Is this ‘Operation Transformation’ for our beef sector?

By Siobhan Walsh

Macra na Feirme launched the Young Beef Farmer Sustainability Programme (YBFSP) in association with Dawn Meats on Wednesday morning at the ‘Ploughing’.

15 Macra members from across the country will take part in a training programme with Dawn meats over the next 12 months. The programme is aimed at making beef farming more sustainable in this country and is part of the Macra na Feirme Skillnet.

Paul Nolan of Dawn Meats explained that he was excited to launch the programme and to be working with the young farmers. He said that he enjoyed the interview process, in which the participants were whittled down to just 15. He described the young farmers as a “national treasure”.


The Dawn Meats group development manager described some of the events that the final 15 would attend. Getting straight down to business, they will start on Monday next with a ‘Live to Dead’ factory tour in the morning and a communications session in the afternoon with Newstalk.

Later in the programme there will be a farm visit to Dawn Meats’ farm in Athenry, the Teagasc ‘BETTER Farms’ and Bord Bia’s ‘Thinking House’.

Nolan said that this programme is the ‘Operation Transformation’ of the Irish beef industry and these young farmers are the leaders.

This was emphasised by Macra na Feirme President James Healy, who said: “As young farmers we have to lead.”

Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed was on hand to launch the programme and congratulated everyone involved in the initiative.

He said: “As an industry we need to embrace all of the latest technologies and innovations. Farmers need to ensure they are as profitable as they can be.”

Minister Creed said that the letter ‘S’ in the YBFSP programme was key. “The sustainability issue is really coming into focus. And we have an actual advantage; we can grow grass. Our climate is the best in the world to grow grass and produce milk or beef.”


The participants are from all corners of the country. Thomas O’Connor from Kildare said that it is important that, as young farmers, “we are all positive about beef production and that beef production will be sustainable going forward”.

He added: “Young farmers should be the people driving grass measurement and beef genomics. We should be the ones adopting the technology.”

Margaret Stanley, a primary teacher from Tipperary, has started to job-share in her day job – to improve the sustainability of her farm.

I felt that I had to take the step. The basic farm payment is what is probably seeing a lot of beef farmers through. After 2020 we might not have that basic farm payment. So, if in 2020 these payments collapse, I want to be in a good position.

Also joining the launch was Irish rugby captain, Rory Best, who comes from a tillage and beef enterprise where his father and eldest brother farm. He is hoping for good weather in order to finish the harvest and to move on to drilling winter crops at home. MC for the event Damien O’Reilly asked if Rory would like to farm when he retires (from rugby).

It’s something that I’d love to do. Ultimately it’s about the bottom line and, when I retire, whether or not the farm can sustain three incomes.