A Titanic Touch
Monday, 02 April 2012 17:00
Rodney Magowan, centre, chairman of the Guild of Agricultural Journalists, takes a seat with Declan Billington and Garth Boyd, vice president and president of the NI Grain Trade Association, at a 'day table' originally made for the captain of the Titanic. Picture: Cliff Donaldson
A Titanic touch at a Northern Ireland Guild of Agricultural Journalists meeting in Belfast Harbour Commissioners office hosted by the province’s Grain Trade Association. 
Guild chairman Rodney Magowan, centre, takes a seat with Declan Billington, left, and Gareth Boyd of the Grain Trade Association at the day table made for the cabin of Captain Edward Smith on RMS Titanic!
  On April 2, 1912 when Titanic left Belfast’s Harland and Wolff shipyard for Southampton the table and chairs were not quite ready so were forwarded by cargo vessel a few days later.
 However, they were not loaded when Titanic left the Solent on April 10 and were placed in storage by the White Star Line marked ‘Hold for return of Titanic.’
 60 years later the Titanic table and chairs were found and retuned to Belfast to be displayed in the Harbour Commissioners office built in 1854 across the River Lagan from what was once the world’s largest shipyard and birthplace of Titanic. 
Belgian Blue International Congress
Monday, 02 April 2012 15:11
 MAKING decent money from farming and reducing your farm’s carbon footprint are aims with a common answer, greater efficiency, according to Duncan Pullar, R & D manager at the Agricultural & Horticultural Development Board.
 Addressing the Belgian Blue International Congress in Wales the advisor to Whitehall decision takers examined those seemingly mixed messages from governments demanding a reduction in the carbon footprint of cattle whilst also urging farmers to meet a rising demand for beef.
 “With the rapidly increasing human population, many of them with an improving standard of living and wanting to enjoy a more affluent western style diet, farming efficiency will have to keep on improving to meet demand for ever more food.
 “At the same time both London and Brussels are asking herd owners to reduce their stock’s carbon foot print.
 “Tremendous progress has already been made on this front and the really good news is that making a profit, producing enough food to feed us all and remaining inside carbon foot print targets all comes down to the same solution. Doing the job more efficiently, for example by ensuring suckler cows calve down at 24 months instead of 30.
 “There is currently an eight fold difference in the carbon cost of producing a kilo of beef between the best farm businesses and the weakest. Bringing the bottom quartile up nearer the average will help meet carbon targets, protect profits and get more beef onto an expanding global market.”
 Continuing Duncan Pullar said breeds such as the British Blue with their proven efficiency had an important role to play in making the beef industry more efficient and thus more environmentally friendly.
 He also explained how good R & D work could prove to the powers that be that cattle have a positive part to play in enhancing our environment, for example by grazing uplands to protect biodiversity.
Delegates to the Belgian Blue International congress at the Royal Welsh Show 2011
DANISH delegates, who attended the 2011 Belgian Blue International, BBI, Congress in the UK, expressed delight, reports Rodney Magowan, at the quality of British Blue stock, especially as regards height, length, locomotion and ease of calving.
  Delight that quickly developed into firm orders being placed for both semen straws and embryos with leading British Blue breeders.
 Mogens Stendal from Bryrup in central Denmark explained that the Danish Belgian Blue pedigree population is small, but demand for bulls, semen and embryos is rising rapidly.
 “In this past year usage of Belgian Blue semen by Danish farmers rose by 51% with almost 20% of total beef inseminations now ‘Blue’ and suckler herd owners seeking ever more Blues as stock bulls.
 “Clearly our breed society policy of emphasising what we call the ‘X factor,’ that is selecting sires with documented high indices for birth and calving as well as proven high feed efficiency, has paid off. 
 “Aside from this growing home market demand for our Belgian Blue genetics sales are strong into Germany and Switzerland with former communist nations further east likewise turning to us seeking beef sires that add value to calves.”
 However, Mogens also revealed that Danish breeders urgently need more high quality pedigree Blues. This is because the national pedigree herd is so small, barely 500 pedigree animals, that over 95% of Belgian Blue semen used on Danish dairy cows currently comes from just one bull, the May 2002 born Tornado, who has the world’s highest documented breeding value for calving ease.
Eigil Finn Pedersen, owner of Tornado, was the Danish delegate most actively seeking British Blue genetics during the BBI Congress herd visits and two days at the Royal Welsh Show. Running half the pedigree Belgian Blues in the Kingdom of Denmark Eigil, with his wife and son, owns 57ha with another 100ha rented on the urban fringe of Randers, population 60,500.
 “We grow 60ha of cereals with most of the remaining land supporting our Belgian Blue pedigree cows, calves and followers plus some crossbreds. There is also a flock of 100 Shropshire sheep used to graze commercial woodlands. Quite a profitable sideline as their lambs fetch £300 a piece and this breed is of course noted for not damaging trees.
 “The very first Belgian Blue herd in Denmark, established during 1972 at Friejsenborg Estate, was sold in 1989 and provided the foundation stock for our Fruerlund prefix,” Eigil added. 
 “Now we are buying British Blue genetics as stock in the UK have been successfully selected for easy calving, length and height without loosing that wonderful ‘Blue’ ability on crossing with dairy or suckler animals to sire a true beef calf”.
  Within two weeks of the BBI conference in Wales the Danish Belgian Blue Cattle Society had placed orders for 3000 straws of British Blue semen: 1000 straws of Twyning Ash Armstrong, a proven bull from the Carter family’s Twyning Ash Herd at Dursley, Gloucestershire, a 1000 straws of the black and white proven bull Bringlee Carlos and another 1000 straws from a young, black bull, both owned by Adam Neachell & Son of the Cromwell Herd, Staffordshire.
 At the same time it seems that leading Danish breeder Eigil Pedersen has negotiated a contra deal whereby Tornado semen is swopped for semen from Bringlee Campbell in the famous Bringlee British Blue Herd of Graham Brindley at Adderley, Shropshire. Eigil Pedersen has also bought three embryos from the Cromwell Herd with plans afoot to purchase another 10 to 12 embryos.
 Following the BBI event during Royal Welsh Show week orders have likewise been placed for British Blue semen by American breeders and further acquisitions are under negotiation from several nations.
 Delegates attending came from Belgium, Denmark, the USA, Canada, the Irish and Czech Republics, Hungary, Spain and Brazil.

