Glanbia Co-op and Glanbia Ireland announce rebrand
Despite the challenges of the last year, Ornua, the Irish agri-food co-operative, has recorded a record turnover.
CEO of Ornua, John Jordan talks
to Erin MCCafferty
Dairy farmer, Nicholas Cooney.
Article appeared in issue 1, 2023
Changing the narrative
Irish dairy farmer, Nicholas Cooney, took on the role of a National Dairy Council (NDC) farmer ambassador as a way of contributing to the narrative around farming in Ireland in a positive way, he tells Irishfood
Nicholas Cooney is a dairy farmer in Co. Louth where he has 480 cows and farms 500 acres with his wife and three children. His passion for his work has seen him join the NDC in its Farmer Ambassador programme, where he is keen to shine a light on the hard work being undertaken by farmers all over the country towards climate action issues: “I felt that getting involved in the NDC’s programme was a good way of trying to promote our industry, to show what we are doing on the ground towards these issues. There is huge pressure on the farming community to reduce emissions and meet targets but there is an awful lot of innovative work going on already and this needs to be promoted.”
Reducing the herd
Nicholas believes that reducing the herd is not the answer: “Simply saying we need to get rid of all the cows is not the answer. It’s a dramatic thing to say and it is easy to run with as a soundbite which is simplified and dramatic, but it won’t solve the problem. I am not denying that we have a problem though. But in Ireland, unlike France or Germany for example, we don’t have other large industries to compare our agricultural industry against. And tackling climate action is a global issue, not a national one. Ireland is one of the most sustainable producers of dairy in the world and demand for the product is there. If we simply cut production, it will be produced elsewhere but in a less sustainable fashion.
“As farmers, we know we have to adapt and change, and I believe we will meet our targets. I would argue that agriculture is one of the few industries in Ireland that is doing an awful lot about the climate issue and has been for years. There is an awful lot of work to do, but Irish farmers are putting the work in.”
Our job to speak up
Farmers, he says, are an easy target. “It's all very well to say ‘let’s reduce or do away with methane’ but the fact of the matter is that people around the world rely on it for almost half of our global food production and food security needs to be protected. Imagine if we were suggesting that all mobile phones are banned, or computers are banned? Or that we ban televisions? They are all made with fossil fuels. But that would not be a popular suggestion and it would not make sense as an overnight solution from an economic point of view. No politician would ever suggest this. I think farmers are an easy target, but it is our job to speak up and promote the good in our industry. Yes, we know things need to change and we are happy to work on that problem, and here are the ways we are doing it…”
Citing some examples of how Nicholas is practically addressing climate issues on his own farm, he says: “We have been using protected urea on our farm for the last four years exclusively. It reduces the emissions of ammonia into the atmosphere when it is spread so this is a big step towards improving our sustainability credentials. In addition, this year alone, 15% of our total milking platform has been reseeded with clover, which we have been doing for a few years now – at this stage probably about 30-40% of our total grassland area is clover so that will help to reduce the amount of nitrogen by about 20%. We can measure this and give quantifiable examples of improvements here.
“Another measure we have taken is the rating of our cows using the economic breeding index. We are using this to breed a more sustainable cow and we can measure how efficient it is in terms of carbon emissions, so that's a massive game changer. These are just some examples of what is being done on the farm to become more sustainable but everything we do now takes into account environmental measures, whether it be around slurry spreading or measuring moisture content in soil.”