Farmers make hay – and cut grass and barley – while the sun shines

Barclay Bell at his farm in Rathfriland, Co Down
Barclay Bell at his farm in Rathfriland, Co Down

Farmers across the Province weren’t complaining yesterday as they reported being on ‘the pig’s back’ with their harvest two weeks ahead of schedule.

The sound of farmers’ cutting and lifting their grass and wheat has been a common sound in recent days – “made all the easier with the glorious weather”.

Among the happy farmers was Barclay Bell, deputy president of the Ulster Farmers’ Union.

His largely arable farm in Rathfriland, Co Down, which also diversified into growing flowers, has this week been involved in “cutting winter barley and getting the straw bailed”.

“We would like to think we would have winter barley finished by Friday night and that is us two weeks ahead of schedule,” he said.

“Prices for grain have fallen by 20 per cent in the year.

“But if the weather continued [at this heat] for some time we would be back to the situation where we would be asking if there was any word of rain.”

Mr Bell said the hot spell “has given us a great start as far as the harvest goes, but there is still a lot to cut and other crops in the ground, but the weather makes all the difference”.

He added that he knew “this warm dry spell is starting to present a problem for some people throughout the country who could probably do with rain to grow grass – but in the arable sector the weather is great for us”.

“We are so weather dependent, so if you can’t cope with the weather there is no point in being a farmer.

“The sun starts shining at 8am and you get a full day’s work until 10pm or 11pm, or whenever you want to go on to. That is a farmer’s day at this time of the year anyway. You have to make the most of this sort of weather.”

In north Antrim, Moore Wallace also told of how the hot weather had been “very good for the cereal operation”.

The 45-year-old from Cloughmills said the fine weather had “made the grain a lot easier to work with”.

“We are nearly finished the winter barley here, but the spring grain and the winter wheat are not ready yet,” he said. “But it could be faster this year given the weather.

“I milk cows as well so my day starts at 5.05am and I work to 10.30pm at the minute,” he said. “But that is not a normal day because my father, who usually helps me, is not well.”

The father-of-two added that they grow potatoes and “they are starting to get under strain because they need two inches of rain in the week for bulking”.

“There was a bit of potato blight about with the muggy weather, but the glorious weather has dried any blight there was without having to use chemicals to kill it,” he said.

“But a wee shower of rain would not do any harm. If the wet muggy weather we had 10 days or so ago had kept up it would have been a disaster.”