Eco-conscious Cooil brothers recognised for their commitment to conservation

A dairy farming duo from the Isle of Man, David and Rob Cooil, scooped a major international award for their “outstanding commitment” to conservation within a commercial business. 

Silver Lapwing winners must demonstrate how their farm excels at integrating a successful business with the delivery of conservation measures in wildlife habitats, the protection of our natural resources, water and soils, the sustainable use of energy and water, as well as the conservation of historic farm features.
Dairy farmers David and Rob Cooil, from the Isle of Man, have been recognised for their work in fostering biodiversity on their farm, helping wildlife flourish and even leading to the rediscovery of the rare wildflower ‘skullcap’ after 140 years.

The brothers, who run Ballagawne Farm in Ballabeg, have been awarded the Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group’s (FWAG) prestigious Silver Lapwing in Wales. 

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. 

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Outstanding commitment to wildlife conservation 

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, while 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. 

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Family and nature at heart 

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. 

In line with the educational aims of the Isle of Man’s biosphere status, they have also opened their farm gates to schoolchildren 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 that the recognition for the Cooil brothers is “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,” she added. 

Silver Lapwing winners must demonstrate how their farm excels at integrating a successful business with the delivery of conservation measures in wildlife habitats, the protection of our natural resources, water and soils, the sustainable use of energy and water, as well as the conservation of historic farm features.  

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

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