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Livestock breeder and farm insurance broker Conn Williamson reflects on the year past and looks forward to the Winter Fair at Balmoral Park on Thursday, Dec 13.

THIS past farming year started with the wettest autumn in the memory of man and an early spring that stayed disappointing.

Spirits were low as a long winter ate into fodder supplies with prospects for early turn-out bleak.  Winter crops were sodden and hopes of spring sowing were becoming ever later

Tractor and harvester fires were more common in that long, hot summer just past. CIP Insurance Brokers urging farmers and contractors to clear away chaff, watch those temperature gauges and fit a fire extinguisher. Now the winter message is to keep yards and machines well lit with high viz jackets a must for all.
Tractor and harvester fires were more common in that long, hot summer just past. CIP Insurance Brokers urging farmers and contractors to clear away chaff, watch those temperature gauges and fit a fire extinguisher. Now the winter message is to keep yards and machines well lit with high viz jackets a must for all.

As days lengthened field finally work gathered pace, yet optimism was in short supply as thoughts in April turned to Balmoral Show plans.

But fear not, for as ever the weather eventually turned and Balmoral 2018 had four gloriously sunny days of record crowds as the RUAS laid on a show the high-light of our farming year.

And the show sunshine was no fluke as we switched to short sleeved shirts and even shorts with some farming folk adopting Spanish hours. Working outside early and late, but skipping the hottest early afternoon hours for somewhere in the shade.

Worries over water shortages, slow sward recovery and a dearth of vegetables began appearing in the mainstream media.

But sadly for some farmers fire became their foremost fear in hot, dry and dusty conditions as machines and men worked even longer hours than usual.

At CIP Insurance Brokers we saw more machinery fires with many complete burn outs reported. Keeping chaff clear and a fire extinguisher to hand on tractors and self propelled harvesters was strongly advised. Not least because some tractor and combine fires spread across fields destroying crops and other equipment in a tinder dry countryside.

Now in the short dark days of winter CIP reminds clients to ensure all vehicles are lit up for legal road use and safe operation. See and be seen, not least by having well lit yards, with high viz jackets advised.

Now that other big surprise not expected, Brexit, looms in March. So to remove some uncertainty from your farming life take time to compare the cover and service offered by family owned CIP Insurance Brokers Ltd .

For over 40 years CIP Insurance Brokers in Crumlin have built strong relationships with leading UK agricultural insurers with a proven track record. Thus giving our clients access to several exclusive schemes.

So let CIP experts in the field of farm insurance give your the certainty of the right cover for you, your family and farm at the best value premium. Polices giving you the peace of mind to concentrate on taking your farm business forwards, Brexit or no Brexit.

A quote costs nothing, but could save time, worry and money for years to come! You shop around for other goods and services so why not do this with insurance cover?  Simply free call CIP on 0800 1777 880 and ask for our Farm Department or contact mob; Garry 07851634029 and Mark 07756500652.

Better still visit the CIP stand during the Winter Fair on Thursday, Dec 13 to get a free quote, enter a free draw and receive a small gift.

As Garry Scott, CIP agri insurance specialist, notes, “Our retention rate from existing clients at renewal is running at an all time high with quotations for new business drawing in many more customers.”

So end  your farming year on a high with lower cost cover from CIP by visiting  our Winter Fair stand, E10, opposite the cafe in the Eikon  Exhibition Centre.

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South Armagh and South Down are areas well known for co-operation in the agricultural field with South Armagh Farming Enterprises and Rathfriland Farmers Co-Op two examples of what can be achieved when people get together for the common good.

Local agricultural enthusiasts could certainly learn from the first Co-Operative community owned farm in N Ireland which has recently set itself up on a 13.5 acre site in County Antrim.

Jubilee Farm is a community-led, Christian-based agricultural and environmental co-operative raised funding for their impressive project through a community share offer that closed on Friday 25 January 2019.

To date, they have already made significant progress, raising £280,000 to acquire a farmhouse, as well as 13.5 acres of land, outside Glynn in County Antrim. Their next milestone is to reach their £30,000 target for the purchase of essential equipment, livestock, a greenhouse and the installation of polytunnels.

