IT’S the final episode of the current series of UTV’s ‘Rare Breed – A Farming Year’ next Tuesday evening, April 13, and December means all kinds of different things to the featured farmers after a difficult and challenging 2020.
We get to visit all seven families as they get on with the cycle of farming, be that breeding, growing and animal welfare, and they share with the viewers what the year has taught them.
It’s an early start for vegetable farmer Emily McGowan from Comber. She’s at the wholesalers in Belfast at 4.30am to pick up additional produce – exotic fruit and veg that can’t be grown locally.
She explains that despite leaving university abruptly in March 2020, she’s thoroughly enjoyed working full-time at the shop and farm. She has big ambitions to develop the online side of the business, given the shop is quite small. Dad Adrian had enjoyed the ‘youthful energy’ that the young ones have brought and enjoys sharing the joys of farming with Emily, especially the early starts!
Still in Comber, Claire Shearer’s horses are getting a visit from their dentist. Claire likes to keep their teeth in tip top condition to prevent health problems. Horses can grind teeth away very quickly so the equine dental technician checks them over and gives them a good scrape and brush.
Claire describes the year as ‘emotional and stressful’, having lost her grandfather and not being able to show any of the horses, but she’s looking forward to the arrival of Alaska’s new foal in February.
There’s no Christmas wind-down at James Alexander’s farm near Randalstown. He’s decided to trial a new system of working, starting with an online sale of livestock in the New Year. He plans to sell 50 and is enjoying getting them ready for the sale. He’s also happy with the bull he’s been using for breeding. He points out the importance of always learning from experts: “I like listening,” he says.
In Tyrone, Des Kelly is selecting cows to start a new circle of life. As they do this, Des and assistant Rodrigo clean and clip the cattle to prevent them from overheating while housed during the winter months. Des says it helps them breathe better and he’s grateful for Rodrigo’s skills, good eye, and attention to detail.
He points out that Covid or no Covid, the cycle of farming ‘drags you along’ as farming happens anyway. He’s glad of a bit of quiet in December before the new lambs come in the New Year.
As the year draws to a close, the Preston family is gathering the flock at their farm near Gortin in Tyrone. They’re moving them onto fresh pasture and selecting stock to sell at the Christmas sales in England. Kenny laughs, “You’re always mov-ing sheep!”
He’s happy that over 70 per cent of the ewes are pregnant, and he’ll need spares to be foster mums for triplets that are on the way. He’s keen, too, for shows to go ahead in 2021 and Zara talks about her recent Young Farmer success.
Near Tempo in Fermanagh, Andrew and Margaret Little have their hands full with a batch of new calves. Margaret is capturing the work for her social media. She loves to share her journey into farming with her followers and keeps busy weighing new calves.
They’ve had a successful year and have run out of space for them all but she has plans to create more pens for next year. Andrew loves that no two days are the same and Margaret points out that especially this year “the wee small victories are pretty good”.
Our last stop in the series is to Glynn near Larne and Jonny Hanson is mulling over the farm’s second year. There’s been a lot happening since he started farming in 2019.
He’s had a ‘mixed bag’ of a year, with financial and logistical challenges, but on the flip side their volunteer pool has grown as has an increase in demand for local produce. And he’s hoping the scanner has good news about new goats for 2021. He’s happy there is new life round the corner, and wants the farm to flourish.
And as they say on all great movie sets, ‘that’s a wrap’ – until, of course, next year when UTV will bring you a set of new farming families for the 2022 series of Rare Breed.
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