Farm walk looks at the organic opportunities

The high protein content of lupins, the yield from organic oats and the accommodation requirements for livestock on an organic farm were just some of the topics raised at an organic farm walk on the farm of Jimmy and Marie Barlow at Cloonfaughna, Glinsk, on Thursday evening last.             The couple, along with their eight children, who range in age from 19 to seven, farm almost sixty hectares. ‘We started organic farming almost two years ago and we will have the full organic symbol on the 1st of November next,’ said Jimmy.             Last Thursday evening’s farm walk was organised by Teagasc and MC for the occasion was Pat Barry, Chief Organic Advisor based in Oakpark in Carlow. Guests looked at the buildings, oats, poultry, livestock and grassland, including a two-acre plot of lupins, sown as an experimental crop.             In terms of the buildings, guests got to see Jimmy’s cattle shed, which has an equal area of slats and straw bedding, and a roofed dungstead where manure is stored and where nutrients cannot wash out of it.             Niall Ryan from the Organic Unit in Johnstown Castle, spoke about grants available for organic farming. ‘He would consider anything that a farmer wanted to do in terms of organic farming, except buying a new tractor,’ recalled Jimmy.             Jimmy and his wife Marie farm 49 hectares and have another 10 hectares of trees. Ten hectares of that total is leased on a five-year lease. The enterprise consists of suckler cows, sheep, poultry and pigs.             In terms of poultry, the Barlows have geese, ducks, turkeys and chicken. The duck and chickens are available through the summer months, with geese and turkeys available at Christmas. If all that wasn’t enough, they also have a sow and seven bonhams and hope to have that available for the Christmas market!             During the farm walk, the issue of oats was addressed by Pat Barry. He said that organic oats is selling for between €260 and €300 per tonne and said that there is a lot of scope for getting into that. At Barlow’s the oats is not sold, but rather is used on the farm to feed to livestock and poultry.             The topic of livestock was addressed by John Brennan, a member of the Leitrim Organic Farmers’ Co-op. He noted that the price is €1.40 per lb for organic beef at the moment, while the situation with lamb is not quite as good.             Sean McGloin is Manager of the Western Organic Network based in Drumshanbo. The Western Organic Network supplied the Barlows with the seed for the two acres of lupins and Mr. McGloin spoke about the possibility of farmers using lupins, red clover and rye grass to provide high protein feed for animals, instead of buying it.             The oats at Barlow’s is yielding two tonne per acre and the lupins are yielding about three quarters of a tonne per acre. ‘The best thing to do with them is cut them and make silage with them after they go into seed. It can be given to either poultry or cattle and is very high in protein,’ said Jimmy.             The walk was open to everybody and was attended by many friends and neighbours as well as organic farming enthusiasts from around the west of Ireland. Jimmy Barlow is a member of IOFGA, which had a stand at the farm walk, as did the Organic Trust.             After the walk concluded, guests were treated to a well-earned cuppa and refreshments by Marie Barlow.