“Having taken part in the foundation of BBI, Belgian Blue International, 25 years ago as the association of Blue breed societies I was delighted to see the huge, positive influence our breed now has on British beef production,” Mogens Stendal, Denmark. 
50 Years of Success Underfoot
Tuesday, 20 March 2012 16:22

2012 is a year of Royal celebrations and London Olympics, but for one rural community it marks 50 years of success underfoot!

Eyeball the footwear as you walk through any mart in Scotland and the name seen on most wellies is Bekina. A company founded in 1962 by shoe makers Denis and Donaat Vanderbeke at Kluisbergen, a small village in the gently rolling Flanders Fields of Belgium.

Three generations later and still run by the same family Bekina specialises in the design and manufacture of wellington boots for those working on farms or in food processing plants. A niche market demanding long lasting, value for money footwear that is both safe and comfortable to wear for long hours in all weathers.

Scottish Farmer photographer Niall Robertson took a pair of Bekina Steplite X wellies out for a 'test drive' last winter and has been spotted wearing them in all weathers ever since.

20 years ago the Bekina team took another major step forward by switching to manufacturing their award winning wellies from polyurethane, PU, rather than PVC or the traditional rubber.

The result has been a series of increasingly popular wellington boots such as the Agrilite and now the Steplite X and Thermolite ranges. Light as a feather Steplite X boots proving especially popular with Scottish farmers thanks to their ability to keep feet warm in winter yet cool in summer.

Easy to clean and slip resistant Steplite X boots have the entire sole flat to the floor thus reducing the risk of painful and costly injuries due to slipping.

Later this year a third generation of the Vanderbeke family, Thomas, takes over the helm at Bekina from his father Georges. Bekina having now grown to international status with boots sold as far afield as New Zealand, the USA, Canada and Russia.

