Pig farmer is FBD's Young Farmer of the Year 2015
Jonathan Marry, a pig farmer from Tullyallen Macra in Co Louth, won the FBD Young Farmer of the Year title 2015 on 1 August 2015 at a banquet in Ballina, Co Mayo. Odile Evans reports.

This is the 17th year of the awards, run by Macra na Feirme in partnership with the IFA.

In an exclusive interview with the Irish Farmers Journal after the announcement, Jonathan revealed that he was “pretty ecstatic". "I wasn’t expecting to win it at all,” he said.

Jonathan Marry farms at Little Grange, Drogheda, Co Louth. He has 540 sows and sends 230 pigs to slaughter each week. He also sells over 50 weaners each week and has three full-time staff. The 27-year-old farmer has been farming full-time since the beginning of 2009.

The farm is fully compliant with Bord Bia and is EPA licensed. The staff have a 40-hour week and work every second weekend.

“Teagasc do our figures quarterly,” said Jonathan, “and our figures come in the top 25% in the country. We buy all of our feed compound and breed all of our own replacements.”

“Prices are particularly poor at the moment,” said Jonathan. “We are nearly 40c worse off than this time last year. It’s simply not sustainable to stay at this level going forward. I don’t see it going up in near future, but I’m living in hope.”

Over the next 10 years, the biggest challenges facing the farm are “bio security and keeping up to speed with the top genetics to optimise the farm production as margins are getting significantly tighter.”

Jonathan is running a new breeding program this year and works closely with his genetics company to maximise pigs sold per sow per year. All sows are served by AI and his target is to serve 28 sows per week.

Farm safety is of the utmost importance to the young farmer.

“It’s important to always be vigilant to decrease farm accidents and be conscious of safety on the farm and the person coming after you,” said Jonathan. “Every day I’m dealing with augers, pumps and slurry tanks.”

He has managed to secure funding to expand infrastructure on the farm and plans to make the yard fully self-sufficient over the coming years. To do this, he will build 800 extra fattening places and mill feed at home of the farm.

Jonathan is a member of EPP (European Pig Producers) which will be hosted in Dublin in 2016. He also takes part in a pig discussion group which meets once a month to share and improve information.

Other interests

Outside of farming, Jonathan has been a member of Macra for nearly 10 years. He goes fishing and hunts locally, rearing 300 of his own ducks every year.

“I am a member of the local gun club and hunting is my favourite pastime. I also participate in an annual 80k charity cycle to raise awareness of suicide.”

Four years ago, he bought a single pig roasting machine as a small venture. With six machines today, the Pig Spit and BBQ Company travels nationwide doing an average of four pigs a weekend.

This year, for the first time, a representative from each enterprise sector could go through from every county. Some 39 young farmers went through to the semi-finals. From these representatives, six finalists were chosen on the day to go through to the final round of interviews with the judges.

Aaron Forde, director and chairman of Ornua, and chief executive officer of Aurivo Co-operative Society Limited, led the team of seven judges to determine Ireland's top young farmer. Speaking at the event, Mr Forde said that the decision was “by no means easy and it was very difficult to separate each of the contestants”.

The candidates were judged according to a number of criteria, including farm business initiative and innovation, levels of farm efficiency and enterprise quality, farm safety and environmental protection awareness, as well as agricultural knowledge and community involvement.

The judging panel included Dr Vanessa Woods of Agri Aware; Willie Fahey, former CEO of IFAC Accountants; Prof. Gerry Boyle, director of Teagasc; Peter Young, Irish Farmers Journal; Joe Healy, former Macra president; and Dr Tommy Boland of UCD.

The other five finalists were:

  • Dairy: John Tully, Co Galway
  • Beef: Thomas O’Connor, Co Kildare
  • Tillage: Garry Kinsella, Co Wicklow
  • Sheep: Graham Grothier, Co Carlow
  • Wildcard: PJ O’Keeffe, Co Kilkenny
  • Listen to Odile's interview with Jonathan Marry below

    The farmer's daily wrap: Castleblayney, chlorothalonil and Brexit
    Here is your news round-up of the five top farming stories and weather outlook for 23 March 2019.

