Today, the winner of the Macra na Feirme, FBD Young Farmer of the Year will be announced in Cork.

Some 28 finalists from around country will be representing their clubs in Bantry in the hope of winning the top prize of €3,000. The aim of the competition is to recognise and reward the top young farmers in the country. Entrants are 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 top six will be announced today at lunchtime, but here we outline the final 28 entrants.

Andy Corcoran: Carlow

Andy is a 25 year old who milks 35 cows in St Mullins Co. Carlow. He has plans to increase these numbers to compete with the larger producers. While a large drop in milk price would upset his plans, Andy feels he has set realistic plans which will enable him to increase to 60 cows by 2016. To achieve this he plans to improve grassland management to get more from his land and to put work in on existing farm infrastructure around the yard. Outside of farming, Andy plays hurling in the local St Mullins club and plays his role in the local Macra club.

Thomas Duffy: Cavan

Thomas is a 22 year old dairy farmer from Virginia, Co. Cavan. He is currently studying for his masters in Environment Resource Management so he has to juggle studying with farm work alongside his parents. They are moving away from milking over winter to being an entirely spring calving dairy herd. Growing as much grass as possible and utilizing that fully is a big part of this. He has mainly pedigree Holstein cows (Virginia Herd) with an focus on EBI, in particular high health traits. Recently he began using other breeds, Norwegian reds and Danish jerseys, on a small percentage of his herd to increase health further. Thomas is a very active member of Ramor Macra and is part of the current national Agri Affairs council.

Michael Carey: Clare

Michael is a 32 year old farmer from Bridgetown Co. Clare. He farms 50 sucklers and a herd of sheep. The recent meat recession has hit him hard making this a difficult year for him. He has plans to build a new slatted shed in the near future but the current meat prices are all that is affecting the short term farming plan. Michael has at numerous different positions within Macra having spent two years on the National Council and is still involved in Clare’s county Macra. He is also a member of the IFA which he intends to become more involved in order to fight for against meat prices.

Donal O’Connell: Avondhu (Cork)

Donal, 33, is working in a milk production partnership with his father in Mallow, Co. Cork. They are milking 160 cows. The cows are crossbred Holstein and Jersey cows. Donal is in early level discussions with one of his neighbours to enter a share farming option through the Land Mobility Service. If this goes through he will have the potential to double his herd and milk over 300 cows. Donal is a member of two discussion groups and is very interested in rugby having travelled to New Zealand for the Rugby World Cup. He has travelled extensively in order to see different methods of dairy farming all around the world.

William Morris: Carbery (Cork)

William is a 31 year old dairy farmer from Ballydehob, Co. Cork.  He milks 86 cows produced on spring grass and keeps all replacements on his land. The aim for the next 5 years is to increase his herd by 40% and increase cow fertility to produce more milk on an individual cow production system. He has all his plans clearly marked out with figures to show how realistic they are. He gathers information from his farm discussion group and by taking part in further agricultural training. William understands the need to get away from the farm in order to fuel the passion required to achieve such expansion. He goes cycling, hiking and surfing to do this.

Kevin Deasy: Muskerry (Cork)

Kevin is a 22 year old dairy farmer just two years finished from Clonakilty Agricultural College. He runs a spring dairy herd of 160 cows with his father, selling all calves except replacements. The price and availability of land are crucial to how he plans to proceed with buying land and expanding his enterprise. He has a great love for GAA, playing football and hurling, as well as having a coaching degree that enables him in training the youths in the club. He is involved in is Tidy Towns committee along with being a member of Macra.

Andrew Ferguson: Seandun (Cork)

Andrew, 22, is a dairy and sheep farmer from Whitecross in Cork. While his home farm is relatively small in numbers, he also works on his uncle’s dairy farm. On top of this he works on a poultry farm so he has a range of different experience. The plan is to broaden this experience by travelling the world to see different types of farming before returning home and increasing the dairy side of the farm. Andrew spent a year in Scotland getting their equivalent of the Green Cert. He is involved a lot in Macra and spends a lot of weekends travelling to sheep and cattle shows.

John McKnight: Donegal

John is a 30 year old goat dairy farmer from Letterkenny. While he does also milk cows, most of his milk comes from his 350 goats. He runs the farm and also runs a small agri contracting business. He has hopes to grow his goat herd if land becomes available to do so. There is a separate market to expand goats milk which has added benefits when compared to cow’s milk. The possibility is there to grow his contracting business also. John is a member of Donegal’s Macra club Proper Job.

