Mayo farmer awarded Nuffield Scholarship

Sean Coughlan (right) with Aurivo chief executive Aaron Forde and Dr Roberta McDonald, farm profitability programme manager with Aurivo, inspecting some of the calves which will form the basis of Coughlan’s dairy herd currently under establishment.

Sean Coughlan (right) with Aurivo chief executive Aaron Forde and Dr Roberta McDonald, farm profitability programme manager with Aurivo, inspecting some of the calves which will form the basis of Coughlan’s dairy herd currently under establishment.

Mayo farmer Sean Coughlan has been awarded a prestigious Nuffield Scholarship. The internationally-acclaimed scholarship, which is sponsored by Aurivo, was awarded by the Nuffield Ireland Farming Scholarship Trust.

Coughlan (35 ), who farms at Cum, Lahardane, Ballina, is one of just 63 Irish people to be awarded a scholarship since Ireland joined the Nuffield programme in 1996. He joins a network of 1,500 international scholars from Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand. He is the second recipient of the Aurivo-sponsored scholarship, following in the footsteps of 33-year old Ballina dairy farmer Sean O’Donnell who was awarded a scholarship in 2013.

Sean Coughlan, who is switching from suckler and sheep production to dairying, will examine the knowledge and capital needed for successful dairy farming during his year-long scholarship study.

He has already been to Australia where he attended an international conference of 2014 Nuffield scholars in late February. He is currently planning study tours of Scotland and Wales and, in the autumn, he will travel to the southern hemisphere for a six weeks study tour.

Congratulating Sean Coughlan on his achievement, Aurivo chief executive Aaron Forde said “Aurivo regards this programme as a great opportunity to invest in supporting young leaders in our region. A unique feature is the ability to connect with other international leaders and bring global best practice and thinking back to their own farming business and to the industry in general.”

Sean Coughlan was awarded a Certificate in Agriculture from Mountbellew Agricultural College in 1998. In 1999, he was awarded a certificate in agricultural mechanics from Reseath College in Cheshire. He worked for engineering company Roadbridge for the following seven years during which he spent two winters travelling in South America, New Zealand and Australia.

He returned to college in 2006 and was awarded an honours degree in business from GMIT in 2010. After graduating, he returned to his job in Roadbridge and, in 2012, took up a full-time career in farming on the 110 hectare family farm.

The farm currently consists of 45 suckler cows and a flock of 300 Mayo blackface ewes. Just 30ha of the farm is good ‘greenland’ which Coughlan regards as a big challenge as he embarks on a career in dairy farming. However, he is fully committed to the switch and plans to be milking his first dairy cows in spring 2015.

An active member of Macra na Feirme, he is a member of the association’s national council and is the current chairman of Macra’s Agricultural Affairs committee. He is also a regular columnist on beef farming in the Irish Farmers Journal.

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