IN PICTURES: YFCU hosts sixth Agribusiness Conference at Galgorm

Among the evening’s guest speakers, David Brown, Vice President of the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU), commented on the Climate Change Bills and their potential impact on farming in Northern Ireland.

David Wright of the Irish Farmer’s Journal then encouraged members to focus on their aspirations and work towards their own personal goals, while noting the importance of being mindful of mental health issues which can affect many people, especially in the farming community.

The final speaker of the evening, David Linton, Commercial Director of Agriculture, Barenbrug addressed members and guests after dinner, delivering a comedic yet inspirational speech, encouraging members to take full advantage of the opportunities YFCU provides to travel, learn and expand their skills. while supporting each other throughout.

Peter Alexander, YFCU President, closed the evening by thanking sponsors and guests for their support in bringing the 2022 YFCU Agribusiness Conference to life, and called on members to participate and learn from the speakers and experiences offered over the weekend. end to come.

Saturday featured a full program of activities for delegates, starting with the chance to witness one of four industry-leading farms, see first-hand and learn from those who have succeeded in their respective areas of work, demonstrating resilience and diversification.

Farm tour hosts included: Roger and Hilary Bell, husband and wife of Kells, who both raise finishing beef cattle full-time and raise sheep on a rotational grazing system, currently involved in the cooperative lamb group and programs such as GrassCheck, Ecosward and, more recently, two separate projects of the European Innovation Partnership (EIP) programme.

The Chestnutt family manages a dairy herd of 300 cows calving en bloc in the fall with a strong emphasis on forage milk.

In 2020 deciding to branch out, starting to pasteurise, bottle and sell their own milk, direct to the public, through the first milk vending machine to open on the island of Ireland, also selling their own reusable glass milk bottles brand to help reduce plastic waste.

Robin Orr who manages a pedigree Holstein dairy herd of 180 cows prefix Ballyportery located in Cloughmills, Co Antrim.

Robin converted to robotic milking in 2019 and milks using three Fullwood Merlin robots. The herd currently produces an average of 11,500 kg milk per year and 3.8% fat and 3.25% protein with a feed rate of 0.35 kg/litre. Genomic testing has played an important role in breeding strategies and has been carried out over the past four years with an emphasis on milk components while maintaining dairy type. Robin has bred top 10 PLI heifers in the UK.

Gareth Gault, director of Grassmen, the fast-paced global farming phenomenon whose video content and merchandise are recognized around the world. Starting his business in 2009, Gareth’s love and passion for machines allowed him to experiment with cameras and upload content to YouTube; with a large audience and a niche in the live-action, documentary, farm and machinery market to drive the brand forward.

Delegates then returned to the Galgorm for lunch, followed by the YFCU President, welcome speech by Peter Alexanders and an invitation to Minister Edwin Poots to officially open the conference.

Minister Poots said: “I am delighted to be able to speak at the 2022 YFCU Annual Agribusiness Conference. I want to begin by acknowledging the commitment and contribution that YFCU makes to our rural community and to personal development and to the employability of thousands of young people.

“I am proud that my department has supported YFCU since 1934. Young farmers are the next generation and what you learn and adopt lays the foundation for future careers within the agribusiness and industry performance in his outfit.

Delegates then attended a selection of workshops, with offerings from a wide range of leading experts; encourage members to consider new approaches by supporting their understanding of major and pioneering innovations in agriculture and food, for an evolving and sustainable industry.

Dr John Gilliland OBE, Director of Agriculture and Sustainability, Devenish, offered further insight into accelerating ruminant farming to net zero through a case study from Roger and Hilary’s farm Bells during morning farm tours, as one of seven farms in the ~ EIP Innovation Projects ARC Zero.

Emma Swan, InTouch feed specialist, shared Alltech’s vision for a sustainable Irish dairy industry, explaining how grassland management, farm inputs, herd performance and genetics can lead to improved sustainability of milk production.

John Laughlin, Regional Development Manager, National Milk Records and Rhona Millar, Precision Breeding Account Manager, Zoetis, provided an overview of dairy heifer genomics, explaining the short and long-term benefits of genomic testing and how to use the data to set up a breeding strategy for your herd.

Jason Rankin, Managing Director of AgriSearch, presented the work of the European Multi-Species Innovation Partnership for Cattle and Sheep, investigating the role of multi-species turf on cattle and sheep farms.

Joy Alexander, Future Food Policy Manager, Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, presented NI’s current draft Food Strategy Framework and invited members to share their thoughts and feedback.

The final plenary session of the conference brought together delegates to hear comments and questions from leading figures across generations on the future of food and farming in Northern Ireland.

The panel was chaired by Richard Beattie, Vice President, YFCU, and included Peter Alexander, YFCU President, Victor Chestnutt, UFU President, Michael Bell, Executive Director, Northern Ireland Food and Drink Association and Jenny Martin, Committee Member of the Next generation and technical agent. , UFU.

The discussion focused on solving the many challenges currently facing the food industry, but an air of optimism and inspiration to learn, adapt and engage was encouraged by the panel.

Victor Chestnutt acknowledged: “We are in a time of change, and although the agricultural industry has changed all of our lives, the speed of change must now accelerate; we have a great opportunity here and those who are ready to accept the changes will have a bright future.

Michael Bell said, “There has never been a more exciting time in food and agriculture; we are at the forefront.

Peter Alexander urged members to seize opportunities to learn and grow wherever possible, noting that the conference was an example of key learning.

Building on this, Jenny Martin recognized the benefits of formal education, but drew attention to the equal importance of learning from neighbors and friends in industry to enable continuous innovation and progress, in the search for more efficient and sustainable agricultural practices.

Richard Beattie closed the conference by thanking the sponsors for their support, the speakers and host farms for their generous contribution of time and expertise, and finally the members for their commitment and input throughout the weekend.

Hannah Kirkpatrick, Vice President, YFCU, said, “I had a fantastic weekend at the YFCU Agribusiness Conference. Spending the weekend with industry experts was inspiring, educational and so beneficial.

“From workshops to panel discussions to a brilliant range of farm visits, the weekend was a great success.

“I spent Saturday morning at Chestnutt Farms just outside Portrush, it was so interesting to hear all about how they set up the Chestnutt Milk Hut, selling their own reusable glass bottles of their farm. Have a great weekend and I encourage everyone to attend the next one.

Commenting on the conference, Peter Alexander said: “We were very pleased to hold our sixth Agribusiness Conference at the Galgorm Resort and Spa this weekend. It was good to be back in person after holding this event virtually last year, due to the pandemic.

“We had a fantastic program of farm visits, panel discussions and workshops that appealed to everyone in the food industry and addressed the theme of our Adapt and Evolve conference.

“As an industry facing change and challenges, it is essential that we create the opportunities to adapt and evolve our businesses to ensure the future success of the food industry. I would like to thank all the conference sponsors without whom this event would not be possible.

The YFCU would like to especially thank the following Platinum Sponsors of the Agribusiness Conference: Dunbia, Danske Bank, Power NI, Ulster Farmers’ Union and Chestnutt Animal Feeds.

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