There are barely enough hours in the day for Broughshane farmer Mervyn Thompson, one of Northern Ireland’s longest established turkey farmers.
A provider of 37,000 broilers from January to June for O’Kane’s poultry, Mervyn also rears 21,000 turkeys for the same company from July to December. Since his childhood days on the family farm at Cloneytrace Road, when he first rented a neighbour’s unused chicken house, Mervyn loved working with turkeys. Today he has three large turkey and chicken rearing houses, with further improvements to his farm this year supported by Ulster Bank. However, despite his passion for producing quality Christmas Day birds, he is also a renowned inventor of farm machinery and has also designed children’s tractor toys in metal.
Today farming 52 acres and renting a further 30, with three chicken and turkey houses and a small engineering business, Mervyn is on the go from 6.30am each day until dusk. “I have worked from home all my life, since I was a young lad and starting off by renting our first chicken house from a neighbour. We still retain this house today and have since added another two. Before EU legislation we would have reared turkeys all year round, but now it is from July until December. The early part of the year, we concentrate on broilers.”
Mervyn’s alarm clock rings at 6am, and after a hearty breakfast he leaves the house at 6.30am to clean out, feed and water the poultry until 9.30 am. He then moves into his inventor’s shed where the clang of hammer and tongs can be heard as the workshop is in full swing preparing orders for his home designed metal toys. “I love inventing things, and ten years ago my kids wanted a silage harvester for the back of their plastic tractor. So I got to work and designed one. All the models have working machinery, and even the bales of hay roll out. I even had a slurry tanker which sprayed out water. The papers got hold of the story and my business in Thompson Metal Models took off. Working toy mowers, round bailers, rollers, low loaders and silage trailers have been sold from the Hebrides to Devon, and as far away as New Zealand.”
Mervyn and his family intend to visit the Balmoral Show on the opening day. “It is the start of the season, after a long winter people will be glad to meet up at Balmoral and see all the new machinery on offer.
“When I first diversified into the agricultural toy sector, I brought my first trade stand to Balmoral thanks to DARD. I couldn’t believe the interest in my stand and it was the show which gave me the head start in that sector.”
As Mervyn buzzes around his farm and helps neighbours with their farm fencing, he never stop working on new inventions in his workshop. “My love is designing and inventing machinery which gets the job done faster. I designed a post driver for the front of my Matbro Tele handler for putting in the fencing, and I have just invented wire tighteners for the front of the Matbro.” There’s never a dull moment here,” he admitted. “Between toys and turkeys for Christmas, silage to be made and fencing round the countryside, it is pretty hectic.”