Eamonn Burke: Galway

Eamonn runs a mixed farm consisting of beef and tillage in Corrandulla, in Co. Galway. He is 34 years old. His land is split fairly evenly between grass and tillage with his main crops being spring cereals and fodder beet. His ambitious plan, put in place in 2012, is to get land on a long term lease to increase the land size and play his part in Food Harvest 2020. He faces many changes to succeed like experienced staff, price of water and diesel, loss of certain chemicals among others. Finally Eamonn is involved in Macra, the IFA, Galway Ploughing Association and in his local horse and Agricultural show that he provides the land for.

Kieran Counihan: Kerry

Kieran is 28 year old dairy farmer milking 80 cows in Tralee. Kieran is milking all year round on liquid quota. With all the talk of expansion in the dairy industry, Kieran plans on making his herd more efficient to increase production. With his land being fragmented, he feels that with more work in grassland management he can produce more milk which in turn might lead to expansion. Kieran is a keen GAA man and being from Kerry he has a football focused mind.

Nyall Glynn: Kildare

Nyall, 23, is a qualified fitter/welder who works on a dairy and beef farm. All stock is kept on the farm with 90 cows being milked and all bullocks are kept also. Currently the farm is half owned and halved leased. His plan is to focus more on the dairy enterprise which would require building a new cubicle shed in order to winter them. Land beside the home block of land would also be required to achieve this. Nyall plays hurling with St Laurence’s, his local club, and is a strong member of IFA.

Bryan Byrne: Kilkenny

Bryan is a 22 year old beef farmer from Crettyard in Laois but a member of Kilkenny IFA. He rears 80 suckler cows selling weanling and heifers on after 18 months. He plans to pay more attention to detail across all sectors to produce meat for less. He is particularly interested in increasing live weight gain per day by better breeding in the herd, along with minimising mortalities. Bryan recognises the current problems with unstable and grain beef prices but he remains positive that things will take an upwards swing again after this low period where sustainable beef enterprises can be profitable with CAP being a major factor in this.

Michael Malone: Laois

Michael is the most recent member of Macra joining to enter this competition. He is a 28 year old dairy and beef farmer from Abbeyleix in Laois. He milks 70 cows and over the next 7 years aims to almost double in figures, which may mean not keeping all calves as he does now. He also runs a contracting business which causes its own problems in trying to get good labour to work for him each year. He feels there is room to expand the business further.

Philip Keville: Leitrim

Philip is 30 year old part-time beef farmer who owns pedigree Angus and Simmental Bulls. Coming from the lovely Leitrim he spent the last couple of years shoring and reseeding fields. He found huge benefit in doing this and plans to do more reseeding in the next years. Being a part-time farmer the biggest challenge is to stay at it, to ensure the incentive is there by continuously turning a profit from the land. Philip is a member of Macra, the IFA and also takes part in discussion groups.

Padraig O’Connor: Limerick

Padraig is a 32 year old dairy farmer from Abbeyfeale, Co. Limerick. He is milking 100 cows with 70 heifers coming through and the focus is 100% dairy. He plans to take over the farm in the coming few years and is currently working on his strategic plan for the future post-quota. The major factors affecting how he plans to run the farm are milk prices and sourcing of good quality labour during busy times of the year.

Paul Brady: Longford

Paul, 27, from Aughnacliffe in Longford is planning to become a dairy farmer. He recently finished a level 6 dairy herd management course. He has land that is to be used for contract rearing of heifers. Since Paul is trying to get in to dairying there is a big investment needed and over the coming years he needs tight financial management to make his farming plan viable along with good milk prices to continue for the most part. Paul is a member of South Leitrim Macra, the IFA, plays football and does his part with the local agricultural show.

Aidan Ruddy: Louth

Aidan is the youngest of the farmers entered in the competition. At 20 years of age he has already completed his course in Ballyhaise to get the Green Cert. He is a tillage and sheep farmer in Dundalk, Co. Louth. Aidan’s first love is the sheep so the plan is to increase his number of ewes and decrease mortality rates.  His concern for the future is the price for lambs which has to improve to make sheep sustainable for farmers. Aidan as well as being involved in Macra does work within the Lourdes Community.

Sean O’Donnell: Mayo

Sean is a dairy farmer from Ballina, Mayo. He is milking 110 cows. The plain is to increase to 150 cows and he is at the moment at the early stages of talk about share farming some land with a neighbour. If this goes through and works he will have access to land meaning that reaching his plan of 150 cows would be very achievable if the share farming works. Sean is the chair of his local discussion group at the moment and he plays football with his local club.

