Westmeath farmer crowned winner of AgriLand Farm Free Competition

Westmeath dairy farmer Tommy Fagan has been announced as the latest winner of the AgriLand Farm Free Competition.

The competition – now in its third year – launched at the National Ploughing Championships in Screggan, Co. Offaly last September and received more than 11,000 entries.

Yesterday, Tommy, his wife Marie, son Eoin and daughter Sinéad, were presented with a host of incredible prizes from our generous sponsors worth a whopping €30,000.

The prizes include:

  • A brand new HIT 6.61 Pottinger tedder;
  • 10t of YaraBela Nutri Zincote fertiliser;
  • €1,000 ruminant feed voucher from GAIN Animal Nutrition;
  • Rubber matting from Huber Technik;
  • Farm account software from AgriNet;
  • €1,000 worth of Elanco products;
  • €1,400 worth of Ecoysl silage additive;
  • a Smaxtec bolus system worth over €5,000 from EFS;
  • a Tru-Test EziWeigh7i Indicator from O’Donovan Engineering;
  • A group calf hutch and fence from Agri-Plastics (via Creva International) valued at over €1,000;
  • A weekend break for two in any of the FBD hotels.

As he watched all his winnings drive up the long avenue and into his yard at his farm outside the town of Moate, Tommy could hardly believe his eyes.

I’ve never won too much in my life before; and in this weather it’s great to be coming out on top. The weather is so bad at the moment; but this is a great shot of delight for the entire family. I’m over the moon.

Tommy, who has about 50 dairy cows and keeps all his calves – heifers for around 18 months and bullocks about two years – farms on approximately 120ac of his own land and rents an additional 40ac. He hopes his big win will be following by a good spring season.

“At the moment the land is very wet. All the cattle should be out but there are very little cattle out around here. Silage is getting scarce; but hopefully in the next week or two we will see some changes and things will improve.

Although he built a slatted shed a couple of years ago; Tommy said he has no major plans to expand on the dairy side just yet.

“I’m just sailing along myself at the moment. You wouldn’t want to be investing too much with price and the way things are going. Milk prices are hovering at about 33c/L right now; but it will probably drop back to 28c/L or 29c/L in the summer. You might just want to keep it tight,” he said.

Diarmuid Claridge and Christoph Stueblreiter from Pottinger, pictured with Tommy

But now, with the arrival of his new state-of-the-art machinery, equipment and products, Tommy anticipates that it’s going to be a good year on the farm.

The big prize was the hay tedder; it will be great to have it for the silage to row it up to put it in the pit. I never had one before so it’s brilliant to have it.

“I often thought of buying one; but I never did, probably because of the expense so I can’t believe it’s mine now.

“I got 10t of fertiliser as well – that’s a huge addition – and I got calf hutches and weighing scales to weigh cattle, so I’m expecting a productive year. I’ll be able to monitor the herd much more closely to see if they’re thriving.

“I won a holiday too; my wife has the eye on that one, so a break will be very welcome,” he laughed.

The three generations of the Fagan family at their home

His family – including his mother Breda and father Jack (92) – are also thrilled with their son’s winnings.

The tea, cakes, tarts, buns and puff pastries were being devoured at lightening speeds by all the sponsors and representatives in the turf shed and cosy kitchen at the Fagans’ residence yesterday morning.

“They are all very excited. My father would love to be out here with us; he has great interest. But he’s watching us all out the window and he has lots of questions. This will keep him going for a long time,” said Tommy.

I would definitely encourage others to enter the competition; the buzz it gives you when you win is something else. I’ve never won anything at all in my life so it’s absolutely super and I’m very grateful.

“All I need now is the grass so my new wheels don’t get lost,” he smiled.

Generous sponsorship

As for the prizes, AgriLand is incredibly thankful to all the generous sponsors that contributed to the competition. It was also very kind of them to present Tommy with his winnings in person and offer some advice on how to get the best out of the product.

The list of sponsors include: Pottinger; Yara Ireland; Volac Ireland; O’Donovan Engineering; Agri-Plastics (via Creva International); Efficient Farm Solutions; FBD Insurance; Huber Technik; Glanbia; Elanco; and AgriNet.

Diarmuid Claridge of Pottinger presented our winner with the company’s HIT 6.61 grass tedder.

“It’s a six-rotor tedder so it’s a hell of a prize. For us it’s one of the most popular machines for a livestock farmer that has his own machinery. It’s very highly sought after.