Jonny and Paula Hanson with son Joshua (8) and daughters Bethany (6) and Sophia (3) along with Noreen Christian. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie
Jonny and Paula Hanson with son Joshua (8) and daughters Bethany (6) and Sophia (3) along with Noreen Christian. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie

“The response has been most encouraging and we are on track to meet our goal. Becoming a member-owner of Jubilee Farm is the perfect opportunity for individuals, families, schools, churches, and community groups to come together and invest in a community enterprise that works for the benefit of everyone. The option for members and non-members alike to purchase food from the farm while also getting involved in volunteering and special events, will create a real sense of community ownership and community spirit.” Commented Society Managing Director, Dr. Jonny Hanson.

The Jubilee Farm story has been in the making for several years now. Explaining Jonny said, “Such was the interest from over 28 organisations in attendance over the course of our four pubic consultation meetings at Drumalis Retreat Centre in 2017, that we haven’t looked back. For the first six months of 2018, Jubilee used a temporary site situated in the walled garden at Drumalis in Larne. This gave us a great start. Our move to the farm at Glenburn Road outside the village of Glynn, has given space and scope to further develop our project. Our five-year plan will embrace organic farming, educational outreach, school and group visits, care farming and an internship programme. A glamping initiative factored in for year four will also tick the box for rural farm staycations. However within the next six months a major focus for us will be setting up our veg box scheme, using fresh in-season produce from the farm. In line with our ethos, rediscovering how important being a custodian for the future is and as a Christian organisation, engaging with churches in Ireland, were key factors to our current success.”

Reinforcing the family-centred approach, so important to the venture, Jonny with wife Paula and children, Joshua (aged 8) Bethany (aged 6) and Sophia (aged 3) have just moved on-site to live at Jubilee Farm. And although only relocating from Larne, as joint founding members, they are finding their new life invigorating and can now really see things starting to materialise.

Jonny’s grandparents farmed in the Aghadowey area, where he spent many happy childhood summers. And although his parents were not farmers he feels he was hardwired for the great outdoors. “When I was a child I wanted to be both a farmer and a conservationist. With this job I have a foot in both camps with my interests in nature and wildlife on one hand, and in sustainable agriculture and agroecology on the other hand. Importantly, the fact that I have realised this dream, is I feel, most encouraging for others with similar interests who are not from farming stock, especially when we desperately need new and younger entrants to the profession.“ Jonny said.

A second Jubilee Farm Pig Club has already started with the pre-sale of 28 pig quarters. As many people are perhaps a little out of touch about where their food comes from, the idea behind the pig club is to market pig meat not just as pork but also as various cuts from the animal, giving not only traceability but useful insight into the production of high-welfare outdoor pigs. Turkeys will be raised in time for Christmas 2019. While, the planned addition of goats to the smallholding in the near future, will see them effectively manage the adjacent scrubland.

Commenting on Jubilee Farm events Jonny said,

“At our Bioblitz Festival of Science and Nature in June 2018, we welcomed more than 400 members of the public to participate in a 24-hour programme of walks, talks and activities. Our Bioblitz Festival will also run again this year, taking place on Friday 21 and Saturday 22 June, marking the official opening of Jubilee Farm.“

The farm at Glynn near Larne. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie
The farm at Glynn near Larne. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie

Due to their popularity, community volunteer days are also planned as on-going attractions. The last series in 2018 brought in over 100 volunteers, while almost 100 primary school children attended one of the curriculum-based nature education learning sessions. Developing outreach to schools will also bring dedicated Teacher Tours for education professionals to the venue on 27 February and 8 March. Outreach to other groups such as the non-residential CARE – Care farming for Asylum Seekers, Refugees and the Environment - Project, offers structured volunteering opportunities t to refugee asylum seeker groups. The first group of 4 to participate in the project includes refugees and asylum seekers from the Ivory Coast, Syria and Iran, some of whom were farmers in their home countries.

Jubilee’s aim to breathe new life into the old farm dwelling and create a legacy for future generations has certainly caught the imagination of its 105 members. Society Secretary Dr Jeni McAughey is very appreciative of the support Jubilee has received to date, “We started with less than 10 members but through the help and guidance of Co-operative Alternatives and the Plunkett Foundation, we have steadily built our member base. Adopting the cooperative model has brought many benefits such as engaging with members who have shared values and diverse skill sets. This has developed a synergy from pooled resources, such as financial advice and business support alongside practical skills such as animal husbandry.“

Tiziana O’Hara from Cooperative Alternatives said, “The existence of Jubilee Farm is of great importance as an example of sustainable community enterprise which creates economic, ecological, and social value. Adding, With the Plunkett Foundation we supported Jubilee and, in particular, developed their investment offer to the local community and allowed them to raise the necessary capital. This successful initiative proves that there is a wide interest for projects that bring members ownership and democratic participation back to the heart of farming.“

The Society’s aim is to create permanence locked into the ecosystem through a long-term contribution to the stewardship of the countryside and a responsibility to nature, will provide a legacy for generations to come. An oak tree will be planted on the first members’ day to symbolise this nod to nature and the future.

