Tuesday, 29 July 2014 10:59
Mayobridge dairy farmers Gary and Mairead O’Hagan clearly enjoyed their luxury weekend in Bruges won in the Bekina Wellington boot company’s 50th anniversary competition carried by FarmWeek.
Welcomed to Bruges, the capital of west Flanders by Iris Temmerman, left, of Bekina the Co Down couple were full of praise for their Belgian hosts.
  “Bekina is a family owned firm producing wellies for working farmers, boots that are a real treat for farm feet and our hosts certainly gave us a real treat, a brilliant weekend break,” Mairead noted.
   One highlight of the weekend was a walking tour of Bruges that included visiting chocolate and sweet shops plus an introduction to some of the 1000 beers produced in Belgium. A medieval city surrounded by canals and whose early prosperity was founded on the wool trade Bruges is also home to fine restaurants, world class art galleries and museums.

Content Cows Milk in Half the Time
Tuesday, 29 July 2014 10:38
SEIZING the opportunity to replace outdated, noisy in parlour feeders with the latest Dutch dairy technology has saved Andrew Murray time and money.
 The first British milk producer to install PipeFeeder In Parlour Feeders from Hanskamp AgroTech says milking times have been almost halved, compound feed bills controlled and working in the parlour made much more pleasant.
 Andrew Murray almost halved milking time by installing the PipeFeeder in parlour feeding system from Hanskamp AgroTech.
 Andrew runs the family farm at Murray’s Hollows near Rathfriland in Co Down with the support of his father David.  All milk from their 85 strong Murray Vale Pedigree Holstein Herd going to United Dairy Farmers, the largest dairy co-operative in Northern Ireland. 
 “Our old in parlour feeders urgently needed replaced as they wasted costly compounds and our time. Cows were eating all their feed quickly and then making a deafening noise thumping the feeders trying to get more!  Above all, their milk release was delayed so cow traffic through the parlour was moving ever slower.
 “After some discussion with Andrew Dunn of our dairy equipment suppliers Francis Dunn Ltd at Donaghadee we placed an order for PipeFeeder last year.
 “Simple to install and use the Pipe Feeders were lengthened to suit our dairy unit, which has excellent head room. Thus they are almost 8ft long and so only needed refilled once a day.
 “Our experience since switching to Hanskamp AgroTech PipeFeeders has been entirely positive. The design is very practical and build quality is to the usual high standards of Dutch manufacturers.
  “The big difference anyone coming into our parlour at milking time notices is that the cows are quiet and content.
 “Hardly surprising as the computer controlled PipeFeeder in front of each cow offers the allotted amount of feed in small amounts throughout her milking time. Thus cows come forward into the parlour without fuss, stay calm and release milk quickly.”
 David and Andrew have a De Laval 12 point swing over  parlour and with PipeFeeder in use see no need for a kick back bar. Their herd averaged 8200 litres sold per cow over the past year on 1.85t of compound feed.  Farming in an area of outstanding grass growth means sward management has a high priority as has silage quality with some whole crop wheat also going into the silos.
 In parlour feeding has traditionally been popular as it makes cows keen to come in for milking, but the downside included over use of costly concentrates, cows finishing eating too soon and becoming unsettled. 
 To solve these problems Hanskamp AgroTech developed PipeFeeder, an innovative concentrate dosing system offering cows small portions of feed throughout milking. Thus concentrates are not wasted, cows stay calm and rapidly release their milk.
The PipeFeeder is made of robust stainless steel with concentrates contained in the steel pipe. The ingenious dosing system built into the bottom minimizing the noise of pellets falling on metal.
  The motor housing is available in black, red, blue or green though blue was the obvious choice for Everton supporter Andrew, who also played for many years with leading Northern Ireland amateur side Rathfriland.
 For further information on PipeFeeder tel.; 00 31 314 393 797, email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or browse www.hanskampagrotech.nl  
 Hanskamp AgroTech will exhibit PipeFeeder at the Livestock Event, Birmingham July 2-3, and the Irish National Ploughing Championships, Stradbally, Sept 23-25

