Six NI farmers have been made Farming for Nature ambassadors by the UK Nature Friendly Farming Network (NFFN), a membership organisation which seeks to tackle issues around biodiversity loss and carbon emissions within agriculture.

The NI group complement the 81 farmers in the Republic of Ireland who have received a similar accolade.

The NI ambassadors are:

  • Ruth and Scott Walker, Tannybrake Farm, Kells, Co Antrim
  • David McBride, Glenwherry, Co Antrim
  • Edward Ellison, Templepatrick, Co Antrim
  • Dale Orr, Strangford, Co Down
  • Jonny Blair, Ballykelly, Co Derry
  • Clare and Gabriel Kelly, Trillick, Co Tyrone.
  • The farms involved all have beef and/or sheep, except for Ruth and Scott Walker who also run a small dairy herd, milking 20 Shorthorn cows. A number also farm substantial areas of land well above the NI average.

    All are working on predominantly grass-based systems and put a lot of focus on managing soil health. A series of videos on each farm is available on the NFFN YouTube channel.

    Panel discussion

    During a panel discussion at the awards event last Thursday, a number of the farmers pointed out that with limited amounts of artificial fertiliser and concentrates being bought, they were much less exposed to recent hikes in costs than other farmers.

    “There is no risk to it. There are no worries with it. Too many farmers are not willing to try something different,” suggested Jonny Blair who farms sucklers in a low input system across 300 acres in Co Derry.

    As well as purchasing no fertiliser, Co Down organic beef and sheep farmer Dale Orr grows all his own feed.

    “We have been organic since 1998. In recent years when costs went up, having minimal inputs has been an advantage,” said Dale.

    He believes that operating low input systems “is the only way forward for a drystock farmer in the years ahead.”

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