Rare Breed: A Farming Year returns to UTV on Thursday

The hugely popular ‘Rare Breed: A Farming Year’ returns to UTV this Thursday 18 January at 8.30pm, and it is all change again with new faces, farms and stories from  the four corners of Northern Ireland.  

The programme is the ground-breaking year-in-the-life observational documentary series charting the agricultural year, giving a unique insight into one of Northern Ireland’s largest and oldest industries.

Now in its twelfth year, the series has taken viewers into the farming world through the lives of farmers across the country. This new series follows 12 families working in a variety of sectors on farms of all shapes and sizes. 

Filmed during 2023, each episode captures the highs and lows of each month of the year, as the families deal with economic and environmental challenges.

The twelve families featured reflect the diversity and innovation in Northern Ireland’s agri- food sector.  Be they big or small, traditional beef, sheep, dairy, pig or arable, farm shops or even tourism, the passion and commitment shines through in every episode.

Bronagh O'Kane joins the new series of Rare Breed

In the first episode we meet five families.

First, we’re off to Cookstown to meet Bronagh O’Kane, a former fast-jet engineer, who has returned to the family farm with the ambition of running a sustainable enterprise of sheep and cattle, focusing on soil health, using worms to create fertiliser for the land.

She says of farming, “It’s a tough way to make a living but I think we’ve just got to embrace change a lot more.” She also points out, “When you own land, you are part of the bigger eco-system.”

Briege Michael and Kile Diamond

Near Garvagh, we meet father and son, Michael and Kile Diamond, who are in the middle of peak lambing season. Kile is 18 and studying at Greenmount College. 

They have commercial sheep and pedigree Beltex ewes, as well as Limousin cattle.  

They’re keeping a close eye on their flock and are swift to help a ewe deliver twins.  All goes well and they help the lambs feed off the mother’s colostrum.  Michael says, “It’s just like giving them Lucozade!”

Jonny Kelly works works 800 acres near Limavady

We’re also off to Limavady to meet Jonny Kelly who’s an arable and livestock farmer.  The father of three works 800 acres, specialising in barley, wheat, rye and maize. 

He’s spending January making sure all his machinery is in good order ahead of springtime. He points out that ‘machinery is key’, and he tries to carry out full services every 300-350 hours.

He’s off to market with cattle but he says: “A few aren’t allowed to go, they are my kids’ pets and I’m not allowed to sell them!”

Emily McGowan returns to Rare Breed

Our next stop is in Killinchy in Co, Down to meet Emily and Adrian Magowan. 

The Magowan family appeared for the first time in Series nine of Rare Breed which aired in 2021.  They grow vegetables and Emily and her Dad are using last season’s growth and sales data to work out what crops they should be sowing in spring.

They would like to focus on their farm shop, and on the poultry business.  And Emily wants to make sure her Dad isn’t doing too much.

“I need to temper the enthusiasm and stick to the list.” he says.

Joining the line-up on the Ards Penninsula is the McClements family. They run a dairy farm which is a 365 day a year job.

All three teenagers, Josh, Jude and Sarah have a keen interest, and we see them hard a work early in the morning before they head off to school. They talk of their love of calves.

“They’re low maintenance, very cute and energetic, they brighten up your day,” says Jude.

In the February episode we meet five more of the families. Leanne and Trevor Hutchinson, from outside Maghera are first time farmers with pigs, hens and turkeys. We head to Loughgall, Co Armagh to beekeepers, Jack and William Wilson, and then off to the Belfast Hills to meet young Dan McCaffrey who farms cattle and sheep.

Also featured are brother and sister Arthur and Alise Callaghan from Warrenpoint who rear dairy bull calves for beef.

And in this episode, we meet sisters Colleen and Eleanor McCann from Mullaghbawn in Armagh who manage Clarkhill Farm with their dad, Oliver.

Finally, joining this year’s Rare Breed line up are Emma and Rodney Balfour from Mullygarry in Fermanagh, who farm sheep part-time while both working full time for the health service.

And James Alexander from Randalstown, a familiar face on various previous series of Rare Breed pops up in the June episode to share how he’s diversifying into farm tourism.

Tony Curry, Programmes Editor at UTV said: “Rare Breed – A Farming Year” continues to shine a light on our thriving agri-industry in Northern Ireland. It’s an industry that never stands still and this series, like all the others, demonstrates how the farming community is using technology and modern methods for their businesses.

“It’s fabulous that our audiences enjoy watching the day-to-day of farming life and hopefully they are learning more about the ‘farm to fork’ journey.”

The series is produced for UTV by local independent production company Strident.

Managing Director, Kelda Crawford-McCann added: “It’s always a pleasure to meet the families that take part in Rare Breed.  This series has something for everyone – from families just starting out on their farming journey, to third and fourth generations combining the old with the new, and learning from each other.  It’s a great reflection of the breadth and depth of farming in Northern Ireland.”

UTV’s Mark McFadden and Rita Fitzgerald narrate the series. Sponsored by NIE Networks,

‘Rare Breed’ – A Farming Year starts on Thursday 18 January at 8.30pm on UTV.

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