Local Growers Soft Fruit Asc
Tuesday, 29 July 2014 10:33
A Northern Ireland Soft Fruit Growers Association has been formed to support local producers expanding output to meet the rising demand for local produce.
 With local produce the time from farm to shop is minimal compared to imported fruit thus giving consumers a much fresher product with a longer shelf.
NI Soft Fruit Growers Association chairman Peter Donnelly of Dungannon is confident the ‘Love Local’ campaign will boost demand for fresh, high quality, strawberries, raspberries and gooseberries from local farms. “Locally grown and delivered promptly to retailers NI produce comes with that superb taste of freshness local consumers love.”
The mew NI Soft Fruit Growers Association (NISFGA) will represent the needs and interests of members as well as helping growers develop and improve their operations.
 According to DARD the NI soft fruit sector’s output is valued at £700k per annum, which, although small in comparison to the apple dominated top fruit sector valued at £10mn per annum, shows great potential. 
 Soft fruit production is dominated by strawberries (184t) followed by raspberries (19.9t) and gooseberries (9t). In the RoI their soft fruit sector is worth €37 million according to Teagasc, the Irish Agriculture and Food Development Authority. The sector having grown by 190% over the past decade in the Republic demonstrates the increasing consumer demand for local soft fruit.  
 Strongly supported by the Dublin government growers in the RoI have invested heavily in the capital infrastructure needed to accommodate such growth. In Northern Ireland there is also an increasing demand for local produce as consumers are now more knowledgeable about the benefits of buying local in terms of quality and freshness.  
NISFGA plan to promote their ‘Love Local’ campaign and offer a range of services to members. The Association is currently in consultation with growers and Government officials to determine the needs of the sector and how it can be supported. NISFGA aims to become the central knowledge base for producers by providing vital information on best practice techniques, industry updates and offering growers opportunities to avail of training courses, best practice visits and agronomy services. NISFGA will also organise regular meetings for members to come together to offer each other advice and support. 

 This new Association for the soft fruit sector was born out of a project, supported by the Supply Chain Development Programme, where six growers met regularly to share information and advice. With government support and that of facilitator Valerie Brown the group was able to avail of best practice visits to strawberry farms in GB and the Netherlands. They also benefited greatly from attending training courses and having specialist agronomists visit their farms.
 The impact of this support was incredible so these growers decided to establish the Association to co-ordinate and offer similar support to growers across the province on a permanent basis. 
 Local strawberries are currently sold mainly in smaller independent greengrocers and convenience stores, but the Association plans to support growers seeking to do business with larger supermarkets. 
  Dungannon producer Peter Donnelly, Chairman of NISFGA, commented that “The learning we all experienced as a result of the supply chain programme was incredible.
 “We are a long way behind our counterparts in GB and the RoI in terms of investment and infrastructure, but with our new found knowledge we have now a clear roadmap of where this sector needs to go. Currently the market in NI is supplied mainly by imports, but the Association is confident that over the next 5-10 years we can grow our local industry to become a success story similar to that in the Republic.” 

