17 Jun 2024

John Martin awarded MBE for services to agriculture

Holstein NI secretary John James Martin from Kesh in County Fermanagh has been awarded an MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) for services to Agriculture in His Majesty, King Charles III’s Birthday Honours List for 2024.

John Martin’s distinguished career in the Northern Ireland dairy industry spans more than 30 years. His career started in the former Milk Marketing Board for Northern Ireland, and in 1997 John was appointed field development officer for the UK-based Holstein Friesian Society, now known as Holstein UK.

Shortly after joining the Holstein Friesian Society John became secretary and treasurer of the NI Holstein Friesian Breeders’ Club. In 1999 he was instrumental in the successful amalgamation of the NI Holstein Friesian Breeders’ Club and the NI Holstein Club. Holstein NI is celebrating its 25th Anniversary this year

John has shown unrelenting dedication and has been integral to the development of the club with his meticulous attention-to-detail. He is a great ambassador for the Holstein cattle breed and agriculture in Northern Ireland.

John has organised numerous competitions and events in Holstein NI’s annual calendar, including trips to shows and farms throughout the UK, Ireland and Europe. Through his leadership Holstein NI has forged strong cross-border links with the Irish Holstein Friesian Association.

Thanks to his organisational skills, Holstein NI Open Days (2016 to 2019) and a ‘post covid’ outdoor auction and BBQ in 2021, have raised over £122,500 for a number of local charities.

John Martin is a founding member of the Pedigree Cattle Trust and represents dairy farmers on the Animal Health and Welfare Stakeholder Forum. Both organisations are focused on improving herd health and eradicating diseases such as TB and BVD.

John is a level-headed, practical, forward-thinking individual who thinks outside the box for the greater good of the dairy industry and the farming community.

In 2015/16 the NI dairy industry was in crisis due to an over-supply of milk derived by the abolition of quota in the EU. John headed up a group that recognised the measures introduced by the EU were not addressing the problem. The group devised a production reduction model in February 2016, and after lobbying local and national government and politicians, this proposal was adopted by the EU Commission in July 2016 and subsequently rolled out to dairy farmers a few months later.

The reduction in milk production which followed as a result of the scheme allowed the markets to stabilise, and as a direct result, dairy farmers benefitted from a more sustainable milk price.

Farmers reacted positively to the voluntary scheme, not only in NI, but throughout the European Union, where over 44,000 farmers applied to reduce their milk production.

The ‘Milk Production Reduction Scheme’ not only improved the market for dairy farmers in Northern Ireland but those across the globe.

Farming can be a lonely occupation and during the Covid pandemic many farmers found themselves isolated, especially during the lockdown periods when social interaction was prohibited. Others were suffering financially due to the closure of livestock markets and escalating fuel and feed costs, or because of movement restrictions and the destruction of their herds due to an outbreak of bovine TB.

John Martin is a mentor and ‘point of contact’ for members of Holstein Northern Ireland. Over the years, and especially since the onset of the pandemic, he provided a sympathetic and listening ear for dairy farmers and is recognised by many as a ‘wise counsel’.

John Martin is married to Vanessa, and the couple have five children. He is a highly respected individual who works selflessly and tirelessly for the benefit of the membership of the Holstein NI Club and the dairy industry in Northern Ireland. His contribution is purely on a voluntary basis.