Over 70 delegates consisting of farmers, scientists and advisors from 14 countries across Europe visited Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland on a three-day cross-border study tour recently.
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Dr Conor Holohan and Dr Francis Lively speaking to the Resilience for Dairy group about Virtual Fencing trials at AFBI, Hillsborough

This was part of the Horizon 2020 Resilience for Dairy (R4D) project, jointly hosted by Teagasc and AgriSearch.

The overall objective of the project is to develop and strengthen a sustainable EU network, designed to stimulate and facilitate knowledge exchange between farmers across the EU to improve the resilience and robustness of dairy farms.

Visits such as this are at the centre of efforts to widely disseminate relevant and ready-to-use best-practices and innovations.

Dr Conor Holohan and Dr Francis Lively speaking to the Resilience for Dairy group about Virtual Fencing trials at AFBI, Hillsborough
Dr Conor Holohan and Dr Francis Lively speaking to the Resilience for Dairy group about Virtual Fencing trials at AFBI, Hillsborough

On the first day of the meeting, the group visited Northern Ireland. They started with a visit to the farm of Ian McClelland, Banbridge, where the focus was on innovations arising from his involvement in various research projects.

Of particular interest to the group was his work with the ARCZero and Anthelmintic Targeted Selective Treatment European Innovation Partnership projects, highlighting how farmer-led small scale studies can have a big impact on farm.

The farmer members of the group then visited the farm of Brian McCracken, Newtownards, where the importance of grass measuring and monitoring was highlighted, as well as efforts to incorporate clover within the grazing swards.

With so many nationalities present, the differences between dairy systems was of great discussion with not nearly enough time to answer all the questions that arose.

Resilience for Dairy group at the farm of Brian McCracken, Newtownards
Resilience for Dairy group at the farm of Brian McCracken, Newtownards

To finish the day, the group took a tour of the AFBI Hillsborough site to hear about the latest research into robotic milking, virtual fencing and multi-species swards.

This was followed by a BBQ dinner before delegates headed back to Dublin ready for the remainder of their visit.

As the first study tour organised since the project began, the visit was an excellent opportunity to meet and share with European counterparts in the dairy sector and look forward to the future EU visits to come.

Eleven organic dairy farms in Vermont closed in 2021. The next year, 18 more followed. And this year, the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont expects to lose another 28 farms.

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