£55,700 raised at Markethill Mart

The annual Christmas show and sale at Markethill Mart last Thursday raised a fantastic £55,700 for local charities, with the money this year going to the Southern Area Hospice and Pretty ‘n’ Pink Breast Cancer.

Now a firm fixture on the mart’s calendar, the standout entry was an immaculately restored 1962 Massey Ferguson 35 that was kindly donated for auction, and which went on to make £13,500. Other items included livestock and hotel breaks, while mart staff donated wages for the evening to both charities.

Further support for pigs

A support scheme worth up to £1.6m for local pig farmers has been announced by DAERA.

The scheme is targeted at pig producers who have been financially affected by increasing input costs and will be implemented in accordance with a Ministerial Direction issued by former Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots.

Further details are to be confirmed in the coming weeks.

Farmers urged to be wary of visitors

Farmers across NI should be wary of unexpected visitors to their farms, the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) has warned.

The union is advising its members to ask unexpected visitors for identification to make sure their call is legitimate. It follows recent reports that criminals have been visiting local farms, pretending to be carrying out various agricultural services.

“If farm visitors are genuine, they will be able to produce ID or will verify who they are working for through their organisation and will not take offence at you asking for proof,” said UFU deputy president William Irvine.

British meat export cliff edge extended

The UK government has postponed the introduction of a rule which would have had major implications for the export of meat from Britain. The rule requires farmers in Britain to have signed evidence that a vet regularly visits their farm if they want meat from their farms to be eligible for export to the EU. Implementation of the rule has been postponed by one year to 13 December 2023. It will not affect NI farms (due to the NI protocol) and members of quality assurance schemes are exempt.

Defra secretary gene editing mix-up

The new secretary of state at Defra, Thérèse Coffey didn’t get off to the best start in her first oral question session at Westminster last Thursday.

Responding to Conservative MP Richard Bacon on whether she would visit a farm that uses regenerative farming techniques to produce quality food, Dr Coffey chose to remind her colleague of legislation being introduced to allow gene editing of crops and livestock.

“Given my diary, I cannot commit now, but his constituents’ work is exceptionally positive. We introduced the Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Bill because we know we need to adapt some of our food production industries to be resilient for the future,” she said.

The Defra secretary was also dismissive of a question from SNP MP Pete Wishart. He pointed to recent remarks from her predecessor George Eustice that the UK trade deal with Australia was “not very good”, and asked if she agreed that these rotten deals let down sectors she represents. “No, I do not,” was the short reply.

Innovation visit to Scotland

Up to 15 sheep farmers can apply to take part in a three-day CAFRE Farm Innovation Visit to the Loch Lomand region of Scotland.

The tour gives farmers the opportunity to learn about the latest technologies, management techniques and efficiencies being utilised on Scottish sheep farms.

The group will leave from Belfast International Airport on Wednesday 15 February and return on Friday 17 February 2023.

Applications are invited from one member or employee of a farm business that has at least 150 breeding ewes or finishes over 200 lambs. More details can be found on the CAFRE website (www.cafre.ac.uk). The closing date for applications is Monday 12 December at 4pm.