Long gone are the days when Thomas Vanderbeke’s grandfather and Uncle made hand crafted boots for their farming neighbours. However, though the latest process technology is now used, Bekina staff many of whom tend to come for a year and stay a lifetime, retain that rural pride in the product of their labour.


Get ahead with a hat at Beef NI 2012 in Dungannon Farmers' Mart! Cheryth McCaw was warm from head to toe in her Bekina Steplite X boots and matching woolly hat!

Buy a pair of Steplite X wellington boots and you can share in the success of manufacturers Bekina, who won an award at the prestigious ‘2011 Preventica Health and Safety at Work Exhibition’ in Rennes, France.

“To celebrate our success every pair of Steplite X wellies bought comes with a free woolly hat to keep your head as warm as feet in Bekina boots,” delighted company manger Brecht Debruyne explained.

The Bekina Steplite X award at Rennes was won in the Personal Protective Equipment category as these boots are designed to improve working conditions for farmers.“The boot is designed with comfort and safety to the fore with the entire sole in contact with the ground as the front does not curve up. Equally important the thick sole and heel reduces pressure on the foot when walking over uneven ground, jumping on and off tractors or climbing over gates.

Hampshire Down pedigree sheep breeder Michelle McCauley has two excellent reasons to step lightly this year – a trend back to producing early lambs and her farm feet friendly Bekina Steplite X wellies!“Wider fitting Bekina Steplite X wellies feature a shock absorbing zone in the heel and come with free, shock and moisture absorbing, insulated insoles. These award winning wellies also have an enhanced slip resistant profile and resistance to oil, fat and farmyard manures.”

For further details of the farmers’ favourite PU wellington boot, the Steplite X, browse  www.bekina.be or contact Agrihealth on LoCall 1890 200 999.in the ROI, freephone Agrihealth 0800 731 2490 in the UK.


Hampshire Down pedigree sheep breeder Michelle McCauley has two excellent reasons to step lightly this year – a trend back to producing early lambs and her farm feet friendly Bekina Steplite X wellies!

Higher prices for early lambs are encouraging producers to put a portion of their flocks to Hampshire Down rams, the terminal sire for easy lambing, fast finishing lambs to hit the high priced Easter market.

Thrilled to be asked!' Co Down farm wife Michelle McCauley was delighted as 'as a working Mum in her forties' to model for Bekina, makers of the Steplite X wellington boot famed for giving farm feet a treat.

Last winter cold feet sent the Clough, Co Down sheep breeder on a buying mission to acquire two pair of Bekina Steplite X wellington boots for husband John and herself.

“With the lambing shed down to minus six even during daytime Bekina Steplite Xs proved a real treat for our feet and now we find them as cool in summer as they were warm in winter thanks to being manufactured from air-foamed polyurethane,” explained Michele.

“Even better, being 40% lighter than traditional wellies our Bekina Steplite Xs are not ‘dragging the feet off you’ at lambing time or when walking the fields checking stock this showery summer.

“In the 23 years since we formed the award winning Moneycarragh Hampshire Down Flock last winter was by far the coldest and Steplite Xs by far the most comfortable, hard wearing wellies we have ever worn.

“With four of a family aged five to 23, the Moneycarragh Hampshire Down Sheep Flock and our more recently founded Moneycarragh Aberdeen Angus Cattle Herd John and I cover many miles in these sensible Steplite X boots designed to delight farm folk.

“An extra treat for my feet as I also cover many more miles a week on part time night duty at Skeagh House, a residential home for the elderly in Dromore, Co Down.” Michelle added.

Clearly delighted at being asked to model her Bekinas, “A blow for the over forty working mum,” says Michelle, the popular chair of the Ireland Hampshire Down Association. Bekina boots are stocked by co-ops and farm suppliers across the country, for details For further details contact Agrihealth of Monaghan on LoCall 1890 200 999.


With bitter winter weather forecast All Ireland Hampshire Down Sheepbreeders Association chairperson Michelle McCauley sought advice from Paul Redmond of Agrihealth, Monaghan on the role of Bekina Thermolite winter wellies in avoiding cold feet during early mornings in the milking parlour or long hours on a quad bike.


