Spring has sprung on Rare Breed

Alex Lyttle
Alex Lyttle

The third episode of Rare Breed - A Farming Year was the most watched programme in Northern Ireland at 8.30pm last Thursday night with an average audience of 178,000 viewers and a 33% share.

Rare Breed – A Farming Year continues on Thursday at 8.30pm UTV with a look at April 2018. Spring has sprung albeit quite late for the farmers. Ewes are still lambing on a few of our farms, and preparation is well underway for the Balmoral Show coming up in May. We also meet two new farmers for the first time.

Caron McGeough from Armagh is still waiting for 50 ewes to lamb and explains the difficulties involved in keeping ewes and lambs indoors for such a long time. She feels it will be a long year but says that it’s much better when the sun is out, as the sheep “do better running and skipping about”

In Newtownbutler, John Hall is checking on his new hens. He says how important routine is to the hens and a stress free environment ensures that they lay the best eggs. His wife Eileen talks about the growth of their business which coincided with them having a family, saying that “the baby was reared in the hen house!”

We return to Tony Johnston the tree farmer who this time is on the North Coast planting 22,000 trees as part of a big government push to increase the levels of tree cover in Northern Ireland. He talks about how good trees are for the environment. He jokingly talks of the “five months of misery” between January and May during the planting season, but then ends on a more positive note saying, “You start off with the waterproofs on, ending up with your T-shirt on.”

We are introduced to three generations of the McGilligan family near Dungiven. They are sheep farmers and are in the midst of lambing 450 ewes. Young Cahir is trying to spot ewes that are about to lamb saying, “I like learning new stuff about them.”

We also see how they manage feeding sheep that are on the Sperrin hills.

In Newtownards, we also get a glimpse of Gary Hanna’s grooming strategy for his prized Aberdeen Angus cattle in advance of the show season. Working well into the night he says, “You need to be dedicated to the showing job just to get everything right.”

Still in Newtownards we meet for the first time vegetable grower Alex Lyttle, who’s sowing 35 acres of leeks at his farm on the shores of Strangford Lough. His father Roy started the farm with just three acres planting scallions and they now have over 275 acres of vegetables and cereals. Alex has always wanted to farm and has studied farming and worked abroad before coming home to Newtownards.

Finally we go back to Joel Kerr in Dungannon, who is in the kitchen trying out recipes for sauces to complement the beef from the farm. He’s delighted to be turning out cattle and loves seeing them bounding round the field.