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TV | Rare Breed returns tonight and it is April on the farms

'RARE BREED – A Farming Year’ continues this evening, and we're now in in the month of April with things getting busy for all the farmers, as they take advantage of a dry sunny spell.

‘Rare Breed – A Farming Year’ is the ground-breaking year-in-the-life observational documentary series charting the reality of farming in 21st century Northern Ireland for 12 families, giving a unique insight into one of Northern Ireland’s largest and oldest industries.

We visit Derrytresk, outside Dungannon, Tyrone first where young couple Shay O’Neill and Susan Chestnutt are working on the other half of their farming enterprise.  Here they rear poultry, sheep, and cattle, as well as on the North Coast. Today they’re checking their latest flock of 250 chickens which Shay describes as the ‘pest control unit’ as they eat everything when they are put outside.  

They are strong advocates of rotational grazing so they are moving the cattle to fresh grass, which they say is better for the cattle and the soil. The young couple are also on a countdown to their wedding in June, with Susan laughing, “Shay doesn’t have a clue what’s going on!”

Next door in County Fermanagh, Dale and Vicki Byers from Ballinamallard are future-proofing their business.

They’re working with heifers destined to join the herd as replacement cows. Dale is a progressive farmer so he’s decided to get the animals’ genetics analysed so he can select the best bull and cow breeding combination.  

Genetics is growing at a fast pace, and they work as a team to get all the samples taken, recorded and parcelled up to be sent to America for analysis. After six weeks the results will be back to tell them the strengths and weaknesses of each cow.

Vicki comments: “Every day’s a school day here!”

Next we’re off the Beatty’s in Auchnacloy.  April’s an exciting time for the family at their farm, as children Charlie and Mia are carefully making plans with their Dad, Paul for the start of show season next month. Charlie is intending to show his sheep Pearl and there is lots of washing, grooming, training and preparation for both the animal and handler in the run up to the show, including a new coat for Charlie!  

Paul makes a drying pen for the sheep so they don’t get dirty after washing, saying, “Sheep’ll find a mucky spot!”  They are all hopeful of a rosette at Balmoral.

In the second part of the episode, we head to Gilpin’s near Loughgall in Armagh where it’s peak sowing season for this family-run business. They’re under pressure to get the Autumn crops in the ground and today they’re sowing carrots.

William and his cousin Richard and the other staff are hard at work planting over 500,000 seeds per acre, which they have worked out gives the best yield and size of carrot.  April into May is the busiest time of year for the business and they are hoping for the perfect weather conditions for the next while with Richard saying, “You want it dry enough to keep working but you need a bit of dampness.”  

William also shares concerns about the volatility of the market across the sector and how the price of vegetables will be impacted by inflation.

The last stop of this episode is Templepatrick in Co.Antrim, where foaling season has started at Sweet Wall. Georgia and her daughter Lucca Stubington are looking after their newest arrival, Gem. She is the first foal of the year, with the season expected to last until June. With horses giving birth mainly at night in the dark, Georgia has cameras with night vision in the stables so she can keep an eye on progress without disturbing the horses.

UTV’s Mark McFadden narrates the series. Sponsored by Dromona, ‘Rare Breed’ – A Farming Year continues this evening Thursday 9th February at 8.30pm on UTV.


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