COLD fronts are forecast for February bringing foundering feet to farmers in milking parlours and on quad bikes across Ireland.

But not for those wearing Thermolite winter wellies from Bekina, a family firm famed for producing year round Steplite X light weight, long lasting wellies manufactured from polyurethane to keep feed warm in winter yet cool in summer.

However the specialist winter weather Bekina Thermolite boots keep farm feet warm down to a bone chilling minus 40C thanks to extra thick uppers and soles. Again manufactured from polyurethane to trap insulating air pockets Thermolite boots are ideal for early mornings in milking parlours or long hours on quad bikes.

Both Thermolite and Steplite X wide fitting boots are slip resistant and supplied with insulating, moisture absorbing insoles.

2012 is the 50th anniversary of Bekina, a family firm firmly planted in the farmlands of Flanders where Steplite X and Thermolite boots were designed, developed and proven on local farms.

Bekina Thermolite winter wellies and Steplite X year round boots are available with or without safety toes from agricultural merchants countrywide, for details contact Agrihealth of Monaghan on LoCall 1890 200 999

Tuesday, 20 March 2012 16:07

 ‘Too much work, too little time’ is a comment commonly heard when calf rearing is in full swing, hence the growing popularity of computerised calf feeders.

Alistair Sampson from Volac talking to Raymond Lee from Enniskillen on the Volac Stand at the Winter Fair. Picture: Columba O'Hare

Though Volac NI manager Alistair Sampson is adamant a computer controlled calf feeding system has two other major advantages - money is saved and more calves are successfully reared “

Typically an hour and a half of your precious time is saved per calf through to weaning using a Volac Vario+ computerised calf feeder instead of twice a day bucket feeding,” asserts Alistair

“Time saved that is better spent ensuring high husbandry standards are maintained. The Volac Vario+ can feed up to 80 calves from two feeding stations though with an added station it could feed 120 calves in a system as close to nature as one can imagine. Just as on the cow each calf, once identified as entitled to milk, can come forward to drink a little and often when hungry.

“Though, unlike on the cow you are kept fully informed about how much is drunk, when and how often. This Volac machine, having the ability to flag up on the controls, on your computer and on your mobile phone the number of any calf going off its feed and thus off colour. Any slowing in the daily speed at which a calf drinks, as we all know, is a sure sign of a problem looming. “Thus there are fewer deaths and fewer ailments leading to improved livestock performance once a Volac Vario + is installed. A long lasting and reliable machine backed by our Volac 24 – 7 support service based in Northern Ireland.!

“Remember, the Volac Vario+ from Förster-Technik is the first and only computerised calf feeder to come with auto calibration, which ensures that no matter what happens, the amount of milk powder used in mixing remains absolutely standard. Vital for optimum performance and best use of milk powder right through to weaning.

Will Sinclair, Volac, left, explains the operation of the Forster Technik Calf Feeder to John McConville and sons Oisin and Niall from Rathfriland. Picture: Columba O'Hare

“The Vario+ minimises power usage and has a transparent powder hopper, which is simple to keep level and clean as well as offering improved protection against moisture.”

Continuing Alistair Sampson suggested that a Volac Vario+ Förster-Technik feeder has a much faster pay back time than most pieces of farm equipment.. A typical machine in the £6000 to £8000 range generating savings and extra income to repay the cost in under three years – and that from a piece of equipment, which can last 20 years!

“Time is a scarce commodity in farms so take control of calf rearing by installing the best value machine on the market.

“Why waste more hours by failing to invest in Europe’s most popular feeder, the Volac Vario+ from Förster-Technik? A proven machine ideal for feeding Volac calf milk powers manufactured in this country from concentrated, home produced milk protein.”

For more info on calf feeding contact Volac NI manager Alistair Sampson tel; 078606 26442 or browse to www.volac.com

“The Volac Vario+ from Förster-Technik is the first and only computerised calf feeder to come with auto calibration,” Alistair Sampson.


