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Melody hits high note as Clare Macra Young Farmer of the Year

IT was music to the ears of Bunratty farmer Joe Melody to discover that he has been named Clare Macra Young Farmer of the Year. Having come on top at the county rounds, Joe will now go on to represent Clare in the 2020 Macra na Feirme FBD Young Farmer of the Year competition.
Joe runs both a dairy and beef enterprise. The Clare native milks a herd of 139 Holstein-cross British Friesian cows, along with a pedigree herd of Charolais and Limousin cows.
In 2015, Joe was milking 75 cows and since then have expanded and are now milking 139 cows; however, the hope is to go further again and milk around 160-170 cows in the near future.
Explaining the expansion of the dairy enterprise over the last few years, Joe said, “We bought a lot of breeding stock, from a local farmer, such as in-calf cows and heifers, as well as breeding our own replacements. At the moment, we are milking around 140 cows, but next year we would like to push that up to 160-170.
“We try to keep our meal bill low and try to maximise the amount of grass going into the cows’ diets as we have the land capacity to achieve that. The milking platform is just over 40ha, so we are well-stocked. At times when we would be reseeding, we would be stocked up as high as four cows/ha.”
Entrants in the competition 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.
Speaking about the competition, Chairperson of Clare Macra na Feirme Cillian Griffey said that, “The Young Farmer of the Year competition is a superb opportunity for young farmers to put forward their skills and their plans. The rigorous judging competition puts everybody to the test and will stand to all contestants in the years ahead,” he said. The aim of the competition is to recognise and reward the top young farmers in the country.”
Judges for the county round of the competition in Clare included current Macra na Feirme Agricultural Affairs committee Chairperson, Shane Fitzgerald and former winner of the overall competition John Buckley. Competition was strong but Joe emerged the eventual winner.
The prize for the overall national winner is a €3,000 travel bursary and category winners get €500 each. There are additional awards for emerging young farmer, most climate change conscious young farmer, the National Rural Network Biodiversity Award and Best Farm Manager.
The semi-finals of the competition take place the week of October 26 with the final taking place on November 24.

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