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APRIL 2018
Dairy Focus
Terence McGovern manages a 60 ha dairy farm outside Ballyconnell
in Cavan, supplying milk to Lakeland Dairies.
`My father had been working in forestry,' says Terence. `However, he
saw that dairy farmers were doing better, so he made the move in
the late 70's. He was a very progressive farmer and invested in new
machinery and upgrading the farm. He also did a lot of land drainage
and re-seeding of grass.'
Terence believes that participating in the Bord Bia Sustainable
Dairy Assurance Scheme (SDAS) has enabled him to benchmark his
sustainable practice on the farm and helped him keep on top of his
paperwork in particular.
Dairy farmers who are certified members of the Bord Bia
Sustainable Dairy Assurance Scheme (SDAS) and who participate
in a farm sustainability survey as part of their audit, are members of
Origin Green.
SDAS and the carbon navigator allow Origin Green farmers to
measure and benchmark their sustainability practices, helping them
to identify efficiencies which they can improve on their own farm,
which can also improve profitability. Key improvement measures on
dairy farms taking part in SDAS and the sustainability survey include:
Increased Economic Breeding Index (EBI), longer grazing season,
improved nitrogen use efficiency, improved slurry management and
energy efficiency.
Terence has significantly improved efficiencies on the farm by buying
his own private well; recycling his water; regularly changing electricity
supplier; and using more urea as a fertiliser. This, he says, has saved
him up to
5,000 per annum
Grassland is an area that Terence focuses on in particular. `It's the
cheapest feed you can get and you need to get the most out of it'
he says. `I measure weekly with my eye and through what
I've learnt down through the years. I take soil samples to make sure
I'm putting back in what the soil needs and I re- seed about 10-15%
every year and some years even more.' Terence spreads 50% of his
slurry in early spring. Up to 35% then gets spread after the first cut
and the remainder goes out on the second cut.
Breeding is another area of importance to Terence. `Our EBI has
been increasing every year and we've been improving our fertility
and our milk solids.'
In terms of the importance of sustainability, Terence says `It's not all
about making money. You have to think about who is coming behind
Terence sees the Origin Green programme as being vital in opening
up new markets for Irish products. `Nowadays, we have to have a
way of telling people where the product comes from and how it is
produced. It's critical if we want to sell our products on the world
Terence recalls that the first thing he learned about farming was that
it is hard work. `It can be a good lifestyle but it's what you make it.
Your hours are your own and it's up to you how you manage that.'
He believes that time management is very important for farmers
now. He has a few people he can rely on at weekends to help him
take breaks. It's important to have quiet time and to be able to enjoy
going to things like concerts or the races or just finishing up early on
a Saturday and going for a few pints.'
Terence also participates in a Discussion Group that meets every
six weeks which he finds very beneficial in discussing subjects like
somatic cell count and working out solutions.
Benchmarking Sustainable
Practices on Cavan Dairy Farm
Find out more at
Origin Green dairy farmer T
erence McGovern farms
outside Ballyconnell in Cavan, supplying milk to Lakeland
Dairies picture by Dylan V
Advetorial.indd 53
27/11/2017 12:03
Bord Bia's Sustainable Dairy Assurance Scheme (SDAS) has
been in operation for over four years now. The SDAS and other
f arm assurance schemes operated by Bord Bia are done so
under the banner of Bord Bia's Origin Green food and drink
sustainability programme. Offi cially launched in December
2013, SDAS audits began in January of the following year. Since
then, more than 30,000 audits have been conducted on over
16,000 dairy farms. Farms are audited every 18 months, with
the majority of SDAS-certifi ed members having been audited
two or three times at this stage. On average, over 200 audits
are conducted every week on dairy farms, with most farmers
scoring in the region of 95 per cent. So far, fi ve co-ops have
achieved 100 per cent certifi cation of their supply base. It is
expected that more co-ops will reach this level in 2018.
The SDAS was the fi rst scheme of its kind in that it placed farm
sustainability measurement and quality assurance at its core.
The reason this approach was taken was to capture as much
information as possible to support Ireland's position as one of
the most sustainable countries in the world in which to produce
milk. For many years, international customers were attracted to
Ireland on the back of a story or our green image but this was
not enough anymore and, increasingly, these customers were
asking us to prove our sustainable dairy credentials. The SDAS
allows us to do that. Information provided by farmers during
the audits provides the answers to the questions coming from
customers in the international marketplace and supports these
answers with hard facts.
Accredited to ISO standards, the SDAS is accepted as being as
good as, or better than, any other dairy scheme in operation
around the world. In fact, the SDAS remains the only national
dairy sustainability scheme in operation in the world. It is
the ISO accreditation awarded to the SDAS that reassures
customers, meaning they do not deem it necessary to impose
additional requirements on farmers and processors in order to
supply them. As part of the SDAS evaluation process, every farm
has its carbon footprint generated based on audit data, which
is coupled with Animal Identifi cation and Movement (AIMS)
data, Irish Cattle Breeding Federation (ICBF) data and milk
supply data. Since the fi rst carbon footprint assessments were
conducted over four years ago, we have seen a reduction in
the average carbon footprint for Irish dairy farms. It has fallen
from 1.21kgCO2e/kg milk solids (MS) to 1.12kgCO2e/kg MS. This
reduction has come despite the large increases in production
experienced since the abolition of milk quotas and is indicative
of increased effi ciencies that have been built into production
systems on farm.
The SDAS has gained international recognition and Bord Bia
has hosted many visits from buyers of large multinationals that
are considering Ireland as a source for their dairy ingredients.
Typically, these buyers are brought to farms of SDAS-certifi ed
members where they experience fi rst-hand how grass-based
productions operate.
They are given insight in relation to how SDAS audits are
conducted, how farm sustainability information is gathered
and see the high standards in place on Irish farms. The scale
of the SDAS, with over 90 per cent of dairy farmers currently
certifi ed and a keen focus on sustainability, are some of the
most impressive aspects of the scheme for our international
customers, and something that sets Irish dairy apart from
In relation to the audit itself, Bord Bia sees changes from one
audit to another. The number of farms on the second and third
audits (renewal audit) that have non-compliances identifi ed
is lower when compared to new entrants to the SDAS. These
renewal audits also see a smaller number of non-compliances
identifi ed per farm, if any at all. The SDAS is working as a
vehicle for continuous improvement, and the commitment of
farmers and the support of co-op milk quality and sustainability
advisers has been key to delivering the impressive number of
farmers that are certifi ed members of the SDAS.
The Sustainable
Dairy Assurance
Scheme remains the
only national dairy
sustainability scheme
in operation in the
world, writes
Houlihan, Bord Bia