John Martin

20 February 1998

John Martin

John Martin farms in

partnership with his parents

on the Ards Peninsula 15

miles south of Belfast. The

65ha (160-acre) Gordonall

farm and 16ha (40 acres) of

rented land carry 400

Suffolk x Cheviot ewes, a

small flock of Suffolks and

40 spring calving sucklers.

About 20ha (50 acres) of

barley is grown for feed and

for sale.

The dry weather at the start of the month was a welcome seasonal luxury, and a good opportunity to get ewes and lambs onto the forage rape. The lambs have started to eat creep feed now and we try to ensure the feeders are kept clean to stimulate intake. There seems to be uncertainty about the market for spring lamb this year, but we hope local consumers will be demanding our top quality product.

We received our first load of fertiliser in advance of the target T-sum date of Feb 16, when all of the grazing area had 50kg/acre of Hydros nitrogen/urea mixture applied. Only a little slurry has been spread and we hope to cover the first cut silage area before the end of the month. I attended the Ulster Grassland Society Conference recently to have my grass management skills refreshed. The theme for the speakers centred around maximising use of home-grown forage, while optimising timing and level of inputs.

While a few local dairy cows were outdoors recently for a spot of extended grazing, we have no similar plans for our sucklers. The in-calf heifers have been injected with a five in one vaccine to cover their offspring against a mixed bag of diseases, and are expected to begin calving in late February.

Much to the relief of our bank manager Im sure, the beef heifers were sold to the same local butcher who buys our lambs. These were too small to go to the bull last summer and averaged 242kg cold weight, or £436.

As time goes by, the financial position of the Provinces farms becomes more serious.

The Ulster Farmers Union has calculated in recent days that the fall in the value of farm output in the last two years is in excess of £200m, with an average net farm income of less than £3000 for each farm business expected for 1998. &#42

Average net farm income in Northern Ireland is expected to be less than £3000 for each farm business in 1998, says John Martin.

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