It means Tommy will have control. He will have independence; so when he is mowing down his silage he is not relying on someone else to come in and do it. When the weather is against him he can go out and do it himself.

“He can control the quality and that’s very important – because farming is becoming more professional, more grass-focused, so he will see the benefit in his animal health and production,” he said.

Treasa Keane, of Huber Technik, presented Tommy with 4-GS Softbed (cow mattresses made with German-made continuous rubber roll) which she says will “reap rewards” for the farmer.

Treasa Keane presenting Tommy with his new Huber Technik rubber mats

“Once the beds are installed he will notice a much higher occupancy rate; it is clear that the cows are intelligent enough to choose the more comfortable cubicles.

So Tommy will certainly see increased milk yield from his cows from using these beds as they will be less lame and have less sores.

Noel Kelly, director of Agri-Plastics, said the new group of hutches for calf housing will provide a great solution for calf rearing.

Victor and Noel Kelly presenting Tommy with his new Agri-Plastics calf hutch

“It’s very durable. It gives shelter to calves and it also blocks the sun in terms of the hutch doesn’t heat up fast.

“What’s happening on a lot of farms right now is we’re going through an expansion phase. Tommy is at 50 cows and he might be looking to go up a few more cows and he has probably had some traditional calf housing that has probably worked very well.

I would be saying to Tommy to put your calves in the hutch, take some pressure off the shed and have less reason to use antibiotics for sick calves.

Alan Heaney, of Efficient Farm Solutions said the new heat detection system will allow Tommy to “carry his herd in his pocket”.

Alan Heaney, from Efficient Farm Solutions, presenting Tommy with his Smaxtec bolus system

“The bolus is used to measure heat detection, health monitoring , sickness, calving and anything else. The bolus is inserted into the cow’s stomach; it stays there for the life of the animal and all the data can be read back to the farmer’s iPhone, iPad or PC. It means you are effectively carrying your herd in your pocket.

If Tommy engages with the system hopefully he will detect more cows in heat, get more cows in calf, identify more sick cows and also – through temperature – it will identity mastitis, milk fever and other conditions 24-36 hours before occurrence.

Pat Cahill, commercial director at Volac Ireland, presented Tommy with its leading product Ecosyl Silage Additive.

Pat Cahill from Volac, which is providing Ecosyl silage additive, pictured with Tommy

“Only about 10% of grass in Ireland is treated with forage additive and we feel there is opportunity for making much, much better silage – and our hope it that Tommy will be able to get better performance out of his silage.”

Philip Sweetnam of O’Donovan Engineering presented the Fagans with a new weighing scales.

“It gives you the weight; you can input tag numbers and it will all link back through Bluetooth technology. It’s very easy to use and it will give you averages over a certain period of time whereas other readers just give you the once-off weighing.

Philip Sweetnam, from O’Donovan Engineering, presenting Tommy with his new weighing scales

If he uses it regularly enough he will have a much greater understanding of his animal. Weight can tell you anything from an animal being sick to how it has progressed from calf to weanling to a fully-grown animal.

Eva Ross, of Yara Ireland, sponsored the Fagans with 10t of Nutri-Booster fertiliser.

Sinéad, Eoin, Tommy and Marie Fagan with Eva Ross, from Yara, which is supplying 10t of fertiliser

“The timing of the competition fits well with the application of fertiliser. It is a CCF fertiliser; there is 25% nitrogen, 2% sulphur and then sodium selenate. It’s a grazing grade so it’s very beneficial to herd heath – especially dairy cows,” she said.

Barbara Allen of FBD Insurance said the company is thrilled to present the Fagan family a getaway at a top FBD hotel.

Barbara Allen, from FBD, presenting Tommy with his weekend away

“We’re delighted to be able to give back to our customers. Tommy and his wife are very excited for the weekend away. Particularly this year it has been a very long winter for farmers so it’s very important that they take the break and relax,” she said.

‘Strength to strength’

Cormac Farelly, managing director of AgriLand, offered a special word of thanks to all the sponsors for supporting the popular competition.

Cormac Farrelly, managing director of AgriLand, and Farm Free winner Tommy

“The AgriLand Farm Free competition has gone from strength to strength every year – thanks in no small part to the generosity of our sponsors.

The competition is a fantastic opportunity for all of us to give back to the farming community, and for us personally to give back to our loyal readers. Their support and interest in our leading farming news portal is paramount to the success of AgriLand.

“We hope Tommy and his family truly enjoy the prizes and that it is a fruitful year for the farm here in Westmeath. Thank you for your wonderful hospitality,” he said.