European grassland conference returns to Ireland after 30-year absence

The European Grassland Federation (EGF) conference is taking place in Cork this week, returning to Irish shores after a 30-year wait, with over 450 delegates from 31 countries attending.

This is the 27th meeting, and it represents the first time that the EGF conference has returned to Ireland since 1988.

The week-long international event was officially opened by Teagasc director Prof. Gerry Boyle yesterday evening (Sunday, June 17) when he spoke about the theme of the event, ‘Sustainable Meat and Milk Production from Grasslands’.

Teagasc is the main organiser of EGF 2018, which is taking place in the Rochestown Park Hotel, Cork.

L-R: Margie Egan, Teagasc Moorepark; Dr. Frank O’Mara, EGF president; Dr. Willy Kessler, Switzerland, secretary EGF; Prof. Gerry Boyle, Teagasc director; Dr. Deirdre Hennessy, Teagasc Moorepark; and Dr. Emer Kennedy, Teagasc Moorepark

This year’s conference has introduced new grassland research areas. The grazing working group and masterclass also visited Teagasc yesterday.

On Tuesday, delegates will visit Teagasc Moorepark for a mini open day in the morning; they will then have the choice of five farm and industry tours in the afternoon.

The chairman of the EGF organising committee – Dr. Michael O’Donovan of Teagasc – commented on these, saying: “The farm tours will allow the conference delegates to experience top-class grassland farms, grass and clover evaluation, and smart technologies on farms.”

Conference programme

The content of the conference programme has changed, with big data and smart technology now included as new sessions in the conference – as well as incorporating a workshop on knowledge transfer.

Prof. Frank O’ Mara, the current president of the EGF and director of research in Teagasc, has steered this change of focus.

There are more than 70 scientific papers on these topics, indicating their growing importance in the international grassland research community.

Teagasc has developed an offline app for android devices for Pasturebase Ireland (Ireland’s national grassland database).

Speaking at the conference, Prof. O’Mara said: “Developing the offline app is crucial to ensure farmers can access Pasturebase easily.

Many farmers don’t have full internet coverage throughout their farms, so this is a really important step forward for increasing on-farm grassland measurement.

“We expect to have the app available for iPhones in two weeks. At the moment, there are about 1,300 farmers measuring grass cover weekly on their farms and, through technologies such as PastureBase Ireland, we hope to significantly increase this number.”

The conference runs from Sunday, June 17, to Thursday, June 21.

A post-conference tour will visit the Teagasc Athenry Research Centre, the Newford suckler beef demonstration herd in Athenry, the Teagasc Grange Research Centre in Co. Meath, and will finish with a visit to Hillsborough research facility in Northern Ireland.