The South West Antrim Rural Development (SWARD) Group of dairy farmers have got 2016 off to a flying start with their annual day trip, making a comprehensive visit to the premises of NC Engineering at Hamiltonsbawn followed by a dairy farm visit to Keith Agnew, near Newry.
NC Engineering were established in 1976 and have now grown into a world renowned company manufacturing a huge range of agricultural and industrial equipment.
Now employing some 129 people on their site, just south of Richhill, the SWARD Group were met by company staff who gave the group a complete tour of the very tidy site, showing the makings and beginnings of each item as they went along the production lines.
What impressed Group members the most was that the company manufactured the majority of all equipment with only minimal materials being purchased such as chassis and tyres. A substantial amount of the equipment goes for export, with group members witnessing dump trailers being towed off the end of production lines ready to go to Canada, and low loaders on their way to Finland.
After lunch at the Courthouse Restaurant in Markethill it was off to the 500 cow dairy herd of Keith Agnew near Newry. On this farm all stock from dairy cows to maiden heifers are housed 365 days a year. Cows are on a diet of grass and maize silage, along with home mixed meal, which averaged a total of four tonnes per cow.
Cows are milked three times a day and yield some 10,600 litres per cow. This was certainly a high input, high output farm and an eye watering labour bill for the month certainly confirmed that. However with six million litres of milk being produced annually it provided plenty of questions for Keith to answer and food for thought on the way home.
Come mid-April the SWARD Group will now literally be flying as they head off on their 14th Annual Study Tour. Flying into Bristol the Group will visit farms in Somerset, Wiltshire and Hampshire, with highlights being the 1500 ha Leckford Estate to the east of Stonehenge on the Salisbury Plain and also the 2014 Gold Cup Winner, the home of Glastonbury, where the first ever Robotic Rotary will be completed and up and running by May 2016.