Today, we started our day at Imperial Tobacco! Yes, that’s right tobacco! Spending my childhood and some of my adult life growing tobacco and working with tobacco farmers as an Extension Agent walking into the factory smelled like home! Imperial Tobacco is based primarily in Europe and unfortunately does not use any United States tobacco. However, they acquire their leaf from several different countries including Brazil, China, India, Laos, and many others. The plant in Mullingar makes tobacco for rolling your own cigarettes and their most popular brand name is called Golden Virginia (Wonderful marketing name!). The manager of the plant gave us a good tour of the facility and I enjoyed comparing the industry in Europe to the United States.
We then traveled to meet John Hardy, TEAGASC Advisor, who was holding a special discussion group focused on grassland management. Participants measure their field pre and post grazing and turn their numbers into John. John loads them into a system TEAGASC designed call Pasture Base that keeps up with their yields and output. Farmers meet on each other farms and discuss the issues they are having, review their grass wedges (Pasture Base print out), and make suggestions for each other. While on farm, John has them eye ball or guess specific field’s grass yield standing and then measures it by using a .5 m by .5 m square cutting the grass and weighing. He then coverts it to per ha yield. This gives farmers a chance to calibrate their eye. On that day, the group met on Gerry Falon’s farm who has a dairy and grazes 185 cows on 60 ha (148.2 acres). Yes, his stocking rate is 1.2 cows per acre and they are not getting much outside feed sources. Gerry focuses on good grassland management and making grass sillage. He grazes the cows in 2 ha paddocks giving them one day or day and half before moving them again. Gerry has determined he has to make 1.5 bales of sillage per cow to winter them from November till February. He does have them dry off for two months and starts calving in February.
From John’s group, we traveled to meet the Lakeland Sheep Group that David Webster facilitates. The discussion group that functions similar to the grass group only they focus on sheep production. We met on Gordan and Yvonne Johnson’s farm who have Texel cross sheep. The couple was the 2014 Sheep Farmer of the Year for Ireland and have a stocking rate of 10 ewes per ha (4 ewes per acre). The farmers discussed marketing, weaning, status of sillage production, and several other issues that they were having. Also, everyone in the group opened up about their situation and tried to help others having issues. Discussion groups typically have 14 to 18 producers in them and in Ireland many have been meeting for almost 20 years.