Family Farm

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During the week we had lots of farm walks where we introduced our visitors to our new lambs who are settling into Family Farm life now. Lisa’s piglets (bonhams) are growing so fast, in the last few weeks they have nearly tripled in size. Tamworth pigs are a rare heritage breed that originated from England. They are an outdoor pig that loves to forage, which means they do not grow quite as fast as commercial pig breeds such as the Landrace and the Large White. Irish pig meat has an excellent worldwide reputation for its superior quality and flavour. Pig farming is integral to out Irish economy. In 2012 Ireland’s 300 main pig farmers produced 3.5 million pigs. These farms alongside the factories and feed mills supply over 12,000 jobs in Ireland, with the assistance from the Governments’ Rural Development Programme.

Tuesday was our second last week of summer camps. As our early potatoes are now ready for harvest, we decided to celebrate with our summer campers by having a fun new camp activity ‘potato heads’. We prepped our spuds the previous evening by topping and tailing them, and scooping out their middles. The next day the children filled them with cotton wool and grass seeds, then stuck groovy googly eyes on them! They then watered their little potato heads and placed them around the Family Farm garden. Thanks to all our summer camp children the garden now looks very festive for our upcoming harvest festival.

Through this activity we hoped to teach the class about the benefits of grass-feeding beef and dairy cattle. Some 80% of Ireland is covered in grass and Irish cattle graze this grass for up to 300 days each year. It is only during the colder winter period, when the grass stops growing, that animals are housed. When they are housed, the main feed offered is grass silage, with some meal. In some countries animals can spend a lot of their time in intensive feedlots. In Ireland, our animals graze the luscious green pastures for the majority of their life. This is their natural environment where they can express their natural behaviour, which is of paramount importance to both farmers who produce the food and consumers who eat it. This is what makes grass-fed Irish food so unique. Worldwide Ireland is renowned for its high quality dairy and beef products.

We have had an action packed weekend with lots of fun activities and games in the Family Farmhouse to celebrate Equine weekend. In the days before tractors and cars horses played a very important role on Irish farms. In fact, it was estimated that in 1939 over 350,000 horses worked on Irish farms. Just a few roles horses played on farms included ploughing, seeding and transporting.

We set up an equine treasure trail around the farmhouse with a prize of an Agri Aware equine module pack worth €50.00! Our Lucky winners Aoife Murnane and Áron O’Connor Kasey were thrilled with their prizes.

We also had a maths activity set up on our model cow Gregory, where visitors to Family Farm were shown how to use horse measured him in horse measurements (hands), our younger visitors particularly enjoyed this. Did you know a horse in measured in hands rather than feet? And there are 4 inches in a hand? There was also a ‘Match the Breed to the Horse’ game and a colouring corner for our visitors to practice their art skills drawing horses.

On the Saturday Éadaoin and I were very busy giving farm tours, thankfully we had some help as our ‘Meet the Farmer in the City’ farmer Laurence accompanied us. Laurence has 700 sheep on his farm! So he gave a great talk about sheep husbandry and practices. There were so many inquisitive visitors who had lots of brilliant questions for us. Everyone was in great humour as the weather was beautiful too.

Unfortunately the weather was not as good on Sunday, but none the less that didn’t seem to deter visitors! Today was the return of Joe Cocoman, our young ‘Meet the Farmer in the City’. Joe’s talks were excellent and engauging as ever, and he gave a great in-depth view of life on a dairy farm. He also explained how the dairy industry is an integral part of Ireland’s economy and supplies many jobs. In fact, total milk sold for human consumption increased by 3.4% to 43.2 million last June in comparison to June 2015. This was due to the lift of Irish milk quotas in 2015, which enabled farmers to increase their milk production for the first time in 30 years. Farmers need to finance expansion plans, whilst managing volatility in milk prices. CAP funding, in the form of direct payments to farmers, is hugely important for dairy farming. CAP financing enabled many farmers to expand their milk production levels to maintain their status in the competing market.

All in all everyone had a wonderful time on Agri Aware’s Family Farm and Éadaoin and I are very much looking forward to next weekends activities.

Thank you to all of our visitors for making it such a wonderful week! We hope you had a great time at Family Farm and hopefully we will see you all back again soon.

As for now, slán leat!

Éadaoin and Steph.