Dutch Treat for Drumlina
Tuesday, 29 July 2014 09:09
SANDY Moore and son Andrew were the first milk producers in the British Isles to install a Vink Hoofcare Spray Mat last September on their family farm near Smithborough, Co Monaghan, RoI.
This followed a major investment the previous year in a new dairy unit, complete with two Lely Robotic milkers, for their Drumlina Pedigree Holstein Herd.
 This is a closed herd of 80 cows bred to maximise margins. “This past year our herd averaged 9,600 litres per cow at 3.7% fat and 3.25% protein in an area where cattle have to be housed for up to six months per year,” Sandy explained. “A totally different scenario to farming a few hundred miles further south where low input, low output herds are outdoors when in milk and fed almost no concentrates.”
  Sandy and Andrew Moore view lameness as a key animal welfare issue impacting on milk margins as AFBI, Hillsborough reckon lost income per lame cow averages £180 a year.
 “A problem our Vink Hoofcare Spray Mat plays a key part in keeping at bay as every hoof is sprayed as many as 14 times over a three day period,” Andrew noted.
Developed in the Netherlands by dairy farmer turned inventor Gert-Jan Vink the Hoofcare Spray Mat, unlike traditional foot baths, does not let the wash become contaminated. 
 Instead the pressure of the cow walking over the mat ensures her hooves are automatically sprayed in the right spots. There is no easily dirtied trough of water, the mat does not present an obstacle to animal movement, is permanently in place and can be switched on as required.
  As Andrew revealed,” Every three weeks for three days we turn the Vink Hoofcare Spray Mat on so cows leaving the Lely Robotic milkers have their feet washed.
 “An average cow over a three day period will visit a robotic milker 14 times. Though on some visits she will be rejected as not ready to milk, gain no feed and leave, but still cross the Hoofcare Spray Mat to have each hoof automatically sprayed with a water based solution of your choice.
 “Unlike old fashioned foot troughs detergent is not contaminated
Easy does it as the pressure of the cow walking over the Vink Hoofcare Spray Mat ensures her hooves are automatically sprayed after milking. Unlike traditional foot baths the wash cannot be contaminated. A Columba O'Hare photograph.
 after the first few cows have had their feet cleaned. This Vink Hoofcare Spray Mat really works a treat for us as lameness is not a herd problem.”
 Despite the temptation to use a beef breed bull as a sweeper to produce valuable dropped calves and stores the Moores concentrate on breeding replacement heifers.
 “Rearing replacement heifers is a costly business, but a closed herd helps us control where the business is going and dramatically reduces disease risk,” Andrew affirmed.
 “Currently we are producing more good, even heifers than we need so some are sold here in the yard or through Taaffe Auctions in Carmaross Mart, at Kells, Co Meath.
 “Having a productive herd where lameness is not an ongoing problem impresses buyers and is another reason why installing the Vink Hoofcare Spray Mat was an excellent idea.”
 With a second son Simon, working for Lely, another innovative Dutch company, it might seem Sandy Moore was bound to install their robotic milkers. However, the hard headed Monaghan milkman made the decision on business grounds.
 “Like the Vink Hoofcare Spray Mat the Lely Astronaut, I feel, is way ahead of rivals. So, yes, installing robotic milkers and the very latest Vink Hoofcare Spray Mat were big decisions, but the right ones. The margin of milk over concentrates displayed for each cow on the computer screen tells us we are on the right path.”
 The Vink Hoofcare Spray Mat is distributed in the UK by Agrihealth Freephone 0800 269180.  
THE Vink Hoofcare SprayMat gets a UK wide launch at the July 2 -3 ‘Livestock Event’ in Birmingham on the Agrihealth stand AH125, Hall 19.   Already proven and popular on Dutch, Belgian and Irish farms the Hoofcare SprayMat plays a key part in the control of contagious bovine hoof diseases.
  The brainchild of Dutch dairy farmer, turned inventor, Gerrit Jan Vink the Hoofcare SprayMat never lets foot wash becomes contaminated, a major fault in traditional foot baths.
Sandy Moore, son Andrew and grandson Robert with Stephen Murphy, right, Marketing Manager, Agrihealth on their farm at Smithborough, County Monaghan. Photograph: Columba O'Hare
 Instead the pressure of a cow walking over the mat ensures her hooves are automatically sprayed in all the right places. There is no easily dirtied trough of water and as the mat does not deter livestock from moving around it is left permanently in place. Only being switched on as required, typically for three days every three weeks to protect whole herd hoof health.
 The Hoofcare SprayMat consists of layered rubber mats designed to give a constantly available flow of water from embedded nozzles. The water being used to carry, whichever medication or disinfection you have selected.
 The Vink Hoof SprayMat is connected to mains water and a dosing pump so that a control unit can ensure the correct amount of medication is added. This always clean and fresh solution is then sprayed forcefully into every nook and cranny of every hoof as cattle walk across the SprayMat several times a day going to and from a robotic milker or milking parlour.
Coming from a practical dairy farming background Gerrit Jan Vink has designed his latest innovation to be both simple to use and maintenance free.  
The Vink Hoofcare Spray Mat is distributed in the UK and RoI by Agrihealth Freephone 0800 269180 or e mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .  For further details browse www.agrihealth.co.uk 

