Farming & Fisheries

John has a great appreciation of nature

February 9th, 2021 10:10 PM

By Emma Connolly

Bandon Co-Op sustainability award winner for 2020, John O’Donoghue, Peafield, Ballinadee, pictured with his son, Paddy, on the family farm by the banks of the River Bandon. (Photo: Don MacMonagle)

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HIS cows grazing on one side of the ditch and up to 30 seals languishing on the river bank on the other side is a common sight for Ballinadee farmer John O’Donoghue.

Farming on the banks of the River Bandon, surrounded by such wildlife, including an incredible variety of birds, it’s easy to see where John gets his appreciation for nature.

His late father Paddy, who had a great love of nature, was another influence on him, says John, who is Bandon Co-Op’s sustainability award winner for 2020. Paddy built a pier on the land and put a strong emphasis on planting trees and around five acres of forestry on the farm, and it’s a legacy John is adding to for the next generation.

Farming 190 acres, he has a herd of 135 cows, getting results of 530kg of milk solids per cow. Grass measurement is something he puts time and effort into, and reaps rewards.

‘We’ve been doing it properly now for around three years, since Teagasc brought in Pasture Base. I find grass measuring very good, especially to manage our stocking levels. Information is key to successful farming.’

And that’s something John knows about having won Bandon Co-Op’s milk quality award in 2011 and the Cellcheck Milking for Quality Award five times previously.

Breeding for high-EBI cows, to improve solids and fertility, is another focus of John’s and he utilises high EBI bulls, to achieve good results.

He’s also been ahead of the curve when it comes to planting clover: ‘We’ll all shortly have to reduce our nitrogen use, that’s coming down the tracks, so we’ve been incorporating clover with good results for the past while. We re-seed around 15% of our land annually and would include clover in that.’

In further evidence of his commitment to the environment, John has been spreading slurry with LESS equipment, which he purchased in recent months and intends spreading more protected urea going forward.

At the end of 2019 he purchased a farm close to his homeplace in Peafield and he’s happy with his stocking rate.

Married to Annette, an SNA, they are parents to Paddy (15), who is already very involved on the farm; Ciara (14), Aine (12) and Jack (8).

At Carbery’s virtual awards ceremony, CEO Jason Hawkins said: ‘Sustainability is one of the foundations on which we build our customer relationships. We have always believed, for more than 50 years in business, that operating sustainably is not a choice but a business necessity.

‘Our long-term commitment stands to us, as we see sustainability become an area of focus for our customers, and an area where processors and farmers alike will need to keep improving on our achievements. Well done to the farmers nominated who have the foresight and conviction to embed sustainability into how they farm.’

As John O’Donoghue concluded: ‘It’s all about leaving the place in the same, if not better condition for the next generation.’

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