Livestock Farmer Focus: Dry weather welcome, says Victor Chestnutt

Since I last wrote there has been an extended period of dry weather. Never before had it been so badly needed, but the countryside certainly has changed with most winter keep now saved. As Northern Ireland approaches the slurry ban, starting mid-October, there is an abundance of slurry on the move. We have pumped out our tanks using umbilical cord and dribble bar; this method gives us more flexibility of grazing fields sooner after application.

David has sold his mule lambs after collecting a first-place ticket at Ballymena show and sale for a pleasing £112/head for the top pen, averaging £76 for the lot. The flip side of the coin is Blackie replacement stock, which seems to have taken a jump, with import restrictions curtailing the usual number of Blackies coming into Northern Ireland. Surely with no bluetongue cases in GB mainland it is time for our department to remove the request for farmers to adhere to the voluntary ban on imports.

Northern Ireland’s new focus farm scheme is now operational with our farm being one of 50 odd farms in the province open to farmer groups for training. I look forward to visiting some of the other farms, and past experience tells me I will always learn something – there is no better textbook than seeing it in real life.

It’s pleasing to see the province’s milk auction system returning a better return as it has risen to 23.9 – last month’s base of 18p/litre is definitely not sustainable.

Finally, 30 September has now become one of the most important dates in the farming calendar, as our exchange rate for SFP is set. This year it looks quite promising. And because Northern Ireland borders Ireland, whose currency is the euro, we follow this more than the mainland. Although this year may suit us, surely an average over a set amount of time would be a much fairer solution.

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