Organic Open Day at Mellows College Farm -2003

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Mellows Campus Manager ,Ger Shortle, with some visitors to the open-day

On Saturday 12th July 2003 a very successful organic open day took place at Mellows Farm.

The day commenced at 1pm although farmers were arriving from 1.30am armed with packed lunches. All through the day visitors streamed in. Both IOFGA and Organic Trust (organic certification bodies) were represented on the day and reported a serious interest in organic farming. The Organic Unit of the Department of Agriculture and Food (DAF) also had a stand.

Minister Noel Treacy launched a free Teagasc publication: Guidelines for Organic Farming. The booklet should be a useful guide to farmers interested in conversion and will be made available through all Teagasc offices.

The day was very well organised and a range of topics were discussed. There were 11 stands mapped out around the farm. Groups were taken by bus to the end of the farm road and then made their way back along the stands, each presentation lasting about l5minutes. There was opportunity also to ask questions. On show were the two ewe mid-season flock and lambs. Parasite control without dosing was discussed and the “clean tails” were commented on. The breeds used on the farm and the importance of the Texel for worm resistance was not overlooked.

The 30 cow suckler herd at Mellows breeds own replacements aiming towards a Simmental Limousin cross cow for good milk production in the dam and conformation in the beef which are taken to finish on the farm. The beef heifers are finished off grass at 18- 20 months while the steers are finished indoors at 24 months of age. In 2003 there has been a lot of emphasis on use of A.I.

The tillage enterprise spans 25 acres which included Winter Oats, Triticale, Spring Barley and Lupins. The area of Lupins grown is small as it is a first-time crop for the farm. It is a good protein crop and is certainly of interest to organic farmers for animal feed as it would favourably compete with soyabean. Experience to date is showing that the crops are healthier than if grown conventionally with little or no disease present. Weed control used was explained, the success of which was obviously visible.

The Department of Agriculture and Food (DAF) have trial plots located within the Mellows farm tillage operation comparing varieties grown under organic conditions. All of the crops are showing satisfactory performance to date.

Staff from Johnstown Castle were on hand on a number of stands in particular on dairying where information on both the Mellows and Johnstown herds was available. Herd health and breeding were to the forefront while grazing management and feeding were also of interest.

There was a section devoted to composting, methods used and research work from Johnstown Castle on the subject.

Emphasis on good grass/clover swards was made time and time again. The various methods of introducing white clover into existing swards in comparison to reseeding were demonstrated. The role of red clover and ryegrass swards was pointed out in particular for dairying. Grassland management at Mellows for the grazing season was explained in detail.

The Poultry Unit drew considerable interest as both the processing unit and housing were open to viewing. Flock management, egg and meat production, breeds and feeds all made relevant conversation.

In all the day provided plenty of food for thought and was thoroughly enjoyable for all concerned.

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About this record

Written by Ger Shortle

Published here 09 Feb 2024 and originally published Summer 2003

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