5 May 1995

Pat Kelly

Pat Kelly runs a 75ha (185 acre) all-grass hill farm in Co Tyrone, Northern Ireland. His two main enterprises are 60 mainly Continental cross suckler cows and 65 Bleu du Maine and Rouge de lOuest cross ewes. He runs an on-farm butchery with emphasis on quality meat production.

IT is often said that without the weather farmers would have nothing to talk about. Going by the past few days this seems very true.

When weather is extreme that it is a major subject of conversation, and I suppose snow in April is a little unusual. Three weeks ago you could almost see the grass grow. Now you can see it dying.

But it was not all bad news. The fortnight of good weather at the start of April quickly dried up the ground, and machinery could finally be got on to the fields.

Just when everything was going well, there had to be another set-back. The tractor broke down and this time I think it is beyond repair. I suppose it should be no surprise, since this tractor has been on the farm for about 20 years.

Looking at it now, it may have been a blessing in disguise, as I had no choice but to get a replacement – and quickly. I contacted the local dealer, and a few days later we had a four-wheel-drive on the farm for the first time.

It was quickly activated, and now I realise that I should have got a tractor like this years ago. For the first time a contractor was not needed. The steeper ground and all the field work were finished quicker than ever before and there was also less damage to the soil.

With the dry spell, many of the cows and young calves were sent out to the fields. But on Easter Monday, they all came in again. They have been in since and, with silage running short, it looks as though barley straw and meal will be on the menu until they go out to grass again.

On more positive note, colder weather encouraged people to buy more beef. With the drama festival in the local town, the restaurant needed a lot to cope with extra demand. That made the week before Easter a busy spell in the on-farm butchery. I suppose every cloud has a silver lining. &#42