    Weather forecast

    Saturday is forecast to be generally dry and bright, with good spells of sunshine through the day and just a few showers across Ulster.

    Met Éireann has said that it will be a fairly cool day though, with highs of 7 to 9 degrees in light to moderate westerly breezes.

    In the news

  • Farmers left unpaid by the liquidation of EP Nugent Ltd, the company operating Castleblayney Mart, have decided to take legal action.
  • The discontinuation of chlorothalonil is a hammer blow to Irish tillage farmers, Irish Grain Growers Group chair Bobby Miller has said.
  • There would be a 9.2% fall in primary and manufacturing employment in Monaghan if WTO tariffs were applied in a no-deal Brexit scenario.
  • There is a mixed bag of weather for the weekend ahead, but it will be mostly cool and dry on Saturday and Sunday.
  • Independent TD Denis Naughten has said that it is time for action on beef grading machines in meat factories.
  • Coming up this Saturday

  • Balla Mart report.
  • Good week/bad week.
  • Stories from the 2018 Irish Farmers Journal Agricultural Land Price Report.
    Pig prices are below the cost of production – IFA pig chair
    IFA pig chair Tom Hogan has said that price increases from the pig factories are not coming quick enough.

    The pig price is around €1.40c/kg to €1.46c/kg since it increased two weeks ago, but for most pig farmers, the increase in price is not coming quick enough, IFA pig chair Tom Hogan has said.

    He told the Irish Farmers Journal on Friday evening that the current prices are below the cost of production.

    “With feed costs at the moment, we would want to be getting €1.60c/kg. Feed costs haven’t come down as they usually do. The compounders should be pulling back on price.

    Another price rise

    “We got a price rise two weeks ago and the indications are that we could get another price wise, maybe as early as next week.

    “There is a positive outlook going forward, but for most people these increases are not coming quick enough,” he said.

    The IFA has said that there has been a slight decrease in the weekly pig kill and increased demand, which is helping to put more competition into the market place.

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    Watch: new Agri Aware campaign to air in cinemas and on TV
    The ‘Many Hats, One CAP’ advert is set to air on television and in cinemas in the coming weeks, with the campaign highlighting how important investment in agriculture is to the wider Irish economy.

    This week, Agri Aware launched its new 'Many Hats, One CAP' TV and cinema advert.

    Produced by Traction Marketing, the advert is part of a wider campaign which aims to promote and showcase how the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) affects everyday life in Ireland, whether that is subsidies paid to a farmer directly or the countless indirect knock-ons that keep rural Ireland alive.

    The launch took place at Movies Dundrum, Dublin, on Thursday evening, where both the full and short versions of the advert where premiered for the first time on screen.

    Rural landscape

    The ad itself follows a day in the life of a number of characters who make up the rural landscape in Ireland.

    From clips of rural entrepreneur and chef Edward Hayden cooking up a storm in his Graiguenamanagh cookery school, to farmer Kevin Moran up before dawn in Galway to milk his dairy herd, it gives viewers a glimpse into the role the agri-food industry plays.

    Agriculture is a huge economic multiplier, which keeps rural Ireland alive

    At the premiere, there was a panel of guest speakers which included Agri Aware chair Alan Jagoe and three of the stars in the ad; Hayden, Moran and Teagasc researcher Dr Dayle Johnston.

    Hosted by Marty Morrissey, the panel reiterated the point that agriculture is a huge economic multiplier, which keeps rural Ireland alive, and the CAP is central to that.

    Alan Jagoe spoke of the huge work, time and spend going behind the campaign.

    “It costs money to put it out there, but consumers and society need to know where their money is going and who they are supporting.

    "There needs to be an understanding and respect for the production costs and efforts that go into food production,” he stressed.

    2016 FBD young farmer of the year Kevin Moran made the point that CAP itself “is not just one thing – a subsidy for a farmer - it is much more than that; it’s an investment in food security, an investment in rural economies and this investment is invaluable to rural Ireland”.

    'Many Hats, One CAP' is a 12-month public information campaign that will go live across TV, radio, cinema, social media and print over the coming weeks.

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    Agri Aware, the CAP and Micheál

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