Farming Connect Study Visit - Wales YFC

Funded through the Knowledge Exchange, Innovation and Advisory Service within Welsh Government Rural Communities – Rural Development Programme 2014 - 2020

Wales YFC


26 - 29 October 2018

1) Background

The main aim of the visit was for Wales YFC to see a wide range of farms that would be of interest to all members. The visit also gave members the opportunity to see some of Northern Ireland’s most successful farms in order to influence their businesses at home.

With the UK on the verge of leaving the European Union, it is more important than ever for members to embrace change within the industry. The visit will give members the opportunity to see how areas in Northern Ireland address these essential changes.

It was noted that arranging this visit was the decision of the members. Following the success of a previous visit to Scotland, members were very keen to arrange a similar visit, but to Northern Ireland this time. The visit was sold out within two weeks of advertising, showing the positive attitudes of the members towards taking part in the visit.

Another benefit of attending the visit is that members will benefit greatly from visiting Northern Ireland as their approach and agricultural scale is very similar to what we have here in Wales. Using the lessons learned, members will be able to develop their businesses in the same way.

2) Itinerary

2.1 - Day 1

On Friday morning, all members travelled to Birmingham airport to fly over to Belfast, where a bus was waiting to take us on our first visit, to Glenarm Castle, Glenarm. Glenarm Castle won the ‘Beef Innovator of the Year’ title in British Farming Awards. After arriving, the group was given the opportunity to see the gardens at Glenarm Castle, before going to see the pedigree Shorthorn beef herd.

Later that afternoon, members were given the opportunity to visit Glenwherry Hill farm. This farm has built a sheep shed costing £700,000. The shed collects water that runs through the building, keeping it warm so that it doesn’t freeze in winter. They keep 700 sheep, lambing indoors from early December to the end of April.

2.2 - Day 2

The following day, we visited Isaac and Elizabeth Crilley’s farm at Castlederg. The husband and wife team run an intensive sheep farm only on 67 acres. In order to maximiase their farm inputs, we decided to move away from continental breeding. The couple have a strong flock of 400 Belclare / NZ Suffolk sheep. The sheep come in to lamb during mid-December. The sheep pens were placed on slats.

For the second half of the day, we visited Armagh Cider Co. This business grows their own apples and then uses them to produce cider and apple juice. They also sell leftover apples to Bulmers.

2.3 - Day 3

On Sunday, we visited Red House Holsteins where Alan and David Irwin keep 170 cows. This herd has the highest yield in Northern Ireland. They buy all the ingredients and mix them themselves to feed the cattle. Members were given the opportunity to walk around the farm to see the animals. There is also a wind turbine on the farm. The main aim of the turbine is to offset energy costs and reduce the farm’s carbon footprint. It succeeds in doing this at the moment, and it has proved to be a worthwhile investment. Later on in the afternoon, members were given the opportunity to visit Kyle McCall’s farm, where he stocks Saler and Charolais cattle.

2.4 - Day 4

On the last day of the visit, we visited Dungannon Meats. We had an interesting visit around the cutting and packing plant. The owner explained that 500 people worked there on one shift. Dunbia processes over 300,000 cows per year and produces quality beef products for retailers, food service outlets and wholesalers across the UK and Ireland, as well as supplying a large network of export customers across Europe and further afield. They also process over 1 million lambs per year.

3) Next Steps

This is the second visit of its kind arranged by Wales YFC and it was certainly a very successful one. Without a doubt, the members were inspired and they are very keen to implement changes on their businesses at home as a result. Members enjoyed hearing about the history of the farms and how they face the same challenges and need to change as Welsh farms in order to prepare for Brexit.

Following the success of this visit, the Wales YFC Rural and International Committee will be looking at arranging a similar visit again next year.