It’s a Déise dou­ble

Water­ford dairy farmer Gillian O’Sul­li­van scooped the over­all prize and Ris­ing Star award at the Zurich Farm In­sur­ance/ Farmer of the Year awards, writes Storm Pow­ell

Irish Independent - Farming - - FARMER OF THE YEAR AWARDS -

THIRTY-FIVE-YEAROLD dairy farmer Gillian O’Sul­li­van from Dun­gar­van has won this year’s Farmer of the Year award. She was also pre­sented with the cov­eted Ris­ing Star award in this year’s Zurich Farm In­sur­ance/ Farm­ing In­de­pen­dent Farmer of the Year Awards, which recog­nises ex­cel­lence and dis­tinc­tion in Ir­ish farm­ing each year.

Gillian farms 148 acres, milk­ing 100 cows in Kil­gub­net, with her hus­band Neil and 72-year-old father Michael Wall. They op­er­ate a low-cost grass sys­tem and milk OAD (once a day).

Gillian and Neil are both qual­i­fied vets who were work­ing in Dublin when their lives changed sud­denly fol­low­ing the sad death of Gillian’s brother in 2009. They de­cided to re­turn home to help on the farm.

“Due to cir­cum­stances, we de­cided to milk once a day and we have con­tin­ued this sys­tem ever since,” says Gillian. It of­fers an ideal work/life bal­ance for Neil and her­self, who now have three young chil­dren — Fionn (7), Han­nah (5) and Tim (2).

Neil can now work two days off-farm and their roles on the farm are in­ter­change­able. This en­sures am­ple time for both of them with their young fam­ily.

This is their fifth year farm­ing since the trans­fer of the land and they have fo­cused on breed­ing cows suited to the OAD sys­tem. Gillian, who was nom­i­nated for the award by Neil, set up a pi­o­neer­ing dis­cus­sion group (POAD11) in 2015 which still meets reg­u­larly and com­prises 22 farm­ers from 12 coun­ties.

The year 2018 has been a good one for Gillian. As well as win­ning this pres­ti­gious award, she was also cho­sen to host RTÉ’s Big Week on the Farm.

Of the award, Gillian says: “It means great recog­ni­tion. Our farm has moved from a place of great sad­ness 10 years ago to a place of hap­pi­ness and this win is be­ing shared with joy by all the fam­ily.”

This year’s Dairy Farmer of the Year is Pa­trick Bren­nan who milks 204 cows near Ballingarry, Ro­screa, Co Tip­per­ary.

Pa­trick lives on the farm with his wife He­len. Their youngest son Padraig is study­ing a Dairy Busi­ness course in UCD and plans to join Pa­trick when he has qual­i­fied.

Great ac­knowl­edge­ment

“Farm­ing is a busi­ness now,” says Pa­trick. “It’s not just the farm work these days but you also need to keep on top of the book work.” Pa­trick is de­lighted to re­ceive the award. “We try to do things well and this is a great ac­knowl­edge­ment,” he says.

John Bell from Castle­town-Geoghe­gan near Mullingar is Sheep Farmer of the Year. John farms 600 breed­ing sheep on 120ac of grass­land. He praises his lo­cal Tea­gasc ad­vi­sor who nom­i­nated him for the award and also keeps him abreast of all de­vel­op­ments in the sheep world. “I was ab­so­lutely chuffed and com­pletely sur­prised to get the award,” says John.

The Tillage Farmer of the Year is John Cullen who lives with his wife Karen and five daugh­ters in Bal­ly­murn, near En­nis­cor­thy. “I started farm­ing when I was 16, I’m 37 years work­ing on the farm.”

To­day he farms a to­tal of 1,100 acres, of which one-third is owned, one-third is leased and the re­main­der is share farm­ing. “This award means a lot,” says John. “It makes all the late nights and early morn­ings worth­while.”

A spe­cial Life­time Achieve­ment Award was pre­sented to Dan Mc­Sweeney, chair­man of Bord Bia. Dan has re­tired as CEO of the Car­bery group af­ter 25 years at the helm. While there, he played a key role in trans­form­ing the com­pany from a dairy busi­ness into an in­ter­na­tional cheese, nu­tri­tion and food in­gre­di­ents busi­ness.

ICMSA pres­i­dent Pat McCormack and Dairy Farmer of the Year 2018 Pa­trick Bren­nan from Ro­screa, Co Tip­per­ary

Life­time Achieve­ment Win­ner 2018 Dan McSweeny and ICMSA pres­i­dent Pat McCormack

Tillage Farmer of the Year 2018 John Cullen, En­nis­cor­thy, Co Wex­ford and Michael Hen­nessy, Head of Tillage Knowl­edge, Tea­gasc

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