Pictured in Teagasc Moorepark, Fermoy, Co Cork at the Grassland Farmer of the Year Awards 2022 are overall winner Diarmaid Fitzgerald, Cratloe, Co. Clare, his parents Sean and Deirdre with sponsors Donal Whelton, AIB; Enda McDonald, Grassland Agro; Michael Berkery, FBD; Charlie McConalogue TD, Minister for Agriculture, Food, and the Marine; Aidan Brennan, Irish Farmers Journal; Professor Frank O’Mara, Teagasc Director; and Liam Herlihy, Teagasc Chairman. The Grassland Farmer of the Year awards is now in its sixth year and rewards the top grassland farmers in the country who are growing and utilising more grass on their farms in a sustainable manner. The awards are supported by the Department of Agriculture, Food, and the Marine with an overall prize fund of €25,000. Picture: O’Gorman Photography.
A CRATLOE man has been named as the overall winner of the grassland farmer of the year.
Diarmaid Fitzgerald was rewarded as one of the top grassland farmers in the country at the sixth annual awards which recognise those who are growing and utilising more grass on their farms in a sustainable manner.
An overall prize fund of €25,000 is in place for the awards which are supported. The awards are supported by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.
Named as the winner in the young farmer category, Diarmaid was also announced as the overall winner at the awards which took place at the Teagasc Moorepark research centre in Mallow. Along with the honour, he scoops a cash prize of €5,000. The Grassland Farmer of the Year awards are part of the Teagasc Grass10 Campaign which continues to focus on improving nutrient management and efficiency on farm and clover establishment and its management.
Farming a total of 67.5ha all in one block with no outside land, Diarmaid has been contract-rearing heifers for the last two years so the only group of stock he has to look after are the baby calves in spring and the milking cows. He is milking a total of 150 cows which is a stocking rate of just under 2.5 cows/ha. In 2022, he fed 800kg of meal. An open day is to be held on the Fitzgerald farm later this year.
Fertiliser plans are tailored based on the latest research, he admitted. “Our thinking on clover and how we best manage it is constantly evolving. I keep a close eye on the latest research from Teagasc and tailor my fertiliser plans accordingly. Getting clover established across the farm has enabled me to substantially reduce chemical nitrogen use. I’m not seeing any impact on pasture growth, in fact some of my best paddocks are getting low levels of chemical nitrogen and the cows love them.”
Speaking at the awards ceremony, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue (FF) commented, “As finalists you are joining a group of top class grassland farmers, and I would particularly like to congratulate Diarmaid Fitzgerald on winning the overall Grassland Farmer of the Year Award. It’s an achievement you can be really proud of. It is clear that initiatives such as Grass10 and the Grassland Farmer of the Year are to the fore in helping farmers achieve the most they can from the natural resource they have on their farm, which is grass. Good management of grass clover swards is essential in meeting the targets set down in the AgClimatise Strategy”.
Judges were impressed with how Diarmaid manages the grass and clover swards on his farm which is situated along the banks of the Shannon Estuary. The judging panel for the Grassland Farmer of the Year competition consisted of John Maher, Teagasc Grass10; Diarmuid Donnellan, AIB; John O’Loughlin, Grassland Agro; Aidan Brennan, Irish Farmers Journal; Pat Gilligan, FBD; and Liz Hyland DAFM.
One of these judges, Aidan Brennan of the Irish Farmers Journal outlined, “One thing that stood out for the judges this year was a notable shift in attitude towards developing clover on the farm and protecting the environment. This was seen as important as grass production itself and it probably reflects the changing attitude among farmers in general. The fact that the average grass growth among the finalists was 13.5 t DM/ha just shows that you can be very efficient while also being very sustainable”.