Environmental improvements provided payback straight away on Cork dairy farm
Glenn Forde farms 110ha outside Ballinadee, Co Cork, supplying milk to Bandon Co-op, part of the Carbery Group. He took over the farm in 2006, the same year that he married Pamela. His father, Maynard, is always there for back-up and advice, but Glenn does the day-to-day management now.
Under Glenn’s management, the farm has evolved from a mixed enterprise of dairying, beef and tillage, to a farm fully specialised in dairying with 230 cows.
Glenn talks about participating in the Bord Bia Sustainable Dairy Assurance Scheme (SDAS) and being a member of Origin Green as being very beneficial.
Dairy farmers who are certified members of the Bord Bia SDAS and who participate in a farm sustainability survey as part of their audit are members of Origin Green.
By participating in SDAS, Origin Green farmers can measure and benchmark their sustainability practices, helping them to identify efficiencies which they can improve on their own farm, which can also improve profitability.
Key improvement measures on dairy farms taking part in SDAS and the sustainability survey include increased Economic Breeding Index (EBI), longer grazing season, improved nitrogen use efficiency, improved slurry management and energy efficiency.
Glenn was a member of Carbery’s Greener Farmer initiative and was doing many of the things required by the SDAS audit.
“SDAS helps you track your progress. My third SDAS audit will be in January and I’ll be able to see the areas where I’m improving and where I’m not. I learned that everything we did from an environmental perspective provided huge financial benefits. There was a payback straight away,” says Glenn.
Glenn gives the example of SDAS informing a decision to spread slurry in spring.
“There’s no extra cost and we’re getting the most benefit from the nitrogen in the slurry by applying it then. We also keep detailed records of our fertiliser usage.”
He had five water meters fitted on the farm to monitor water usage.
“This makes you more aware of water usage and helps you identify leaks which can mount up costs,” said Glenn.
Glenn put in a rain water harvest system, collecting rain from the shed roofs. It supplies 60% to 65% of wash-down water.
A variable-speed vacuum pump was installed to reduce energy and Glenn replaced all lights with LED bulbs, which he says really helps to cut down on energy use and costs.
In terms of breeding, Glenn has been been following the EBI system.
“We have continued to fine-tune it to breed the right cows for a grass-based system,” says Glenn. “The SDAS audit is a trigger to remind me to do things like keeping my animal remedies up to date. It’s a great way of keeping yourself in check.”
Glenn is monitoring grass growth and quality and is in a trial with Moorepark.
“Our objective is to grow more grass and to get more out of it. Grass measuring and soil testing are two of the best ways you can improve farm profitability. We kept our cows outside for 304 days last year and we’ll be doing the same again this year. There’s huge cost savings in that.”
Glenn has hosted international customers ranging from Chinese to American on his farm.
“My impression was they heard that Ireland was green and cows were grazed outside – but they didn’t really believe it until they could see it. They walked out into our fields and they were surprised.’
Retail and foodservice customers, as well as food and drink manufacturers, are increasingly committed to sustainable sourcing – sourcing from suppliers with robust and recognised certification, such as Bord Bia’s SDAS.
Already, Origin Green verified members account for over 90% of Ireland’s total food and drink exports.
“We have a huge advantage in this country with our climate and our natural environment. We can produce a sustainable good-quality product and keep control of our costs,” says Glenn. “Programmes like Origin Green are vital to promote our image around the world.”
Glenn is also passionate about the environment for his young sons, twins Shea and Conor, aged five.
“I’ll be happy with whatever decision the boys take in life. But if they’re interested in farming, I’d recommend it. That’s why I’m conscious of the environment. Minding the good things we have ensures we have them for future generations.”
Find out more at www.bordbia.ie/farmers