THE 59th Annual Conference of the Ulster Grassland Society took place recently when delegates gathered at Mallusk to hear a number of presentations focused on labour issues for family farms across the world from Joe Rowe, Farm Solutions Ltd, and Nuffield Scholar Trevor Alcorn from Omagh.
Other speakers included Dr Dave Davies, Silage Solutions Ltd, who presented a useful paper on silage production and he was followed by Paul Turley from Downpatrick who focused on optimising returns from the market place for his Aberdeen Angus suckler herd.
The society’s Annual General Meeting took place prior to the conference with John Milligan installed as UGS President for 2018/19. Mr Milligan is a beef and sheep farmer from Castlewellan and has featured regularly in society competitions over recent years. The new President-Elect is Jim Freeburn from CAFRE.
Newly elected Committee mem-bers were Gill Gallagher, Hugh Harbison, Gary McCooey and Norman Weatherup with George Reid and Charlie Kilpatrick re-elected as Secretary and Treasurer respectively.
An important feature of the Annual Conference is the presentation of awards in the society’s Grassland Farmer of the Year competition, which was again generously sponsored by Danske Bank. Competition was high and included entries from all counties in Northern Ireland with first round judging undertaken by UGS Past Presidents James Morrison and John Henning.
The final round judging then saw the finalists visited by the 2016 winner Reggie Lilburn from Dromore and Competition Secretary Steven Morrison.
The winners in the Grassland Farmer of the Year competition were as follows:
Overall Winner – Grassland Farmer of the Year 2017 John Egerton, Rosslea, County Fermanagh
Runners Up: Grazing Cup – Leslie Beggs, Omagh; Silage Cup – Harold Johnston & Sons, Ahoghill
Innovative system and passion for grass-based beef production – Paul Turley, Downpatrick
Young Beef & Sheep Farmer – Philip Truesdale, Ballyward
Young Dairy Farmer – John Picken, Hillsborough
British Grassland Society Regional Cup – Beattie & Reggie Lilburn, Dromore
The judges complemented all of the winners on their dedication to grassland farming and ability to maximise production from grass. Each of the finalists were focused on attention to detail and ensuring their farm was performing to it’s optimum despite the vagaries of the weather and local conditions.
Commenting specifically on the winning Egerton farm they said: “Monitor to manage is a key feature on the farm with sward, field, livestock and financial performance carefully monitored to enable the best decisions to be made. Through this approach existing management practices have been challenged and refined enabling higher levels of livestock output from grass.”
All of the judges were highly impressed with John’s knowledge and enthusiasm for grass based beef and sheep production.
The various awards in the competition were handed over by members of Danske Bank’s Agribusiness team in attendance including Robert McCullough, Head of Agribusiness, and Rodney Brown, Deputy Head of Agribusiness.
New Society President John Milligan thanked the speakers, delegates, competitors and spon-sor for their contribution to another successful conference and encouraged members and grassland enthusiasts to support future UGS events and further knowledge exchange by maximising production from grass.