“In summary, Jubilee Farm in essence, is owned by the community and for the community and importantly, welcomes people of all backgrounds and beliefs. Everyone is welcome. It’s a common ground for good in many ways.“ Jonny concluded.

If you would like more information about Jubilee Farm please visit www.jubilee.coop

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With the closed period for spreading slurry coming to an end at midnight tonight 31 January, the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI) is reminding farmers to take extra care when working with slurry.

Mixing slurry can be a particularly dangerous job as slurry gas is released very quickly, and in large quantities, as soon as the mixing starts.

Slurry gas is a mixture of gases, including the extremely poisonous gas, hydrogen sulphide. Even a low concentration of hydrogen sulphide can knock out your sense of smell so you won’t even know it’s there. At higher concentrations you will rapidly find it harder to breathe and become confused - and at certain concentrations, just one breath can kill.

The first 30 minutes are the most dangerous, so it is important for farmers to leave the shed as soon as mixing starts - and to stay out for at least 30 minutes.

Reminding farmers of the dangers of mixing slurry, Malcolm Downey, Principal Inspector of HSENI’s farm safety team, said: “Before starting any job on the farm, including slurry mixing, take time to stop, think and safely plan the work ahead.

“Cover openings and keep children and animals far away during the slurry mixing process.  Stay out of the building for at least 30 minutes after the mixing starts and every time you move the pump or change the direction of mixing. Please be aware that if a tank is mixed before the end of the closed period and is then mixed again before the tank is emptied that gas can build up again even within a day or two and it is essential to stay out for at least 30 minutes once again.

“Do not take any chances when mixing slurry.  As the closed period comes to an end I urge farmers to reflect on the safe slurry mixing code, remembering that just one breath can kill.”

Slurry mixing code

keep children away from the area at all times when working with slurryif possible, mix on a windy dayopen all doorstake all animals out of the building before starting to mix slurryuse outside mixing points firstif slats are removed, cover exposed areas of the tank beside the pump/mixer to stop anything falling instart the pump/mixer – then get out and stay out of the building for as long as possible - at least 30 minutesany time you have to go into the building try to make sure that another adult knows what you are doing and can get help if necessaryif you have to re-enter to move the pump or change the direction of the pump, leave the building as soon as this is done – do not go back in for as long as possible – at least another 30 minutes

Never:

rely on filter type facemasks use gas monitors as a substitute for working safelyhave naked flames near slurry, as slurry gas mixture is flammablestand close to the exhaust of a vacuum tanker when it is being filled

If you find someone has been overcome during slurry mixing, If possible, stop the pump and get the person to fresh air but do not put yourself at risk in the process. If breathing is weak or stopped, artificial respiration may be effective. Contact the emergency services and seek immediate medical attention.

For more information about working safely with slurry or general farming health and safety issues please contact the HSENI helpline on: 0800 0320 121 or visit the farm safety topic page on the HSENI website: www.hseni.gov.uk

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Slieve Gullion area Councillor Terry Hearty has said that the forthcoming series of Mandatory Pre-Application Workshops in relation to the ‘Rural Business Investment Scheme’ are vital to anyone who is interested in pursuing funding.

Tí Chulainn In Mullaghbawn will host one February 13. The Workshop times are 10am and 7pm sharp”.

Cllr Hearty explained “Mourne, Gullion and Lecale Rural Development Partnership will be holding a series of Mandatory Pre-Application Workshops across the district for potential applicants who wish to apply for funding under it’s “Rural Business Investment” scheme.

The Councillor continued “The Rural Business Investment Scheme aims to provide investment support for the creation and development of micro and small enterprises (including farm diversification and private tourism businesses) in rural areas. All towns/villages are eligible with the exception of those located within the town/city boundary of Newry/Downpatrick”.

