Busy winter period for Ballyclare group

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The 2016/17 Winter kicked off with our Jive night. Unfortunately the turnout was poor but as usual the craic was good and for those that did attend it was certainly a great work out.

The Larne Group then organised the joint meeting, very educational farm walk at Campbell Tweed’s farm in Cairncastle. It was the Ballymena group’s turn to arrange the County BBQ, yet again Ritchie Remo entertained a large crowd of UFU members and friends and Tom McMaster did not disappoint with a fabulous spread of food.

The second joint meeting was in Greenmount, Life after Brexit, the speakers were great but the conclusion was that there were still too many unanswered questions. In December a party of Ballyclare group members visited Kilroot power Station, kindly hosted by AES UK and Ireland staff. This was followed by a very tasty Christmas lunch in Billy Andy’s.

In January members of the County were able to meet and discuss the way forward for farming, support and marketing and various issues with the Union’s presidential team. This was a more informal session where members were encouraged to share their thoughts and ideas of how the union should take things forward with our political leaders and government.

Financial planning was the topic for discussion in February, our NFU Financial advisor and Lowry Grant a local accountant shared ideas and options available to be more Tax efficient, the benefits of Life and Critical illness cover and the possibilities of becoming a Limited Company. Certainly a very useful evening. This was the last meeting drawing the winter programme to a close. I must thanks all our members for their continued support and attendance at these meetings.

In October we waved goodbye, temporarily, to Carrie Anne who was taking time off on her maternity leave. In January we were introduced to baby Annabel the new addition to Carrie Anne’s family. Also in October we welcomed Joanne Horner onto the team. Joanne was previously an underwriter with the NFU Mutual in Belfast so very familiar with the insurance side of the business, she has settled in well and is now a valuable member of the team.

Lorraine our office manager is still keeping us all on our toes and Florence our claims handler continue to work hard to get those claim cheques out. Poor Maureen is currently laid up at home after breaking her ankle at home, we are sure her husband is looking after her well.

As usual the Ballyclare Group had a good entry into this year’s Silage competition, sponsored by Thompson’s feeds and Ecosyl. Carolyn Henry from Thompson’s kindly agreed to judge. Roger and Hilary Bell were worthy winners of the Beef and Sheep section and Denis Boyd was delighted with the news that he had won the dairy section. The Ballyclare group also have a Big Bale competition with William Johnston claiming this prize.

The winner of the Beef and Sheep and the dairy sections went through to the next round of National judging. Roger and Hilary Bell were placed a fantastic first overall in Northern Ireland and Denis Boyd finished a very pleasing fourth place.

Thompsons and Ecosyl representatives hosted the main prize winners to a presentation lunch and praised the members for the excellent quality of Silage once again making through to the final judging stage.

The biggest and most exciting news is the merging of the Ballyclare and Larne branches, although both offices will remain open for business as usual. This merger will enable the skills and experience of the Agents and staff in both offices to provide an even better service to members and customers in South East Antrim.

We wish James McCluggage well in his new role in Headquarters of the Ulster Farmer’s Union and look forward to his continued support for the two offices. Ian Kernohan will be the Senior Agent/Group manager for the two offices, and I will be continuing in the assistant’s role. We welcome Ricky Lee on board as a new assistant and a fourth partner is yet to be appointed. Ricky is moving from the Magherafelt NFU/UFU office so is bringing with him plenty of experience. It also brings him closer to home which his wife Paula will be pleased about.