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

    This week in photos: Carrigaline Macra Conference
    Our top farming photos from the last week include Balymahon Mart and milking in Co Cork.

    Bobby and Paul Young in Co Laois

    Bobby Young and his son Paul rounding up ewes on their farm at the Heath, Portlaoise, Co Laois, before dosing. The ewes are being given Heptavac P Plus and will be housed in early December, before lambing begins in early January. \ Philip Doyle

    Ballymahon Mart in Co Longford

    Tom McCormack working at Ballymahon Mart. \ Philip Doyle

    Mart worker Tom Price at Ballymahon Mart. \ Philip Doyle

    John Bourke in Co Cork

    John Bourke training some young calves to the automatic feeder on his farm at Ballyroberts, Castlelyons, Co Cork. John and his wife Mary milk 150 pedigree Holstein cows, with 25% calving in the autumn. Calving has nearly finished and the milk is supplied to Glanbia under the co-op’s winter milk scheme. Cows are still out by day, but are in by night on silage and maize. The fresh cows are on 8kg of meal, with the rest of the herd on 4kg. At present, the whole herd is producing 2.2kg of milk solids. \ Donal O’Leary

    Padraic Niland in Co Galway

    Padraic Niland, a sheep breeder from Chessy, Ardrahan, Co Galway, feeding his Texel ewes ahead of a forthcoming sale. \ David Ruffles

    Carrigaline Macra na Feirme conference in Cork

    Gerry Murphy of Met Éireann speaking at the Carrigaline Macra conference in Cork. \ Donal O’Leary

    James Browne from Ballygarvan, Cathal Cashman from Glanmire and Seamus Reid from Glanmire. \ Donal O'Leary

    Teddy Cashman from Whitescross, Katherine Lynch of AIB Patrick Street and Jimmy Hosford from Minnane Bridge. \ Donal O'Leary

    Mark Geaney from Carrignavar, James Linehan from Whitechurch, Finbarr Hegarty from Carrignavar and William McAuliffe from Whitechurch. \ Donal O'Leary

    Hickey family farm in Co Limerick

    Jim Hickey along with his grandson John and dog Molly bring the cows in for milking at Inch-St-Laurence, Caherconlish, Co Limerick. Jim and his wife Betty farm alongside their son Michael running 160 cows. The herd is in by night and, weather permitting, they will stay out by day until the end of the month. Twenty percent of the herd are dried off and Michael plans to finish milking in early December, with calving due to begin in late January. \ Donal O’Leary

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    What is the most overlooked source of infection on all our farms?
    2017 Nuffield scholar and dairy farmer Eamon Sheehan has identified a key source of infection on all farms.

    An overlooked source of infection on all farms is water, Eamon Sheehan told the Nuffield Ireland conference in Castleknock on Friday.

    “Water troughs grow a biofilm that harbour bad bacteria, putting constant stress on the animals,” he said.

    Sheehan also showed the conference a picture of two dead birds he pulled out of a water trough on his farm and asked, “would you drink out of that?”

    He treats his water with PIP Water Plus, introducing good bacteria to clear the bad bacteria.

    His report is called Microbial management and its importance in the dairy and beef industry.

    Antibiotics

    The availability of antibiotics since the 1950s on farms has led to misuse and suggests that a lot of their prophylactic use is more of a crutch than a necessity.

    To help agriculture meet the antimicrobial resistance challenge, he recommends:

  • That the government removes the 23% VAT rate on vaccines.
  • More milk recording should be carried out by farmers and the government could incentivise this or co-ops could have a bonus scheme for low SCC.
  • Milk culturing.
  • Reducing antibiotic use through better husbandry.
  • Selective dry cow therapy.
  • “Blanket dry cow treatment is illegal in most EU countries,” Sheehan said.

    “Less than 35% of dairy farms in Ireland milk-record, which is comparable to the Dutch in the 1950s. You need to be recording to do selective dry cow therapy because if it’s not done right it won’t work. It needs to be clinical.”

    Reduced SCC

    By milk recording and using selective dry cow therapy over the last three years, Sheehan has reduced the SCC on his farm.

    “The return to a pre-antibiotic era is the greatest threat to agriculture and would have devastating effects for us as an industry. We can show example through leadership in our industry by developing strategies for our own farms and getting involved in current strategies already put in place by industry.”

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    Nuffield conference: 'There is no threat larger than farmers themselves'

    Varadkar pledges income tax cuts and more forestry on farms
    An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has addressed tax equality and the role of agriculture in climate change in a speech as Fine Gael party leader.

    An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has promised to achieve tax equality between self-employed and PAYE workers and singled out on-farm forestry and the modernisation of Bord na Móna as priorities to tackle climate change.

    Speaking at the Fine Gael Árd Fheis in Dublin this Saturday, Taoiseach Varadkar mentioned existing tax and pension measures in favour of farmers and other self-employed workers, but added: "We're not done yet."

    Drawing from the experience of Fine Gael members surrounding him on stage, he first addressed the "hopes and fears for the future" of Kevin, a farmer from Co Leitrim.

    Full equality

    "Now we want there to be full equality for the self-employed and businesspeople when it comes to income tax," he said. "There’s no reason why someone who is self-employed should pay more income tax than those of use who are PAYE."

    The 2016 programme for government committed to increasing the earned income tax credit to €1,650 for the self-employed by 2018, but the recent Budget 2019 fell short of that, at €1,350.

    As he seeks to extend the confidence and supply agreement with Fianna Fáil, An Taoiseach pledged to close the gap if Fine Gael stayed in government.

    He also promised to increase the point at which people pay the top rate of tax to €50,000 for a single person, up from €35,300 in Budget 2019, in the interest of "fairness" for those earning average incomes.

    Transform some of our farms from carbon emitters into carbon sinks that produce timber

    Taoiseach Varadkar said Ireland had to move from "laggard to leader" on climate change. "We must and we will meet our 2030 targets for carbon emissions and renewable energy and we’ll do this by transforming Bord na Móna into a green semi-state generating renewable energy and managing waste rather than generating carbon," he said.

    Another key environmental measure will entail "investing in forestry to transform some of our farms from carbon emitters into carbon sinks that produce timber products which in turn help us to reduce plastics," he added.

    Brexit

    On Brexit, he supported the draft withdrawal agreement negotiated between the EU and the UK. "Let’s seal the deal and let’s get on to the next phase, which is managing the transition period and negotiating a new deep and close relationship with the UK," he said.

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