Concluding the south Armagh Councillor said,

“I believe that these Workshops are vital to attend for those seeking information about the funding stream and the application process. Pre-registration is essential.

Please register by calling 0300 013 2233 extension 2506. Or alternatively you can email rdp.admin@nmandd.org and provide the following information: name, organisation, address, telephone number, email address, AM or PM workshop, any specific requirements.

More information is available on www.mournegullionlecale.com

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HSENI and the Farm Safety Partnership (FSP) have launched a survey on Farm Safety aimed at raising farm safety awareness and protecting the lives and livelihoods of local farmers.

Farm businesses have been randomly selected to participate in the survey to ensure a representative coverage. They are issuing 8.030 questionaires in total.

The Farm Safety Partnership have developed this postal survey to gather information on the following issues: non-fatal accidents, farm work practises, areas of hazard and farm safety investments. The Partnership is asking farm businesses to help prevent deaths and serious injury on farms, by improving knowledge of the types of accidents and the reasons for them.

All the responses to the survey will be combined to be used for statistical and research purposes only. The results will assist the Farm Safety Partnership shape future training and advice to farmers, as well as helping to measure progress in reducing the number of accidents.

Harry Sinclair, chair of the Farm Safety Partnership, said: “Through this survey we want to understand the concerns and experiences of farmers, which will enable us to target our workload and help the farming community avoid daily accidents and stay as safe as possible.

“Farmers contribution to this survey is completely voluntary, but we are expecting a good response as farm safety awareness is high across the industry, and we are urging farmers to take responsibility for making sure they follow safe working practises at all times.

“I know that some in the farming community will have concerns about sharing information on health and safety issues, but I can assure everyone that the information received will be strictly confidential, and will help us robustly create a programme for future training purposes.”

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Belfast-headquartered agri nutrition company Devenish is investing in future talent through two initiatives – one aimed at training graduates and one at supporting PhD students in their research.

The Devenish Professional Graduate Programme will be the company’s largest ever intake of graduates. Now open for applications, it will bring up to 11 graduates into the company to specialise in one of four development pathways: Business Services, Commercial, Operations, Technical and Nutrition. The closing date for applications is Friday 22nd February 2019.

Gillian McAuley, Group HR Director, Devenish; Ryan Connor, People Development Manager, Devenish; Anna Carmichael, current Graduate Trainee, Devenish. Photograph: Brian Thompson
Gillian McAuley, Group HR Director, Devenish; Ryan Connor, People Development Manager, Devenish; Anna Carmichael, current Graduate Trainee, Devenish. Photograph: Brian Thompson

Graduates will spend time working in several Devenish departments focusing on their area of specialism, receiving bespoke training and development and one-on-one mentoring as well as a competitive salary.

The programme will operate in Devenish’s sites across Northern Ireland and Great Britain – including A-One Feed Supplements in North Yorkshire and Hi-Peak Organic Feeds in Sheffield. Graduates may also be given opportunities to gain international experience at the company’s other sites including Turkey, Africa and the US. After two years, successful candidates will be offered a permanent role within the company.

In addition, Devenish will soon launch a Doctorate bursary programme in partnership with Queen’s University Belfast (QUB). The programme will see Devenish support a number of PhD students each year, providing a year-long placement within the company during the course of their research.

Gillian McAuley, Group HR Director, Devenish said: “Devenish is built on innovation and by helping identify and nurture the careers of talented graduates and PhD students, we are not only enriching their future careers, but also investing in the future of our business.”

For further information on the Devenish Professional Graduate Programme and to find out how to apply, visit www.devenish.com/graduate

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It's just three months to go until NI’s largest agricultural event

Taking place at Balmoral Park, Lisburn from May 15-18, the 2019 Show promises to build on the success of last year’s historic 150th Show. The four-day event will feature more than 650 trade stands, the NI Food Pavilion featuring the best of local food and drink producers, hundreds of competitions and classes, and a wide range of family entertainment and attractions.

Alan Crowe, RUAS Chief Executive, said: “It’s a great honour to officially kick-start the countdown to our doors opening again in 2019 and indeed to a new era for the Balmoral Show. Last year was all about celebrating our landmark anniversary but now we are looking towards the future and excited to see how the Show continues to grow and evolve.

