Irish President Michael Higgins was impressed with what he saw on a visit to an Oxfordshire farm yesterday – and wife Sabina was too.

Mr Higgins even spotted an old set of harrows and said: “I have a set of those back in Ireland I used to use.”

The leader visited the Food Animal Initiative (FAI) in Wytham, just outside Oxford, with his wife Sabina as part of the first state visit of an Irish premier to the UK.

At FAI, which was set up by farmers who want to improve animal welfare and tackle environmental concerns, Mr Higgins learned about new sustainable farming methods including feeding pigs with grass rather than grain.

He later said: “It was a very impressive morning.

“I have been talking about these issues (of sustainability) for a number of years and it is good to see them being put into practice.”

Managing director Mike Gooding said: “He was very agreeable, it was a pleasant morning. He and his wife come from a farming background and understand the challenges we face.”

Meanwhile, farming minister George Eustice visited a farm near Faringdon which last year helped the UK export 40m litres of milk, cheese and cream to Europe and America.

Farming minister George Eustice visited Step Farm, in Lechlade Road, an organic milk suppliers’
co-operative (OMSCo).

OMSCo farms have recently launched Kingdom Cheese, the first certified European cheese sold in the United States.

Mr Eustice said: “It’s a great success story and testament to the celebrated global reputation of UK’s food and farming industry.”