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

    Tractor run and BBQ raises €12,000 for charity
    The FCI has raised a substantial sum of money for six charities from their annual tractor run and BBQ.

    Up to €12,000 was raised by the Association of Farm Contractors in Ireland (FCI) through its annual charity BBQ and auction held on 15 July in Co Meath.

    Contractor brothers Patrick, Peter and Michael Farrelly hosted the event, which also included the Mickey Farrelly Tractor Run in memory of their late father.

    To date, the FCI annual charity BBQ and auctions have raised over €115,000

    The event saw a strong attendance and was supported by a large number of food suppliers.

    “We are indebted to all of the generous food suppliers who supported us in staging the 2018 FCI charity BBQ. We also thank the contributions from the huge attendance, which have provided us with the opportunity to support so many worthwhile charities," said FCI general secretary Peter Farrelly.

    “To date, the FCI annual charity BBQ and auctions have raised over €115,000 for many local and national charities,” he said.

    The six charities that received money included:

  • Meath Palliative Care (€3,500)
  • Save our Sons & Daughters (SOSAD) (€2,000)
  • Support Organisation for Trisomy (SOFT) (€2,000)
  • Order of Malta, Kells (€1,000)
  • Order of Malta, Swords (€1,500)
  • Carnaross Community First Responders (€2,000)
  • Read more

    Drive to remember makes its final journey at Ploughing

    Listen: ‘Awful lot of extra stress on farmers’ – Embrace Farm

    TB compensation – concern over ‘subtle pressure’ on valuers
    The ICSA has stated that higher rates should be paid for higher-calibre cattle.

    Valuers who determine TB compensation rates should be given free rein to do their jobs without interruption from the Department of Agriculture, according to the ICSA.

    “When it comes to breeding stock, or animals with show potential, there has to be flexibility in the system to allow valuers to give an honest and true assessment of what an animal is worth.

    "In these cases, average price ranges from thousands of animals sold in marts each week is meaningless,” ICSA animal health and welfare chair Hugh Farrell said.

    Too much subtle pressure is being put on valuers

    Currently, a ceiling of €3,000 is applied for payments in respect of any individual bovine reactor animals.

    Exceptions are made for a €4,000 payment for one stock bull per breakdown or €5,000 for one pedigree stock bull.

    “[The] ICSA is concerned that too much subtle pressure is being put on valuers to avoid giving the real value of a high-calibre cow or heifer.

    While the farmer can appeal the valuation, so too can the Department

    “As it stands, the odds are stacked against a farmer who has TB reactors. While the farmer can appeal the valuation, so too can the Department.

    “Unless there is a strong body of evidence that a valuer is continuously getting it wrong, the Department should accept that, at times, there will be stock that are much more valuable than any paper exercise in average values.”

    Read more

    Wildlife causes 25% of TB breakdowns

    Badger TB vaccine under spotlight

    New beef group to be launched
    An 86-point plan to try to turn around the current issues within the beef industry is to be launched on Monday night.

    The Irish Farmers Journal understands a launch meeting will take place tonight in Co Meath of a newly formed group of beef farmers who have come together because of deep concerns over where the beef industry is going and the lack of profit for the primary producer.

    The Irish Farmers Journal has seen the launch document, which includes an 86-point plan to try to turn around the current issues within the beef industry.

    Number of phases

    The plan outlines a number of phases, which include several references to producer groups and outlines an aim to have “50% of the country’s beef cattle sold through producer groups in the next three years”.

    Under phase one, the group proposes to hand in a number of demands to factories and give them time to respond.

    If the response isn’t adequate, the group proposes “not to send any cattle to a factory under a set price” and “not to send cattle to a particular factory at short notice”.

    Bonus

    The group has also proposed a suckler-bred bonus to reflect the higher costs of suckler beef production.

    The Irish Farmers Journal understands that over 1,000 farmers have engaged with the group so far and the target for the group is to grow participant numbers very fast to add further strength to its calls to action.

    Read more

    Farmer writes: the lunacy of suckler farming

    Suckler cow sector at a critical juncture