Kickstarting the countdown to the 2019 Balmoral Show is Rhonda Geary, Operations Director, RUAS; Nigel Walsh, Commercial Director, Ulster Bank; Cormac McKervey, Head of Agriculture, Ulster Bank and Alan Crowe, Chief Executive, RUAS
Kickstarting the countdown to the 2019 Balmoral Show is Rhonda Geary, Operations Director, RUAS; Nigel Walsh, Commercial Director, Ulster Bank; Cormac McKervey, Head of Agriculture, Ulster Bank and Alan Crowe, Chief Executive, RUAS

“We are pleased to have Ulster Bank on board again as our principal sponsor as their support has played an integral role in enabling us to grow the Show to the fantastic spectacle it is today. Whether you’re looking for a family day out, great food or the chance to see some exceptional livestock displays, it’s all in the Show.”

2019 will be Ulster Banks’ 10th year as principal sponsor of the Balmoral Show, a legacy Commercial Director Nigel Walsh says he is extremely proud of. “For ten years we have been at the helm of Northern Ireland’s largest agricultural event and are proud to have worked closely with RUAS to further the Show’s appeal to a much wider audience.

“Gone are the days when the Balmoral Show was a strictly agri-event and it’s a huge testament to the work of RUAS to see this vibrant event attract an increasingly metropolitan, urban audience. For us at Ulster Bank, the Show is all about reinforcing our commitment to the agri-food industry and we look forward to showcasing the many ways we can provide help and support to this crucial sector across the four days of the Show.”

New attractions for 2019 include Jason Smyth Adrenalin Tour along with Clive Shaw Trucks and the return of the hotly-contested best-dressed competition. Those wishing to take part in livestock competitions during the Balmoral Show are reminded that entries open on Wednesday 20thFebruary. More information about the entry process can be found balmoralshow.co.uk.

The 2019 Balmoral Show runs from Wednesday, May 15 – Saturday, May 18. Discounted pre-show tickets are available to purchase online now from balmoralshow.co.uk.

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Dog worrying of livestock is a problem farmers face throughout the year but poses a particular concern with the approach of lambing season.

Worrying livestock can take many forms and does not only mean when a dog attacks or kills sheep or cattle. Chasing livestock, causing animals distress are all considered worrying and can have serious consequences. The financial cost of worrying can be substantial, with the loss of valuable stock, veterinary care, abortions in attacked and frightened animals, and damage to property.

With the lambing season underway pet owners have been asked to keep their animals under control when near livestock.
With the lambing season underway pet owners have been asked to keep their dogs under control when near livestock.

Newry, Mourne and Down District Council Chairman, Councillor Mark Murnin said, “Dog worrying can be a real problem and the Council is determined to do all it can to ensure that dog owners understand the serious consequences for both the animal and its owner. With lambing time near, the Council would wish to remind dog owners of their responsibilities in ensuring that their pets are under control at all times and, in particular, that they are kept secure at night.”

The vast majority of dogs are friendly family pets but all dogs have the potential to inflict injury and to worry livestock. The Council’s Dog Warden Service has the authority to seize any dog (of any type and breed) suspected of being involved in worrying or attacking livestock. Dog owners may be prosecuted for any offences and a court may order the dog to be destroyed. A civil case may also be brought by the farmer for any financial loss suffered.

The Dog Wardens respond to all incidents of dog worrying or attacks and anyone who witnesses a dog worrying or attacking livestock is encouraged to report it to them by telephoning 0300 013 2233.

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A decision to axe ANC (Areas of Natural Constraint) payments has been criticised as a direct attack on hill farmers by South Down MP Chris Hazzard.

Mr Hazzard said “The purpose of the ANC payment was to help redress the challenging environmental, topographical and soil conditions that farmers experience in the hills compared to their counterparts in lowland areas.

“It was an important supplement here in South Down that helped pay for bills such as fertiliser or animal feed. As a result of decisions made by the DUP Minister in 2016, hill farmers will not receive the ANC payment from this year.

“This has caused a lot of anger in the farming community and during the past year Sinn Féin has been engaging with the Equality Commission regarding the impact of this decision.

“We believe the decision to axe the ANC may be a breach of the department’s Equality Scheme and should be overturned.

“The withdrawal of ANC is having a devastating impact on farmers across South Down - especially in the Mournes and parts of Slieve Croob.  We have seen in recent days, the department’s own figures on the number of suckler cows recorded at its lowest number in the north since 1998. The withdrawal of ANC payment is contributing to this situation, resulting in a loss of income for farmers."

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