If the optimism of a young Derry man be any criterion, the future of the agricultural industry in Northern Ireland would appear to be very bright indeed.
Having taken over the management of the family 50-acre holding at Dumrainey, Magherafelt, immediately after leaving school, 23 year old Brian McGurk has “scarcely one hard word” to say about conditions in an industry which “will always repay the effort put in”.
He has backed his confidence with investments running to thousands of pounds in developments in recent years.
Relying on a natural love of farming allied to an obvious flair for efficiency and hard work, Brian has brought a specialist approach to each of the three main lines – beef production, pig fattening and egg production – in the farm’s extensive mixed programme with plans in hand for development “on all fronts”.
“My take-over of the farm released my father to concentrate on his pig dealing business,” Brian told FarmWeek, “and so far things have worked out quite satisfactorily.”
With the exception of a few acres of barley, all the land – together with considerable conacre lettings – is given over to hay and grazing for the average crop of 70 cattle. They are mainly the produce of the 14-strong suckling herd and bought-in calves which are sold off at 14 or 15 months.
There are wintering facilities for 40 cattle but milk production is confined to “a drop for the house”.
The produce of the 15-sow herd – augmented by outside purchases of suckers – is finished to bacon with the annual turnover of porkers averaging over 500.
From the traditional small farm yard flock of three years ago, a 2,500-bird poultry unit has been established and as with the cattle and pigs further expansion is planned.
“A programme along these lines – modest though it is by comparison with hundreds of other farms – requires a great deal of effort and very heavy investment” was Brian’s pithy progress report on his achievements so far.
The fact that only one farm hand is employed further emphasises the efficiency of the farm management.
Understandably Mr McGurk’s main outlay has been on buildings and equipment, including a new poultry unit with Shebro cages and a six-ton meal bin and auger, hay sheds, cattle housing, lean-to sheds and general purpose houses.