Entries are now open for this year’s West Cork Farming Awards. Drystock Farmer of the Year 2021 Clive Buttimer has since diversified with a new business and says the competition was hugely positive
A BALLINSCARTHY farmer who felt the agri-sector was being asked to ‘run faster to produce more food at a smaller margin,’ decided to come up with a more sustainable solution.
For Clive Buttimer that was to launch his own business, Clonakilty Beef, selling his meat direct to the customer.
‘There is a limit to the bigger is better model, how fast you can ask people to run. It takes its toll on people and landscapes,’ said Clive who was the Drystock Farmer of the Year in last year’s West Cork Farming Awards.
Brexit was another motivating factor in launching the business.
‘Following Brexit the UK is signing trade deals around the world giving much more unrestricted access to their beef market, this has the potential to undermine Irish beef prices as it is a major export market for Ireland. Selling direct would help to insulate us from this drop by taking us out of the commodity market,’ said Clive.
So too was the concerted effort he was making to farm sustainably, which he felt wasn’t always recognised in mainstream markets.
‘We felt we were doing a lot for nature, biodiversity and the environment but traditional routes to market didn't really differentiate. Selling direct our customers really value this. The business pays us for what we are doing and allows us to do more in the future,’ he said.
Reaction to the business which is less than a year old, has been very positive.
Clive acknowledges it will take time for people to change how they buy food, but there is an appetite he feels for people to have a relationship with the producer, and trust in the food they eat.
He recently announced his carbon footprint reduction after which he saw a real bounce in sales.
‘In 2019 we carried out a baseline carbon footprint audit with Alltech/ECO2 It was accredited by the Carbon Trust and it gave us a baseline figure and benchmarked us against other farms. While the results were very good it did highlight two areas around fertiliser use and feed that we could improve on. In response to that with some help from our nutritionist we changed to a 100% homegrown feed with just some minerals and supplements bought in. We also changed the type of fertiliser we used and reduced the amount we were using. We repeated the audit in 2021 and the changes combined with an increase in animal performance led to a reduction in our carbon emissions of 29%. I would be the first to say the audit isn't perfect, it takes no account of what is sequestered on the farm but it was a useful tool in highlighting areas for improvement, and it's great to be able to measure that improvement.’
The farm is split about 50:50 between crops and grassland, which also helps in their drive to be sustainable.
‘The great advantage of a mixed farm is we can grow all of our own feed and the nutrients from the cattle side can be used to grow the crops so it works really well as a sustainable system. We sell some feed to neighbouring farmers every year mostly straw and fodder beet,’ said Clive.
His message to anyone else thinking of diversifying is to give it a go: ‘I think you normally regret not trying more than trying and failing.
‘Don’t be afraid to sell your product and the story behind it, put yourself out there if you don’t tell people nobody else will.’
And he’d encourage anyone to enter either the drystock or diversification categories in this year’s West Cork Farming Awards.
“I think the great advantage of the farming awards are the people you meet. There are some great people involved in farming in West Cork and you never know what it might lead to. It’s a bit of fun too and a great day out!”
Find out more about the West Cork Farming Awards