Fermanagh Grassland Club has a new Chairman for 2024 – Robin Clements, a dairy farmer from Trillick, who has been Vice-Chairman for the past year.

Robin succeeds Roly Graham, who ended his term as Chairman at the annual meeting in mid-December.

Following the various reports from the Club Secretary, William Johnston; Treasurer, Philip Clarke and Chairman Roly Graham, all positions were declared vacant, and the guest speaker at the meeting, Andrew Clarke from the Foyle Food Group, conducted the election of officers as follows:

Chairman: Robin Clements;

Vice-Chairman: Alan Burleigh;

Secretary: William Johnston;

Treasurer: Philip Clarke; and

Committee members: Chairman and John Egerton, Trevor Dunn, Alan Warnock, James Murphy, Nigel Graham and David Foster.

The main focus of the meeting was new technologies for beef, with a talk presented by Andrew Clarke from Foyle Group.

Also attending was Wayne Acheson, Procurement Director, Foyle Group.

Andrew, who is Agricultural Manager, outlined the remit of the Group, which was established by the Acheson family in 1977 with four divisions: primary, further processing, proteins and eco.

They now operate from five sites and eight business units across the UK and Ireland with a total of 1,150 employees, with a throughput of 7,000 cattle a week.

The Foyle Group was the first of the meat plants to DNA test all cattle independently following the horsegate scandal.

The group specialises in slaughtering, deboning, further processing and rendering, supplying the retail market, food service and butchery sectors.

They have already set an agriculture decarbonisation road map to 2030 focusing on three main areas of animal health and nutrition, environment and genetics.

The group already works with farmers through knowledge transfer groups as well as best practice farms, site visits and through communications and through four producer clubs: Foyle Valley, Donegal Direct, Severn Vale and Melton Moubray.

Andrew explained how their hill farm, grassland farm and finishing farm all have projects and targets with the aim of improving farm performance.

The hill farm is stocked with Galloway/Blue Grey crosses using the top one per cent of genetics, with the AA cross calves outwintered on the hill, and progeny finishing at 19 months at an average 354kgs carcase weight highlighting the benefits of genetics.

On the finishing farm, 100 cattle a week are brought in to replace the same number of finished cattle, where they are subject to various feeding and housing trials.

They are currently experimenting with composted material for bedding as well as housing design.

An innovative handling facility includes a double race.

An extensive area of the grassland farm is planted in multi-species swards.

Other ideas used are in regenerative agriculture, adopting foliar feeding using Tow and Fert machines, resulting in a 50 per cent reduction in nitrogen applied.