The Open Source Future Farm Programme is the third evolution of the Teagasc / Glanbia Ireland Knowledge Transfer programme.
It will harness advancements in technology and farm practices to support farmers to make the necessary changes for a profitable and sustainable future.
A key objective of this programme is to help farmers implement changes to ensure that their environmental footprint is in line with the aims of the national Climate Action Plan.
There are 11 demonstration farms ranging in size from 120 to 320 cows. The programme is part of the EU-funded Smart Agri Hubs dairy project, with meters installed to monitor and improve water and energy usage.
This tool will aid all farmers across the Glanbia Ireland supply base in using water and energy resources more efficiently.
It will provide strong insights for other farmers on streamlining their farming operations to deliver lean management practices, whilst also supporting the health and well-being of the farmer.
Strong emphasis will be placed on soil nutrient management, utilising high yields of quality grass, effective nitrogen (N) usage and the Economic Breeding Index (EBI) of the herds to help boost productivity.
Meet the farmers
There will be regular opportunities to see first-hand the advancements through farm walks held on the 11 farms, which vary in size and soil types across the Glanbia Ireland catchment area.
They are located in Laois, Waterford, Kildare, Cork, Kilkenny, Meath, Wexford, Wicklow and Tipperary.
At the launch of the five year programme, Glanbia Ireland’s CEO Jim Bergin commented: “Knowledge Transfer networks provide key learning opportunities for farmers and we hope this programme will help family farms adopt efficiencies to grow their businesses sustainably and profitably into the future.”
Glanbia Ireland chairman Martin Keane welcomed this latest partnership with Teagasc and thanked the 11 farm families for agreeing to participate in the programme.
“Our farmers should be recognised for their generosity in agreeing to open up their farms for the benefit of their fellow farmers,” he said.
Teagasc chairman Liam Herlihy also thanked the 11 farmers and their families. He said: “Demonstration farmers have a major role to play in the application of scientific findings and the spreading of best practices and innovative farming approaches to their fellow farmers.”
Professor Gerry Boyle, Teagasc director, said: “Farming systems have to evolve to tackle multiple challenges, and this is especially true now in relation to the multi-faceted sustainability challenge, including the need to improve water quality, reduce agricultural emissions and maintain biodiversity.”
Teagasc dairy business and technology advisor Richard O’Brien added: “It’s all about the big word of sustainability and we’re looking at the overall environment, social and profitability factors.
“The 11 demonstration farms will be used as a vehicle to communicate our key messages to the wider community.
“Some of the immediate practical changes will include the use of protected urea and the use of Low Emission Slurry Spreading (LESS) equipment, while growing more grass.
“Growing more grass is better for the environment, it’s a simpler system and leaves more money for the farmer.
“Some of the longer term goals are measuring the water and electricity usage on these farms. At the end of programme, we will come up with a carbon footprint for all these farms.”
Also commenting on the programme, Glanbia Ireland’s farm development manager – John Murphy – said: “There’s a growing demand for more knowledge on the environmental aspect.
“We’re not doing a bad job as farmers, but we’re probably not talking about the positives enough. Our focus is to drive data sharing and dissemination of information as much as possible through this programme.
“The core objective is that we show farmers the most profitable way to produce milk, but in that, we want to show that we can do that in the most environmentally friendly way – with social responsibility.
“We will look at the whole area of LEAN management, with more efficient labour. Dairy farming has to be socially responsible for the people working in the sector. And, we need to show that this is a good way of life for the animals and also the people involved.”