Producers from across Northern Ireland and Ireland were recognised by M&S at its Select Farm Awards presentation, which took place on the first day of this year’s Balmoral Show.
The winners were Excellence Award – James Brannigan, Co Fermanagh; Innovation Award – Pat McGlade, Newry; Young Producer Award – Arlene Devine – Co Omagh; and Prince’s Countryside Fund Farm Resilience Award – Damien Tumelty, Co Down.
Brannigan, a beef farmer, scooped the Excellence Award in recognition of his dedicated and detailed approach to his business and his strong focus on animal welfare. With the help of his wife, Rosaleen, he rears 500 calves a year for Linden Foods and also runs his own, small scale beef finishing enterprise.
“James dedicates a huge proportion of each working day to ensuring the very best welfare for every animal on his farm,” said Keith Williamson, from Linden Foods, who nominated Brannigan for the award. “His stockmanship is enviable and he has been one of our most consistent and top producers for years now.”
Pat McGlade, a pullet rearer for Skea Eggs, was commended for his proactive approach to bird welfare and use of technology to improve the performance of his business. Originally working on his family’s dairy farm, he decided to diversify the family business and establish three juvenile chicken rearing houses in 1996. He now rears a large number of hens each year for Skea Eggs and provides local egg producers with high quality, 16-week-old birds.
Steve McLean, head of Agriculture and Fisheries at M&S, said: “Pat is committed to rearing high-quality laying hens, but it is clear that he is also focused on maintaining excellent standards of bird welfare. His use of technology to improve the performance of his business, the performance of the birds in his care and the biosecurity on farm, deserves to be acknowledged.”
Arlene Devine was crowned the winner in the Young Producer category by proving herself to be an integral part of the team at the Dawnfresh Rocks Lodge trout farm. “By utilising computer software to help monitor fish growth rates and stocking levels, Arlene is able to free up time which she can then spend observing her fish stock, checking on water quality and combating potential sources of stress to fish,” said Scott Wilson from Dawnfresh, who nominated Devine for the award. “Arlene has found the perfect balance between control of data and animal husbandry and is able to rear fish above and beyond RSPCA and M&S Select Farm standards.”
The award for Farm Resilience is jointly awarded by the Prince’s Countryside Fund and M&S. This year the award for Northern Ireland and Ireland was picked up by Damien Tumelty, who together with his partner Jackie Gibson, has developed and diversified his family farming business.
Since taking over Castlescreen Farm in Co. Down from his uncle four years ago, Damien has adapted the existing beef finishing enterprise to focus on producing pedigree Dexter cattle; rearing cattle on farm before butchering them in a new, purpose-built butchery and selling meat directly to customers at farmers markets.
Tumelty is currently is in the late stages of constructing a farm shop at Castlescreen and is looking at the possibility of developing the farm’s website to sell produce online.
McLean said: “Damien is dedicated to securing the long-term success of his family business and is focused on producing food in an environmentally friendly way, whilst also maintaining high standards of animal welfare. Developing a diverse and sustainable business takes a lot of hard work and Damien has had to be very driven to make the changes that he has at Castlescreen Farm. We wish him and his family all the best in the years to come.”
All M&S regional winners are entered into the Champion of Champions award against regional award winners from Scotland and England and Wales, with the chance to win a free place on the coveted M&S Agricultural Leadership Programme at the Cranfield School of Management, worth £4,500.
Runners up included: Excellence – Barry Hayes, a free-range egg producer, Co Tyrone; Innovation – Walter Johnston, a mixed farm business, Magherafelt; Young Producer – Daniel Maxwell, a pullet rearer, Co Tyrone; and Farm Resilience – Charles Crawford, a beef producer, Co Fermanagh.