Farmer Focus: An exciting and daunting time for agriculture

Where has the time gone? Seven years has passed since I was last writing in Farmers Weekly

I now realise writing in Farmers Weekly should carry a health warning as it can represent the first steps into agripolitics, as former Farmer Focus writer Minette Batters finds herself leading the National Farmers Union and I am deputy of Ulsters Farmers’ Union (UFU).

It certainly is an exciting time for agriculture and it is quite daunting being involved in helping shape policy at this important juncture.

With Northern Ireland becoming such a focal point for the Brexit withdrawal agreement, the UFU is lobbying at a UK political level as well as a local level, with politicians from both north and south of the island.

See also: More from the Livestock Farmer Focus contributors

It is extremely frustrating and disappointing  our local politicians can’t put their petty differences to one side and run their devolved administration for the benefit of all citizens including farmers.

Recently, while attending a congress of European farmers, I heard the EU’s agriculture commissioner Phil Hogan warn other countries not to think of leaving the bloc and to see how difficult it was for the UK to exit. I wouldn’t like to think we are members of a club that was run like Ireland’s paramilitary organisations – once you’re in you can’t get out.

If the weather pattern of 2018 is the effect of global warming our farmers in North Antrim will be saying “bring it on” as we have enjoyed one of the best growing seasons we can remember. However, this came after three horrendous wet years which had seen nature nearly reclaiming our marginal land.

Our farming livestock operations are still livestock-based with moderate expansion in David’s dairy unit, still using cross-bred cows.

Technology keeps marching on, with a robotic barn cleaner and robotic silage pusher helping to ease the workload on the family farm.

Our pedigree bull sale has gathered momentum and is firmly established with averages rising year-on-year and many repeat customers keen to purchase these commercially reared, fit-to-work, bulls.

Pedigree Texel sheep are still retained on the farm with David managing these and following in my footsteps, representing NI Texel Young Breeders.

Victor Chestnutt farms in partnership with his wife Carol and son David at Clougher Farm, County Antrim, Northern Ireland. They milk 200 Montbeliarde cross Holsteins and have 50 pedigree beef animals and farm 206ha.