For a 70-year-old Co Tyrone man, the recent sale of his 22-cow suckling herd and followers has not only broken a 50-year connection with the suckler trade but has also completely cleared his 90-acre holding of livestock for the first time ever.
Mr Alfred McKenzie, (pictured) of Derryoghill, Dungannon, has high hopes however, that the Spring will see re-stocking.
“The prospects – at my age – of wintering up to 50 animals got beyond me and I decided to sell out for the time being,” Mr McKenzie told FarmWeek. “I simply couldn’t imagine being without stock and, as I have no plans for letting the land, I hope to buy in again at grazing time.”
Originally run along the traditional mixed lines, the McKenzie holding has, in recent years, swung more and more to beef production with a concentration on the suckling herd.
“We were among the first people in the country to try the suckler idea over 50 years ago,” said Mr McKenzie. “In those days most farmers felt it was a waste of time and money turning milk to calves instead of selling to the creameries.
“However, the various Government boosts has made it more popular and undoubtedly suckling herds will increase in the future. It is essential, though, that a fair balance be struck between the price of the dropped calf and the yearling or 18-month old animal.”
Mr McKenzie, who feels that farming is a good life despite its many upsets and disappointments, is optimistic about the future of the agricultural industry. He considers there is far more to fear from “the uncertain nature of our very poor weather” than from price fluctuations.
“The Government must see to it that farming continues as our major industry but the hazards of the weather can be controlled by no one,” he said.
A bachelor, Mr McKenzie must hold the record as one of the longest serving farm managers in the country – he has been in charge of the holding since the death of his father 55 years ago.