Timothy Quinn, who was chosen from 29 finalists, whittled down from an entry of 200, said there is an increasing global demand for dairy products, although profitability is being curtailed by high input costs.
“Increased scale and efficiency will be key to survival. As the single farm payment declines in the future, more beef land should become available for dairy expansion, but future expansion will have to be at a lower cost,” he said.
Mr Quinn, who owns a 300-acre farm, said he never expected to win the FBD-sponsored competition, organised by Macra na Feirme in partnership with the IFA.
He dedicated the award to the memory of his late father, Seán Quinn, recalling how he had often told him: “If you are honest and hard-working, you can achieve anything.”
Mr Quinn, who is from Castlecarra in Clogher, is chairman of his local IFA branch. He was chosen at the finals in Kilkenny by a panel of judges headed by former taoiseach Bertie Ahern.
“Farming is a great way of life. You are out in the fresh air and it is a great environment in which to bring up a family,” said the Connacht Gold milk supplier, who has 105 dairy cows and 40 sucklers.
Married with two children, Mr Quinn said he was delighted to have been chosen, putting Mayo farming into the spotlight. He felt his win would act as a boost to farming in his area.
Business initiative and innovation, knowledge of production costs and returns, vision and planning for the future of a farm business and agricultural knowledge were the criteria used in the judging.
James Patrick Croke, Gragaugh, Mullinahone, Co Tipperary, a 32-year-old dairy and beef farmer was second, while another dairy and beef farmer, Sean O’Brien, Ballinascartha, Midleton, Co Cork claimed third position.
An award for innovation was won by Noel McCall, a 33-year-old dairy farmer from Kilpool Lower, Co Wicklow, while the award for community involvement went to 21-year-old Shane McKeown, chairman of the IFA branch in Drumshanbo, Co Leitrim.
The competition, in its 10th year, had a total prize fund of €10,000, with Timothy Quinn receiving a €2,500 travel bursary and €1,000 spending money, plus a trophy.
Macra president Catherine Buckley said farming has become a dynamic business environment.
“Today’s successful young farmers are experts not just in agriculture. They are also proficient in accounting, marketing and time management.
“Farms that are not run in a business-like fashion are farms of the past, not farms of the future,” she said.
IFA president Pádraig Walshe praised the drive of the finalists, while Bertie Ahern said he was very impressed by the positive attitude of the young farmers.