THE hugely successful ‘Rare Breed – A Farming Year’ returns to our screens next Tuesday, January 12, at 7.30pm, with seven families from across Northern Ireland giving us an inside view of the ups and downs of their year in 2020.
Rare Breed is the ground-breaking year-in-the-life documentary series charting the reality of farming in Northern Ireland.
The series, in its ninth year, includes three families whose daughters are stepping up to look after the family business along with a new community farm in County Antrim.
In Fermanagh, the series also meets a young couple running a dairy enterprise.
In the first episode we meet five of the families. First off is the Preston family at their sheep farm near Gortin, Tyrone.
They are busy preparing for their pedigree Beltex flock’s lambing season, with Zara and her dad Kenny building maternity pens, ensuring all is clean and ready for the ewes.
Kenny comments: “If it’s not clean, it’s not right,” pointing out that there is too much money involved in the process to run the risk of disease.
Zara is studying floristry at college but wouldn’t ever miss lambing season.
We then meet Jonny Hanson who runs a unique farm just outside Glynn, near Larne.
Jubilee is the first of its type in Northern Ireland – it’s funded and worked by a group of like-minded people with a passion for growing their own food.
Opened in 2019, the farm has a market garden, pigs, geese, and goats.
Jonny studied snow leopards in Nepal before taking on the farm and jokes about farming preparing you for parenthood: “You shovel it in one end, shovel it out at the other, trying not to lose your life or your sanity!”
James Alexander is a familiar face to Rare Breed fans. He farms cattle and sheep with his family near Randalstown, Antrim.
James produces in-calf cattle to sell on to other farmers and has developed his sheep flock since he last took part in the series.
In the first episode, James is having 320 cattle artificially inseminated (AI). The process is complicated and time consuming, but he has plenty of helpers, including Jack Smyth from the last series of Rare Breed.
James comments: “The big days are the best days.” James’ children are also featured in the series as they are now old enough to help during the lambing season in the Spring.
We find ourselves back in Tyrone at Des Kelly’s cattle and sheep farm near Ballygawley.
He got a nice New Year’s surprise in the form of six new lambs as a result of an over-amorous ram lamb being left in too long with some ewes!
Combining farming with a job in accountancy, Des has full-time help on the farm from experienced herdsman Rodrigo Ferreira, who originally honed his animal handling skills in his native Brazil.
In January, Des and Rodrigo are getting to grips with a new hi-tech feeding machine for the cattle.
Our last stop in the first episode is to Fermanagh, where young couple Margaret and Andrew Little run a progressive dairy enterprise near Tempo.
Andrew is a second generation farmer working alongside his dad Raymond.
Former nurse Margaret is busy rearing calves in the farm’s ‘maternity’ unit, driving during silage season, and vaccinating among many other jobs.
She also has several Simmental cattle and later in the series we see her and Andrew’s mum Katherine developing the vegetable garden
for the family.
Later in the series we meet young farmer Emily McGowan, from Balloo outside Newtownards, who studied agriculture at Harper Adams in Shropshire, England, and returned home to launch a new farm shop venture.
She’s following in her dad Adrian’s footsteps – he’s one of Northern Ireland’s leading farmers and Emily is working closely with him to learn all she can to be a top farmer.
We also meet Claire Shearer and Davy Kinkead. This young couple breed and sell Irish sports horses in Comber.
It’s a hobby, business and passion for care assistant Clare. Davy gave up his motorbikes to support Clare and says he doesn’t regret switching two wheels for four legs!
Tony Curry, Programmes Editor at UTV, said: “Rare Breed – A Farming Year has become a firm favourite amongst UTV viewers who look forward to the return of the agricultural series each year in our New Year schedule.
“Once again, each of the 12 episodes take us through the year, and this year more than most we see the realities of modern farming and get an armchair view into the lives of the people who carry on this vital tradition and industry.
“I’m sure the series will entertain, educate and delight in equal measure.”
The series is produced for UTV by Belfast’s Strident Media.
Producer Cara Dinsmore said: “Rare Breed is a wonderful series to film. It is fascinating to see how different farmers work and how they handle the inevitable highs and lows that the weather and life throw at them.”
Strident Media MD Kelda Crawford-McCann said: “We really enjoy producing Rare Breed. It’s a pleasure to make, there are so many big characters running farms here.
“They are always full of enthusiasm for what they do and have genuine interest and passion for their work.
“We are delighted that every year UTV viewers support the series, watching in their tens of thousands.”
n UTV’s Mark McFadden once again narrates the series.
n Sponsored by Moy Park, Rare Breed – A Farming Year starts on Tuesday, January 12, at 7.30pm on UTV.