IT’S September for the ‘Rare Breed’ farmers and they’re bringing in new life to the farms, be that calves, lambs, or pigs. We also get a further glimpse into how our seasonal vegetables are tended and cared for in the next episode of the hit series on UTV on Tuesday, March 16, at 7.30pm.
As autumn arrives, Margaret and Andrew Little are busy with calving at their dairy farm outside Tempo in Fermanagh. This is their favourite time on the farm and they are pleased that the calves are all born alive and well. If there are happy babies, that means “happy Mags and happy Andrew”.
Maggie loves to spend time with the newborns and talks about the importance of getting the colostrum from the mother to ensure the calf gets a good start in life. She loves taking time out to just ‘chill’ with the calves while feeding them.
As usual they enjoy a laugh, with Maggie asking Andrew: “Are you happy with my calf-rearing skills?” to which he dryly replies: “Ah sure, it saves me doing it!”
Randalstown farmer James Alexander is getting birth plans ready for 130 ewes in 2021. He’s trying to create a compact lambing season by using AI. He’s booked a technician but he also needs his rams to play ball.
He’s got a new ram from the same flock as his successful ram Jack the Lad, as well as a ram lamb in Ballymena, so he’s hoping for great results. The day doesn’t go quite as planned, with just the new Ballymena ram performing. This is James’s first time AI-ing sheep and he’s looking on the bright side when he says: “It’s not a disaster.”
Jonny Hanson and his wife Paula have new arrivals in the form of rare breed piglets at their community farm on the Antrim coast overlooking Larne. The females will be sold for breeding. Paula admits to not being an expert farmer but feeding the animals she says: “It’s a healthy rhythm for me – it’s good to absorb something beautiful.” They encourage groups and local people to come and connect with nature to get the same benefits.
They’re also setting a camera on the wildest part of the farm down at the river, where there is the most biodiversity, as they hope to get evidence of otters. Jonny says: “Farming needs to safeguard wildlife”, and that “a river that supports otters is a healthy river”.
In County Down, near Killinchy, vegetable farmers Adrian and Emily McGowan are casting a critical eye over their Halloween pumpkins and squash, which were planted back in June.
Adrian talks about the rising popularity of the different types of squashes and how all the bright colours make for great quality Instagram pictures!
Despite turnip popularity going down, they still grow them, and harvesting is one of the less popular jobs, with Adrian explaining it’s a “back breaker”. Adrian loves mashed turnip with “a little bit of butter and piles of white pepper”.
Near Gortin in County Tyrone, the Preston family is laying the foundations for the 2021 crop of lambs. They want to produce top quality pedigree sheep, so rather than leave it to chance they employ a vet to do IVF and embryo transfers.
Zara gives more detail about her floristry course at Greenmount, which is a mixture of online and practical work which had her there four days last week. She decided to come down to help out this week. Kenny notices the “emptiness in the house” when she’s not there.
Kenny’s hopeful that all the sheep will give birth within a week in early February but doesn’t want to ‘count chickens before they are hatched’. It’s an expensive and nerve-wracking venture and Zara works hard to make sure the ewes are content after the procedures are done.
n UTV’s Mark McFadden narrates the series. Sponsored by Moy Park, ‘Rare Breed – A Farming Year’ continues on Tuesday, March 16, at 7.30pm on UTV.
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