terms of greenhouse gas emission, energy conservation, water management, biodiversity, community initiatives and health and nutrition.
Since 2011, more than 527 Irish companies, representing 90% of Irish exports, have signed up. At farm level, Bord Bia has conducted more than 120,000 carbon assessments to measure and help improve the environmental performance of Irish farms.
Last year, Bord Bia published its first Origin Green Sustainability report to show evidence of the impact and value of the programme to date.
In one of his final duties, retiring Bord Bia chief Executive Aidan Cotter said: “The data from the farm audits revealed a sometimes significant but not surprising gap between the very best performing farms and those that most needed to improve.
However, the report found that, for every 5% footprint reduction on beef and dairy farms, we could potentially reduce emissions by over 550,000 tonnes of CO2 equivalent annually.
By bringing beef and dairy farms that are currently running behind up to just the average score, we have the potential to reduce emissions by almost one million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent annually, a figure that equates to 6% of total emissions from Irish agriculture.”
He added “Our nominees are not just showing what the very best of Irish farming looks like, they are providing ideas, solutions and inspiration for others, and thereby helping to secure the future of the entire farming community. That, I think, is worth rewarding and celebrating tonight.”
“In the years ahead, sustainability will be part of the entry criteria in every sector and every marketplace the Irish food industry competes in. Through Origin Green, the umbrella brand under which our sustainability initiatives operate, Bord Bia can now showcase the commitments of Irish farmers and food manufacturers as robust, measurable and progressive, and thereby give Ireland a real advantage over our competitors,” he concluded.
Suckler to Weanling/Store Production:
Winner, Neville Myles, Ballyshannon, Co Donegal. Shortlisted, Kieran Hallahan, Cappoquin, Co Waterford. Shortlisted, Kenneth Graham, Mountrath, Co Laois.
Dairy Calf to Beef Production:
Winner, Pat and Tom Redmond, Gorey, Co Wexford. Shortlisted, William Nolan, Elphin, Co Roscommon. Shortlisted: Tim O’Connell, Trim, Co Meath.
Suckler to Beef Production:
Winner, Alfie Kirwan, Killimor, Ballinasloe, Co Galway. Shortlisted, Kathleen O’Riordan, Enniskeane, Co Cork. Shortlisted: Brendan Kirk, Castlebellingham, Co Louth.
Weanling/Store to Beef Production:
Winner, Kieran Dooley, Tullamore, Co Offaly. Shortlisted, Shaun Toland, Carrigans, Co Donegal. Shortlisted: Michael O’Sullivan, Charleville, Co Cork.
Small/Medium Dairy Herd:
Winner, John Joe and Theresa O’Sullivan, Gurrane, Rosscarbery, Co Cork, supplying Lisavaird Co-op. Shortlisted: Tim Twomey, Glen South, Banteer, Co Cork, supplying North Cork Co-op. Shortlisted, John J Lane, Dromscarra, Kiskeam, Mallow, Co Cork, supplying Boherbue Co-op. Shortlisted: Eamonn Gargan, Mullagh, Kells, Co Meath, supplying Lakeland Dairies.
Liquid/Winter Milk Category:
Winner, Dermot Sherry, Drumhillock, Co Monaghan, supplying LacPatrick Co-Op. Shortlisted, Thomas Buckley, Ballanahina, Dublin Pike, Co Cork, supplying Clóna Dairy. Shortlisted, Thomas Culloty, Curravough, Tralee, Co Kerry, supplying Lee Strand Co-op. Shortlisted, Tony McCormack, Melview, Longford, supplying Aurivo Co-op.
Dairy Carbon Footprint Reduction:
Winner, Patrick Brennan, Ballingarry, Roscrea, Co Tipperary, supplying Arrabawn Co-Op. Shortlisted, Michael Power, Urlingford, Co Kilkenny, supplying Glanbia. Shortlisted, Peter, Sheila and Simon Breen, Gorteen, Emly, Co Tipperary, supplying Tipperary Co-op.
Shortlisted, Patricia and Patrick Shine, Ballylaffin, Ardfinnan, Clonmel, Co Tipperary, supplying Dairygold Co-op.
Large Dairy Herd:
Winner, John Hannigan, Sandfield, Dromcollogher, Co Limerick, supplying Kerry Co-op. Shortlisted, Dermot A Walsh, Currihy, Lislevane, Bandon, Co Cork, supplying Barryroe Co-op. Shortlisted, Brendan Brady, Knockmullane, Innishannon, Co Cork, supplying Bandon Co-op. Shortlisted, Donal O’Connor, Reavoler, Drinagh, Dunmanway, Co Cork, supplying Drinagh Co-op.
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