Inspirational ideas: Connecting beef farmers for sustainability of the sector
Animal husbandry and welfare
Beef farmers in Europe are facing urgent sustainability challenges. The Beef Innovation Network Europe (BovINE) was established across 10 member states to provide practical solutions. This network focusses on the needs of the 1.8 million EU beef farms.
Maeve Henchion coordinates the project on behalf of Teagasc, the Irish Agriculture and Food Development Authority. She was inspired to set up the BovINE network by her cousin who is a farmer. Maeve: “My cousin was always eager to learn more from other farmers, and on his days off he often went to open days run by Teagasc and other organisations to learn about the research being done in the beef sector. BovINE does the work for him and other farmers now. We provide them with access to knowledge from farmers and research, and not just in Ireland, but also farmers, institutes and universities across Europe.”
Understanding the farmers’ needs and how their production systems work is central to the BovINE network. A significant amount of research has already been carried out, but it has not yet been translated into practice. That is one of the goals of the network. Maeve: “We see all the farmers in our network as a source of innovation and as important actors. We also collaborate with, for instance, animal nutrition companies, advisers, farmers and breed associations, and SMEs. Together we can work on innovations that drive the sustainability of the beef sector.”
“Farmers may be interested in joining our network so that their voices can be heard and so that we can provide them with access to solutions based on their needs. They may also be interested in sharing their knowledge or showcasing their personal experiences with other European beef farmers. The BovINE network also disseminates results from other European projects that are working on themes related to beef. For example, we disseminate knowledge from the LIFE Beef Carbon project, and also from EIP-AGRI Operational Groups that are linked to our network.”
Trevor Boland, a suckler beef farmer from the west coast of Ireland has joined the network. Trevor: “I got involved in the BovINE network through the IFA (Irish Farmers Association), to learn some new ideas and innovations from our EU farming counterparts. I hope that my participation in this network will help to secure the future of family farming in Ireland in terms of improving financial viability and environmental sustainability.” Trevor also hopes to learn how fellow European beef farmers are tackling challenges across key areas like animal health, environmental sustainability, financial viability and technical efficiency.
Trevor: “We should be able to apply some of the solutions we can identify at EU level to challenges on our own farms. In the Irish network event, which I attended virtually, there was an excellent presentation on innovations and good practices from other EU countries. One innovation, provided by one of the BovINE partners from Portugal, highlighted a very unique method of reviving a weak calf at birth, which I had never seen before. With more information, which I hope to get on the BovINE knowledge hub, I would like to try this out on my farm.”
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