Paul Fitzpatrick: Meath

Paul, 24, farms sheep and sucklers in the Royal County Meath. He has just completed his Level 8 degree in agriculture from UCD. The sucklers are all spring calving with the weanling sold in the autumn to avoid having to over winter them. The plan is to invest in reseeding of the farm to bring down costs to help make profitable farming more possible. He is vice chairperson of the south Meath lamb purchasing group, chairperson of his Macra club, involved in the IFA as well as playing football and canoeing to get away from the farming end of things.

Kieran McDermott: Monaghan

Kieran is a 25 year old dairy farmer from Clones in Monaghan. He completed an Agricultural degree in Dundalk IT and has since been at home working on the farm. His plans are to slowly build up number of cows and to improve the genetic breeding of the herd. He is a member of Macra where he is the county secretary and the club chairperson. Kieran also has an interest in jiving.

Aisling Molloy: Offaly

Aisling is a 21 year old beef farmer from Tullamore in Offaly. She is currently studying Animal Science in UCD. She is entering her final year this year and has just completed 6 months of work experience as part of her course. She farms suckler herd of Charolais and also has a bit of tillage land. She plans to finish out college and keep beef farming part-time. Aisling is member of Macra and takes part in the sports competition organised by Macra. She plays tag rugby, football and basketball.

Trevor Kelly: Roscommon 

Trevor is a part time suckler farmer from Castlerea, Co. Roscommon. He is 35 now and has been building up his herd slowly the past 10 years. Trevor is a butcher by trade. In terms of farming he falls through the gaps seeing as he old young farmer not benefitting from direct payments that would allow him to increase this stock numbers if he received. He is a member of Macra and the IFA and helped his team last year to win the Macra All Ireland Soccer competition.

Joseph Gallagher: Sligo

Joseph, 32, is a suckler farmer from Aclare in Sligo. He farms cattle on land he owns as well as renting extra land. He has plans to try and reclaim some wet bog land in one of his fields. After he has this completed, he will build up cattle numbers and look into renting more land. Joe is a community man involved in many different activities running in his local area.

Joe Maher: North Tipperary

Joe is a 23 year old dairy farmer milking 140 pedigree Holstein Friesians in Roscrea, Co. Tipperary. He plans to slightly increase numbers to 160 in the next few years and from there continue to grow but he is taking a slow cautious expansion approach. The reason for this is milk price – he knows that care needs to be taken in order to cope with milk price volatility. Joe plays rugby with his local team and he helped his rugby team claim the first prize in a local Strictly Come Dancing competition.

Richard Egan: Waterford

Richard is a 25 year old farmer, originally from Limerick but representing Waterford. Richard is an ambitious dairy farm manager interested in partnerships and share milking as a vehicle to grow his business. He completed a course in Ag. Science in UCD 2010 after which he spent some time in New Zealand milking cows in South Canterbury. Richard enjoys travelling, learning, socialising and playing sport.

John Fagan: Westmeath

John is a 35 year old farmer from Collinstown, Westmeath. He farms 1100 ewes and 125 heifers on along with doing an additional bit of tillage for his own use. In terms of stock numbers, he is happy with his current level but his aims have shifted towards cutting down his costs as much as possible, while improving the genetics of his flock to get better quality standards. He is a long time member of Macra and is also a member of the Irish Grassland Association.

Francis Whelan: Wexford

Francis, 22, is a tillage and sheep farmer from Bunclody, Co. Wexford. His plan is to continue growing energy crops such as oilseed rape, along with animal feeds like whole crop and beans. With the demolishing of quotas, he feels there is a chance for tillage farmers to get a better price with extra cows being bred by most farmers requiring extra feed from tillage farmers who with the right weather can still run a profitable enterprise. Francis is a Member of Macra who takes part in numerous competitions like the sheep stockjudging.

Robert Hall: Wicklow

Rob is a 25 year old beef and sheep farmer from Rathnew in Wicklow. He finishes cattle, buying weanlings and getting them fit for the factory. He also keeps 50 ewes which helps improve cash flow. However the main area of interest to the farm is the contracting business. Rob plans to increase his flock to 100 ewes and depending on beef price he wants to slowly increase the number of animals he is finishing. He is heavily involved in Macra and he is currently the club chair of Ashford Macra and is the county YFDG. Rob is also a member of the IFA.