Victor Chestnutt attempts the impossible

Farmers across Northern Ireland are now grappling with the new raft of rules and regulations for land eligibility for the 2011 Single farm Payment. DARD having recently been visited by EU auditors are now running scared and are passing the buck onto farmers. Lowland farmers will not find it too difficult checking their fields, but hill and marginal farmers, like myself, face an impossible task of trying to measure each area of scrub, bracken, heather or thick rush to exclude this from our claim.

No two inspectors no matter how hard they tried could come up with the exact same answer on the size of ineligible areas, so I hope common sense, which sometimes I fear is not as common in our department, should prevail.

The aerial photographs we received are certainly helpful but have their limitations, as they can be three years out of date and identifying bracken changes with the season.

We are grateful to have been successful in our application for the Northern Ireland Farm Modernisation Scheme as this grant gives a maximum of £4000 aid for £10,000 of expenditure. A new cattle trailer has been purchased as one of the items as the old one is well past its sell-by date. However, when you include the centre gates and the sheep decks required for this farm business the grant rate reduces to nearer 30% than 40% – but it is still useful.

At the moment calving is starting and our pedigree cows seem to be calving better. Having been out-wintered, this decreases the workload considerably except when one needs assistance and decides she doesn’t want to leave 40ha (100 acres) of sand dunes – no need for keep-fit classes that week.

Recently, we purchased a half share in our first British Blue stock bull at 7,000gns I think it’s better to breed of an animal that you’ve seen in the flesh and this bull certainly has enough scale, length and bone structure to carry our Blues superior muscling.

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