Eamon Sheehan on his farm at Bawnlusk, Kilkenny
A team of Irish dairy farmers are moving from the field to the front line of the climate debate as part of a new campaign to tell the public what their industry is doing to be more environmentally friendly and reduce its emissions.
Kilkenny is represented on the team of 11 Farmer Ambassadors who have signed up to act as advocates and spokespeople for Ireland’s family farm based, grass-fed dairy production system.
The farmers – male and female, established and new to the business – will speak on behalf of Ireland’s 17,500 family dairy farms.
They are determined to let people know what’s really going on down on the farm, to speak about what needs to be done, and to communicate a greater understanding of how Irish dairy farming operates and what it means to rural communities.
Eamon Sheehan, who farms at Bawnlusk, Cuffesgrange, is one of the ambassadors. He has a pedigree Charolais, Limousin and Belgian Blue herd running alongside his commercial herd.
He farms 180 acres with his wife and two children, and – in addition to his dairy herd – he breeds sport horses.
As a participant in the IFA Smart Farming Programme, Eamon says the environment is one of his main priorities.
As part of the campaign, the farmers appear in videos which showcase the measures being taken to make Irish dairy the most sustainable dairy in Europe.
They speak about initiatives and game changing technology like milking robots, breeding programmes for a more sustainable cow, clover in fields to reduce the need for fertiliser, and better land management to increase biodiversity and capture more carbon.
Zoë Kavanagh, CEO of the National Dairy Council, believes that there needs to be more balance in the debate around the future of dairy farming and its role in Irish life – balance which is currently lacking.
“For some time now the industry has lacked a consistent approach to communicating our side of the story and, as a result, we’ve been on the back foot. This is frustrating for our farmers because they want to tell the Irish public all about the big steps they are taking to reduce their emissions and make dairy farming more sustainable.
“In the videos, they speak clearly and frankly about our industry and the reality of life on the farm, the things that are being done to address the environmental challenges, the people that make dairy happen, and the future that they want for their families.
“The Farmer Ambassador programme provides a voice for our industry – well, 11 voices – and we want to provide the platforms that they need to tell their stories so the public can feel better connected to the farming process that ultimately puts the dairy in their fridge.”
A video of each of the Farmer Ambassadors sees them talking about themselves, their farms, and their views on some of the current issues facing Irish dairy – providing a snapshot of who they are and the sort of things that they are talking about.
You can see Eamon’s video, and the other videos, at http://www.ndc.ie/farmer-ambassadors The Farmer Ambassadors will be promoted via social media, in NDC media relations activity and directly to digital, print and broadcast media who may require a dairy industry spokesperson to talk about Irish dairy from an informed point of view.
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