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Eco-conscious Manx brothers scoop International farming award

A DAIRY farming duo from the Isle of Man have scooped a major international award for their “outstanding commitment” to conservation within a commercial business.

David and Rob Cooil, who run Ballagawne Farm in Ballabeg, were awarded the Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group’s (FWAG) prestigious Silver Lapwing in Wales on Tuesday.

Having already won the Isle of Man stage of the competition, the eco-conscious brothers saw off stiff competition from farmers across England and Wales, to lift the British title.

Chris Butler, who visited and judged the five shortlisted farms, said: “David and Rob really go the extra mile and clearly demonstrate outstanding commitment to wildlife conservation.

“The manner in which they efficiently harness the resources available to them, also impressed.”

In recent years, the siblings have successfully introduced a grass-based dairy system on their family-run farm, whilst protecting and enhancing natural features and habitats. This has seen wildlife flourish and the rediscovery of a wildflower species, known as skullcap (Scutellaria galericulata), for the first time in more than 140 years.

David Cooil said: “We are over the moon and incredibly proud to showcase Manx farming.

“We’d like to thank FWAG and the Isle of Man Government, who have helped us to join up the dots and support us to run a successful business that enhances our unique Biosphere.

“Our farm has family and nature at its heart and we look after our soils and habitats to strike a balance with an intensively grazed and profitable dairy business.”

The brothers make full use of the Government’s Agri-environment scheme, which offers targeted funding for farm-based projects that benefit the environment, boost biodiversity or mitigate flooding and climate change.

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In line with the educational aims of the Isle of Man’s Biosphere status they have also opened their farm gates to school children to inspire the next generation and explain the role farmers play as custodians of the countryside.

Clare Barber MHK, Minister for Environment, Food and Agriculture, said: “This is fantastic news and incredibly well deserved. It is excellent recognition for how productive farming can work hand-in-hand with conservation efforts to deliver profit and boost biodiversity.”

The Isle of Man will now host the 46th Silver Lapwing presentation in 2025.

Paul and Hilary Fletcher, who run the Isle of Man branch and attended the brothers’ presentation in Wales, said: “We are delighted to have helped facilitate the inclusion of a Manx finalist for the first time.

“It will always remain a very special moment in our lives when David and Rob were crowned winners of the 45th Silver Lapwing Trophy. They are a shining example of the way in which Manx farmers support the environment and wildlife whilst sustainably producing food as custodians of the Manx countryside.”