BRITISH DAIRY GOLD CUP

TYRONE FARMERS IN FINAL FOR BRITISH DAIRY GOLD CUP

 Michael Fisher  Northern Standard Thursday 9th June 2016 p.9

Two Tyrone farmers will be in contention for the prestigious Gold Cup at this year’s British Dairy Farmers Livestock Event in Birmingham. It’s the premier UK national dairy herds competition, recognising efficiency in commercial milk production. Entry to the event on July 6th and 7th at the National Exhibition Centre outside Birmingham is free for all visitors.

David Irwin and his father Alan run a herd of 170 redhouse Holsteins at their farm near Benburb. The farm is located near the River Blackwater in the townland of Derrycreevy. The other family members involved in the enterprise are William Irwin, Ida, Sylvia, and Jayne.

Their land comprises approximately 240 acres of grassland and cereals. A lot of it is too steep or too wet for cutting silage or growing cereals. Most of the land is heavy soil over red clay.

Approximately 120 acres of silage is made in each of three cuts to supply the stock with forage all year round. Fifty acres of spring barley is grown each year to supply whole grain cereals and straw for feeding to stock.

The farm was initially a mixed dairy, beef and arable farm. The cows were lost to brucellosis in 1974. The present herd started in 1979 with bought in heifer calves in 1977. No stock has been purchased since 1979. The dairy herd was increased and beef gradually phased out, until the present day herd of cows and replacements.

The cows are milked three times a day and the milk is sold to Fane Valley Co-op. All the work is carried out on the farm by the Irwin family and two full-time employees. The work undertaken includes all silage making, slurry spreading and cereal making.

The second Tyrone farmer to compete in the Gold Cup final is Adrian McFarland from Omagh. The two Northern Ireland entrants will be up against two competitors from Scotland, one from Wales and one from England.

The annual event is organised by the Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers and attracts more than 400 exhibitors covering thirteen unique product zones. Exhibitors are on hand during the two-day event to demonstrate all-new equipment, products and services to over 17,000 UK and International livestock farmers.

The Gold Cup is the top award in British dairy farming and is open to all dairy herds with official milk records and meeting the criteria of at least 100 cows in the herd,  an annual average cell count of 200,000/ml or less and a £PLI value which is breed specific. Entrants complete a detailed questionnaire giving herd performance data, including production, feed, health and fertility information.

Finalists are selected and visited by the team of judges, and each finalist is judged on factors such as physical and management performance, environmental schemes and their future plans for the dairy business. The winner will be announced and presented with the Gold Cup at the Livestock Event.

The main focus of the event is to share information, ideas and practical advice to help farm businesses survive the next eighteen months. The RABDF Chief Executive Nick Everington told journalists in Belfast: “Times are tough. We are conscious that falling incomes in the livestock sector are continuing to have a severe impact, particularly in dairying. Consequently as a charity representing farmers, the Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers is attempting to support the future of farming businesses, where it can.”

“That’s why we have organised this year’s focus at the Livestock Event to be all about helping farmers drive resilience into their businesses. What’s more we have agreed to offer free entry to all visitors; they will have an opportunity to think outside the box and collect a day’s worth of ideas, information and advice to take home from under one roof, and all without charge.”

“Whilst the event has attracted over 350 trade stands, including some companies from Ireland, we are also proud to launch several new technical features, demonstrations and presentations and to have redeveloped new ones. Visitors will be able to find out about relevant products and concepts that will save money and keep on track, and investigate the latest new products and innovation – future investment, staying ahead of the game. We’re expecting over 100 new products to be available, including more than thirty to be launched at the event.”

British Agriculture Minister George Eustice MP will officially open the event on the first day, and will be responding to visitors’ queries on the outcome of the Brexit referendum and its implications for the industry’s future. The Association itself has adopted a neutral stand on the issue.

Mr Everington adds: “We are looking forward to welcoming farmers, stockmen, students, vets, consultants and suppliers, arriving with an open mind and being prepared to embrace change. The future is in their hands.” To pre-register for a free ticket see www.livestockevent.co.uk.

Flights from Belfast and Dublin to Birmingham arrive at the international airport, which is within walking distance of the National Exhibition Centre. TravelSolutions of Belfast (tel. 048-90455030) can provide a booking service for individuals or groups.

Among the key features of this year’s event are:

Forage Field: designed to help all livestock farmers learn more about how to exploit the massive potential of home grown forage, in particular grass, the most cost efficient feed. Forage Field is a hands on practical area that will be split in to two; making more from grass and forage options, and saving silage costs by reducing dry matter losses and improving clamp consolidation.

Calf rearing demonstrations: showcasing a variety of feeding and housing systems including live calves in igloos, conventional and specialist buildings, all of which are designed to improve rearing efficiency of both dairy and beef calves. The feature will be complemented by a series of knowledge sharing seminars delivered by leading youngstock specialists discussing the latest in nutrition and management.

Machinery Demonstration Arena: a new working demonstration featuring mixer wagons, loaders, bedders and straw choppers – essential kit for most intensive dairy and beef farms. Visitors will be able to observe and compare models and weigh up the cost saving opportunities as they are put through their paces.

Foot trimming / Healthy Feet: return of one of the most popular demonstrations. Foot trimming will feature the Dutch Five Step method using both a knife and grinder repeated four times each day, and supported with independent commentary and additional information on locomotion. Healthy Feet is a practical workshop, supported by AHDB, designed to help farmers understand more clearly what causes lameness, its impact and how to reduce incidences. Each session will focus on how to recognise lameness in the early stages, followed by prompt and effective treatment.

Livestock Learning: a new conference theatre designed to offer all dairy, beef and sheep farmers practical advice delivered by specialists and covering a comprehensive range of topics from health to grassland livestock systems. There will also be an opportunity to ‘ask the farmer’, with some of the UK’s award winning farmers taking to the platform.

RABDF Presentations Forum: an opportunity for livestock farmers to glean useful information on a wide range of subjects affecting their businesses including; Decisions4Dairy, tools for survival, how to sell milk at £2 per litre (a niche market for unpasteurised milk), controlling Johne’s and dealing with farm safety issues. It’s estimated that 60% of British dairy farmers do not know the rolling costs of their milk production.

 Beef Arena: another new feature focused on measuring and monitoring to help all rearers and finishers improve their management systems. The arena will feature live EID demonstrations of leading equipment; livestock specialist Miriam Parker will talk through handling systems whilst the central area will be dedicated to weigh crates, cells and accompanying software.

Livestock showing: dairy, beef and sheep will all feature in the show ring: six different breeds within the National Dairy Show including Ayrshire, Brown Swiss and British Friesian cattle societies each staging their national shows, along with British Charolais Cattle Society, the South Devon Herd Book Society will be holdings its second performance championship. The Lleyn Sheep Society will be highlighting what this commercial sheep breed has to offer. 

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