BYGONE DAYS: Young farmer looks at ways of improving farm efficiency

Although John Crooks of Tamlaghtmore near Cookstown in Co Tyrone was only 20 years of age he was one of the most progressive young farmers in Northern Ireland, reported Farming Life during this week in 1971.

Saturday, 2nd October 2021, 12:00 pm
Pictured are John McAllister, James Delargy, Glens Farm Supplies, John Murphy, judge, and John McNeill at a show and sale of sheep at  Cushendun in September 2012. Pictures: Steven McAuley/Farming Life archives (unless otherwise stated)
Pictured are John McAllister, James Delargy, Glens Farm Supplies, John Murphy, judge, and John McNeill at a show and sale of sheep at Cushendun in September 2012. Pictures: Steven McAuley/Farming Life archives (unless otherwise stated)

The “go-ahead” Co Tyrone man had had no college training - “nor for that matter he has never been a member of any young farmers’ club”. Instead he had graduated through the hard school of experience and realised that with increasing competition, “particularly if the United Kingdom enters the Common Market”, he had come to the crossroads in farming where he had to decide to “get on” or “get out”. And John, enterprising and hardworking, was determined to “get on”

EXPANSION OF PIG UNIT

He had expanded pig production from 1,000 fatteners to 1,500, “all bought in”, and he aimed to gradually increase his stock still further.

The selling is well underway at the show and sale at Cushendun in September 2012

Meantime the egg production unit of 13,000 layers, in two environment controlled houses, was not to be expanded until he was confidant “that there is a market for more eggs”.

Although he had only 10 acres of land, which had been let to a local farmer, John was in a “big way” in concrete farming, having covered a considerable area in new poultry and pig houses.

Always keen to be a farmer John had started off keeping a few pigs when he was aged 12 years old and when he left school at 15 he was fattening about 400 pigs.

SUCCESS THE HARD WAY

Young Liam Magee at the show and sale in Cushendun in September 2012

By hard work and determination to succeed John had won through by “trial and error”.

The egg production unit, with Californian-type cages and mostly Shaver layers, had presented no labour problems for John had employed a man and his mother also gave a hand in the egg collection.

He had decided that the time had come to take a lot of the hard work out of his pig enterprise and he had installed a Kongskilde mill-mix system.

Farming Life reported of this system: “This measures the ingredients out in correct proportions, sucks them to the mill, mixes and grinds the feeds in the hammer mill ensuring that fresh feed, and moves the finished product to where it is wanted.”

Another lot enters the ring at the show and sale at Cushendun in September 2012

John was also putting the finishing touches to new pig houses and so, “at the touch of a button”, would be able to feed his pigs with a minimum of labour and efficiency. He had already proved the worth of wet feeding as a result of using a portable system.

PLOUGHMEN OFF TO WORLD MATCH

Tom Clyde a champion ploughman from Straid, Co Antrim, and Don Wright from Magherafelt, Co Londonderry, had travelled to England for the world ploughing match in which they would represent Northern Ireland at the match in Somerset.

Mr Norman Wright was team manager and Mr Lawrence McMillan, chairman of the Northern Ireland Ploughing Association, was to be one of the judges in the contest in which ploughmen from all over the world would take part.

Paudie McShane enjoys a chat with friends at the show and sale at Cushendun in September 2012

Mr Tom Reid, Ulster member on the World Ploughing Organisation, was to leave the province the following Monday for the annual board meeting which was to be held at the world match venue. He was to report on how preliminary arrangements were going for the world ploughing match to be held in Northern Ireland in 1976.

ARGENTINA POST FOR GRASSLAND EXPERT

Dr John Lowe, a principal scientific officer in the Ministry of Agriculture and reader in agricultural botany at Queen’s University, Belfast, had been invited by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations to undertake a three-year assignment in the Buenos Aires province of Argentina.

The aim of the assignment was to raise the level of output from natural and sown grasslands in the area

Dr Lowe, who was to leave Northern Ireland for Argentina in early October 1971, had travelled widely in the United States, Canada and Scandinavian countries and in 1970 he had been invited to address the International Grassland Congress in Australia.

He had also visited India, Malaysia, Tasmania and New Zealand in connection with his research and teaching work.

The author of many scientific papers Dr Lowe lived at Cairns Farm, Carryduff, with his wife and two teenage children who were to follow him to Argentina in the near future.