The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed TD, officially launched 2017 as the ‘Year of Sustainable Grassland’. This initiative will see a yearlong focus by the Department, its Agencies and other stakeholders on grass productivity and utilisation, grassland sustainability and the international reputation of Irelands’ grass based production systems.
Minister Creed said, ‘I am announcing this initiative to bring an added focus on this critical part of our competitive livestock industry’.
Speaking on a visit to the farm of Cork farmer, Ger Dineen, Kilnamartyra, Macroom, Minister Creed said: “Grass is at the heart of our efficient dairy and livestock systems and is recognised and valued by our international customers as a sustainable system”.
The aim of the initiative is to improve grass productivity and utilisation and to enhance and promote awareness of the sustainability of Ireland’s grass-based production system. There will be a range of events over the coming year to support the initiative and will involve all the agencies and many industry stakeholders.
The initiative supports the goals of Food Wise 2025 strategy and aims at raising awareness on the critical role that grass plays in supporting competitive dairy and livestock production. These sectors possess a significant cost advantage in the form of an environmentally sustainable, rain-fed, grass based production system. It is this grass based system that provides Ireland with its comparative advantage in increasingly competitive international markets but there is room for improvement.
Bord Bia will especially focus on promoting our grassland systems internationally whilst Teagasc will launch a campaign in January 2017 called ‘Grass 10T’. This is a four-year campaign which will focus on improving grass utilisation at farm level through a range of farm based activities such as grazing management, grass measurement and sward composition etc.
In order to strengthen coherence between the two initiatives Teagasc will run a ‘Grassland farmer of the year’ competition this year, with support from the Department. This is a further signal of the Minister’s commitment to the grassland sector.
Concluding, the Minister said, “More effective utilisation of the national grassland resource also has the potential to further reduce negative environmental impacts while supporting increased productivity. Efficient utilisation of grassland through greater emphasis on soil health can increase the carbon efficiency of increased production; reduce loss of nutrients and release of gasses into the atmosphere, while improving its capacity to act as a carbon sink”.