Almost 300 milk producers viewed the recently launched Volac Vario+ computerised calf feeding system during the Newtownards farm walk hosted by the Rankin family and their award winning manager Chris Catherwood. Chris, who share farms with Jason Rankin, won the Vario+ manufactured by Förster-Technik when judged all island of Ireland ‘2011 Heifer Rearer of the Year.’ A prestigious event organized by Volac in association with AFBI and CAFRE.

ìThe Volac Vario+ from Forster-Technik is the first and only computerised calf feeder to come with auto calibration - Alistair Sampson.    PICTURE KEVIN MCAULEY PHOTOGRAPHY MULTIMEDIA

“This machine, designed and manufactured in Germany by Förster-Technik, is a major step forward in automation, animal management and feeding hygiene,” explained guest speaker David Allan, Volac Scotland manager, who revealed that 323 Volac computerised calf feeders are already in use on Scottish farms. “No surprise I suspect to progressive Ulster farmers given that the oldest computerised calf feeder still in use here is well over 20 years old and has only had one major part replaced in rearing calves for two decades!

“With the average dairy heifer costing around £1300 to rear through to calving maximising her lifetime performance has a massive impact on the return from this investment.

“A typical NI dairy cow produces 27,600 litres in her lifetime so given the current value of culls the cost of heifer rearing is about 2.9p per litre of milk she produces. A cost that can be curtailed by reducing rearing costs and boosting her lifetime output.

“Moving to a modern computerised calf system from Volac as a means of achieving the target ‘live weight for age’ plays a key role in achieving both these objectives.

 Pictured during the Newtownards farm walk hosted by the Rankin family. PICTURE KEVIN MCAULEY PHOTOGRAPHY MULTIMEDIA

“Remember, research at AFBI Hillsborough has high-lighted the return on getting Holstein Friesian heifers into calf earlier to calving down at 24 months weighting 550 to 580kg with condition score 2.75 to 3.00.

“Calving at this moderate weight rather than several months later at 600kg plus was shown to have improved fertility and reduced the incidence of lameness. These younger, lighter heifers coming into the dairy herd also tended to live longer and produce more milk over a lifetime.

“All reasons for milk producers to place much greater emphasis on how heifers are brought forward into the herd by adopting the 21st century computerised calf rearing system most used and best proven across these islands and across Europe, the Volac Vario+ from Förster-Technik. “Anything else is simply second best!” 

Tuesday, 20 March 2012 16:04

 Cereals are sown, reseeding is well underway and silage making is about to begin making this a peak time for machinery use.

A time when the shrewd farmer or contractor has tractors and implements fully serviced to minimise costly down time lost though breakdowns. Time is money in any business and even more so in the business of farming where a missed window of good weather damages the quality of crop saved, be it silage or cereals!

“Servicing before silage cutting starts must also include checking you have the correct insurance cover for the job in hand and the ages of those operating your equipment,” advises Desi Dick at Crumlin Insurance Partnership.

“Then if accident, fire or theft occurs you have the correct cover to help get back to work fast, minimising down time at the least possible financial cost. “At CIP Insurance Brokers we have been writing our market leading Farm Fleet Policy for many years and keep on improving it with many built in added features. This one policy covers all the many vehicle types on a typical farm today, from a quad to a 400 horse power tractor, 4X4s, family cars and pick up trucks.

“A very important feature is the detached and attached trailer and implement cover to a value of £30,000. The CIP Farm Fleet Policy is popular province wide simply because we have made it ideal for NI farmers and contractors,” added Desi.

“Premiums can be paid monthly by direct debit and the more vehicle sections on the policy the more competitive the premium. “

No wonder the idea of one tidy package of easy to understand cover for all farm vehicles at low premiums, plus our generous trailer and implement cover makes the CIP Farm Fleet Policy a firm favourite province wide.”

Before the seasonal silage rush puts pressure on men and machinery call CIP Crumlin tel; (028) 9442 2880 or CIP Crumlin tel; (028) 9332 3646 and speak to an experience local agricultural underwriter, who can also arrange farm property and liability cover.

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