Bramley Apple Business to Blossom
Tuesday, 20 May 2014 16:19
“GAINING EU Protected Food Name Status gave Armagh Bramley apple growers a unique opportunity to increase income and grow market share.”
Armagh Bramley
 The key comment from chairman, Hamilton Loney addressing a Northern Ireland Fruit Growers Association meeting in conjunction with the Fruit Industry Federation.
 “Our product always was unique, but now is recognised as such by the EU meaning that only growers here in this county can market apples as Armagh Bramleys.
 “To help customers identify these unique apples with a taste like no other Bramley our growers are using a new, eye catching Armagh Bramley logo. Identification to help add value to their product and increase demand for an apple with many uses and a healthy reputation.
 “With support from the Supply Chain Management Programme growers are lobbying for co-operation from other business groups and local councils in promoting Armagh Bramley Apples. Jointly our efforts, through the Armagh Bramley Apple Development Programme, can garner huge returns right across the rural community. 
 “Not least in the hospitality sector as Armagh Bramleys make our county an away day, event or mini break destination offering an apple experience for all the family. 
 “Building on existing events linked to apple blossom and harvest times as well as competitions for growers and consumers will help tell our story. Comber Early Potatoes and Lough Neagh eels are the only other PGI, protected geographical indication, products in NI, but there are huge numbers elsewhere in the UK. 
 “Just look at how PGI status has added huge value to Scotch Beef, Welsh and Scotch lamb compared to the same product from Northern Ireland or the north of England.”
 For further information browse www.armaghbramley.com or contact Rhonda McDowell tel; 0757 8334 082.

A decade ago Melton in rural Leicestershire was in decline with rocketing unemployment and minimal prospects of improvement.
The local mine was closing, an RAF base was long gone and remaining industries such as farming needed fewer staff.
 Today food based industry is booming and has grown throughout the recession as local producers make full use of EU Protected Food Name status for Melton Mowbray Pork Pies and Stilton Cheese.
 “It took  years of effort and court battles to ensure these two products could only come from Melton and even more effort to grow the businesses,” recalled Dr Matthew O’Callaghan, a local councillor and protected names consultant.
  Speaking to Armagh Bramley Apple growers he recalled that “We were at risk of having neither pies nor cheese made in Melton as manufacturers elsewhere started to use these names. Now we have more producers in Melton, selling at a premium price nationwide right thought the recession.
 “You can do the same with Armagh Bramley Apples and need to do so as today one can drive through the county and see little mention of your product. Go for a meal in local hotels and restaurants and see no mention of the product. Indeed consume and greatly enjoy this wonderful apple without even knowing what it is or where it is from!
 “In Melton signage tells visitors they are entering the home of Melton Mowbray Pork Pies and Stilton Cheese. Products easily available locally and with lots of fun happenings linked to them such as the British Pork Pie Championships. Princes, politicians and personalities being used shamelessly to promote our very own cheese and pies! 
 “All great fun that brings an annual £70 million of tourist spend into a small borough, population 25, 552.  A borough with near full employment in plants large and small producing premium products sold UK wide.
 “From my experience working with dozens of EU Protected Food Names I see no reason why Armagh Bramley Apples cannot enjoy similar success. 
 “But the effort must come from growers and garner decisive support from the local community and various layers of government. Backing from processors, bakers, cider makers, retailers and restaurateurs will grow as your premium product starts to add to their income as well as yours.
 “Having worked in the food business on the continent and in the Americas I can assure you Armagh Bramley Apples not only have a unique name, they have numerous unique characteristics.
“An intense flavour, low sugar and high malic acid content in an apple that stores well to retain texture and flavour during cooking. An apple with many uses, including producing a cider with a tremendous taste.
 “Apples grown by families in this business for centuries in an area of great beauty within 90 mins drive of two million consumers. Consumers, who also seek away day and short break destinations offering the chance to see their food being produced.
 “Opportunity beckons, urgently, not just for growers, but for the people of the County Armagh to make full use of the Armagh Bramley Apple in growing their economy.” 

ARMAGH Bramley Apple growers have been warned that their product’s PGI, protected geographical indication, status as an EU protected food name must quickly be put to good use.
 “Having gained PGI status it is very much a case of use it to boost income or lose it, “Dr Matthew O’Callaghan told a NI Fruit Growers Association meeting.
  “ Several groups, who failed to make good use of their product’s hard won protected food name have lost if, for example West Country Farmhouse Cheddar and Grimsby Traditional Smoked Fish.
 “Yet make the effort with EU and DARD backing through the Supply Chain Programme run by Countryside Services and Armagh Bramleys will sell for more, gain more market share and grow you county’s  economy,” affirmed Dr O’Callaghan, chair UK Protected  Food Names Association.

“How PGI status has added huge value to Scotch Beef, Welsh and Scotch lamb is an example Armagh Bramley Apple growers can follow,” Hamilton Loney, chair NI Fruit Growers Association.

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