'Outstanding' Co Antrim producer recognised by M&S

M&S Farming for the Future Outstanding Producer Award winner David Irwin, pictured with Peter Kennedy, M&S agriculture manager

A CO Antrim farmer has been recognised for his positive impact on the sector at the Marks & Spencer 'Farming for the Future' Awards

M&S supplier David Irwin from Ballymoney scooped the Outstanding Producer Award at the ceremony, which took place at the Balmoral Show. The award recognises

forward-thinking individuals whose technical ability or business aptitude promises to make a positive impact on their sector.

Mr Irwin farms in partnership with his mother and father, milking 230 pedigree Holstein Friesian cows. The herd supplies M&S stores across Ireland with fresh milk through Lacpatrick Dairies and the family is committed to continually improving its business.

“We just try and do things as well as we can,” David explained.

“We're proud to have significantly reduced antibiotic usage on the farm in recent years. Regular mobility scoring helps us to ensure cows' feet are looked after and we've now invested in concrete grooving throughout the yards to make the yards easier for the cows to walk on. It's a case of moving forward and constantly tweaking and improving our protocols to hopefully be the best that we can be.”

The focus on cow welfare was one of the key reasons behind Nick Bell from the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, who oversees cow health for the M&S dairy operation, putting the farm forward for the award.

“David leads a young and disciplined team where every aspect of herd management is meticulously thought about and implemented to high standards," Mr Bell said.

"He researches new ideas thoroughly and consults widely with his advisors and this has led him to achieve some of the best welfare outcomes within the M&S pool. He is very much aligned with what the M&S Health and Welfare scheme is about and embraces the standards with positivity and enthusiasm. Not only does he achieve all that is required, but he must represent one of the most efficient dairies within M&S.”

Other winners included Co Meath potato farmer Philip Meade, who won the Innovation Award and Andrew Shanks, farm manager of Tyholland Mushrooms in Co Monaghan, who took home the Young Producer Award.

John Dobson, who farms in Waringstown, Co Armagh scooped runner-up in the Prince's Countryside Fund Category, which recognises producers in the food chain who are going the extra mile to support local communities.

Mr Dobson manages a 110-strong Aberdeen Angus suckler herd and despite running a busy farm, still finds the time to share his experience and knowledge with other producers and has mentored many young beef farmers from across Northern Ireland, to help them improve the resilience of their own businesses.

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