Victor Chestnutt takes a trip to the Orkney Islands

Recently, myself along with some fellow Texel Breeders, enjoyed a trip to the Orkney Islands and northern Scotland. I find it interesting comparing farming systems in other parts of the country to our own. Farming there is in good heart, with stock prices increasing, the full-time unit size seems to be larger than here in north Antrim.

A few of the most striking things in the Orkneys are the great clover swards and the lack of trees and hedging. Living on a coastal farm myself, I realise how difficult it is to grow these, but I think the lack of hedges may be something to do with tradition.

While they could maybe learn this skill from ourselves we could certainly learn that our field sizes should be increased to make our farming operations more efficient. The fact our department uses the SFP as a block to amalgamating small fields, I feel it’s not in keeping with the aims of the SFP. More flexibility should be given to farmers who demonstrate their ability to manage field boundaries.

With prime lamb prices reaching an all-time high for this time of the year, expectations are soaring about breeding sheep sales. With cull ewe prices high – meaning more replacements will be needed – and the fact an increase in sheep population is bound to kick in shortly, this has to reflect on a good sales season. Excitement is rising to fever point as Texel tup sales in Ballymena and Lanark approach. More on this next time.

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