Louis McAuley and his family manage a 1700-acre farm in county Meath. Approximately 1400 acres of the land is used for cereal production such as winter wheat, winter barley, oilseed rape, beans and oats. All of the cereal grown on the farm goes to their feed mill where they produce animal feed for cattle, sheep and horses. Up until 6 years ago the farm would have been a conventional plough-based tillage system. At that point, they noticed a decline in soil health and crop yields – “The soil is one of our main assets on the farm. We wanted to introduce a system where we were improving our soil year on year, all the while producing crops.” In 2015 a low disturbance direct drilling system was implemented on the farm, meaning the seeds are sown direct into mulch/stubble and there is no ploughing or major soil disturbance which protects the soil biology and structure. They have also included a 6/7-year crop rotation system, as well as utilizing multi-species cover crops on the land to further regenerate the soil. The cover crops that are in the ground during the summer months produce a variety of flowers which attracts insects to the land. The remaining 300 acres of the farm is grassland, and the family run a dairy calf to beef system of around 200 animals. Silage is cut off the grassland and sold to local farmers.
Louis is a founding member of BASE Ireland and he is passionate about educating and encouraging farmers to adopt less-intensive tillage systems. The improvement in soil health on the McAuley farm has led to an increase in biodiversity on the farm, especially in terms of birds and bee species.
Louis McAuley farms 1700 acres in partnership with other family members, the farm consists of 1400 acres of cropping and 300 acres of grass all based on owned and rented land and contract farming arrangements. The grassland is used for his own dairy calf to bull beef enterprise with silage been sold to local farmers. The cropping side of the farm is quite diverse and mainly consists of wheat, barley, oats, oilseed rape and beans, so along with the grassland, this makes Louis’s farm perfect for Conservation Agriculture (CA).
The 3 principles of CA are reduced tillage, cover crops and rotation, along with integration of livestock and using grassland in his rotation, Louis uses all these practices on his farm to make it more substaniable and environmentally friendly. Over the last 7 years Louis has implemented a lot of changes on the farm, these changes have increased soil health on the farm which in turn have lead to an increase in birds, bees and wildlife.
The reasons I am nominating Louis is that he has shown over the years how a commercial farm can make the changes needed so farming can be done in a more environmentally friendly way to benefit nature. One of the biggest challenges for Louis was switching to a no til system on his farm, at the moment in Ireland there is little or no support for farmers to make these changes, so Louis had to make these changes on his own.
Louis is also a founding member of BASE Ireland and has played a big part in the development of the group, his leadership skills and willingness to share his experiences and knowledge with other farmers has been inspirational to the group.
Nominator: Gareth Culligan, Chairman, BASE Ireland