Belfast Telegraph

Balmoral Show 2019: Hard-hit beef farmers switching to dairy as outlook for milk improves, says bank

Ernest Gregg from Ballybollem Pedigree Livestock farm in Randalstown, Co Antrim, with his two-year-old bull Moore at Balmoral Park outside Lisburn
Ernest Gregg from Ballybollem Pedigree Livestock farm in Randalstown, Co Antrim, with his two-year-old bull Moore at Balmoral Park outside Lisburn
Ryan McAleer

By Ryan McAleer

Northern Ireland's dairy farm industry is growing amid improving conditions for the sector, the head of agriculture at Ulster Bank has said.

There are now around 3,500 dairy farms, with hard-hit beef farmers also reported to be switching to the more stable business of dairy.

Speaking on the first day of the Balmoral Show, Cormac McKervey said that while the milk price average has remained at around 25p per litre over the past decade, he expects the amount paid to farmers to begin to rise later in the year.

Around four years ago dairy farmers were facing problems, as milk was selling for just under 19p per litre.

But the price has recovered gradually, and according to the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, a price of 27.18p was being paid in March.

Northern Ireland exports £323m worth of milk every year, with May the peak month for output.

Despite the UK being on course to produce record levels of milk, Mr McKervey said the fact prices haven't fallen, suggests that they are going to rise later in the year.

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"If milk prices are coming up and feed prices are falling back, then the margin will improve.

"Over the last 12 months things haven't been great, but looking forward, things look better."

And he said the prospect of Brexit was also influencing some farmers to make a move into a different sector.

"There are also farmers coming out of beef production and into dairy, because it's just not generating the profit.

"There has been growth in the number of farmers milking, with the average size of herds now around 95 cows.

"Beef farming is also heavily reliant on the single farm payment, and if that is to wind up, farmers are making the decision to move into dairy."

Pacemaker Press 15/5/19
Katie Millar with Gareth Elliott at The opening day of the Balmoral Show on Wednesday, Tens of thousands of people are expected to attend Ireland's largest agricultural and food show, over the next four days.
The show is taking place at the former Balmoral Park just outside Lisburn and features a mix of farming displays as well as family activities.
Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 15/5/19 Katie Millar with Gareth Elliott at The opening day of the Balmoral Show on Wednesday, Tens of thousands of people are expected to attend Ireland's largest agricultural and food show, over the next four days. The show is taking place at the former Balmoral Park just outside Lisburn and features a mix of farming displays as well as family activities. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
PressEye-Northern Ireland- 15th May 2019-Picture by Brian Little/PressEye Stunt motorcycle rider performing at Balmoral Park during the first day of the Balmoral Show 2019 Picture by Brian Little/PressEye
PressEye-Northern Ireland- 15th May 2019-Picture by Brian Little/PressEye Stunt motorcycle rider performing at Balmoral Park during the first day of the Balmoral Show 2019 Picture by Brian Little/PressEye
PressEye-Northern Ireland- 15th May 2019-Picture by Brian Little/PressEye Stunt motorcycle rider performing at Balmoral Park during the first day of the Balmoral Show 2019 Picture by Brian Little/PressEye
PressEye-Northern Ireland- 15th May 2019-Picture by Brian Little/PressEye DUP Leader Arlene Foster stops for a selfie at Balmoral Park during the first day of the Balmoral Show 2019 Picture by Brian Little/PressEye
PressEye-Northern Ireland- 15th May 2019-Picture by Brian Little/PressEye DUP Diane Dodds at Balmoral Park during the first day of the Balmoral Show 2019 Picture by Brian Little/PressEye
Pacemaker Press 15/5/19 The opening day of the Balmoral Show on Wednesday, Tens of thousands of people are expected to attend Ireland's largest agricultural and food show, over the next four days. The show is taking place at the former Balmoral Park just outside Lisburn and features a mix of farming displays as well as family activities. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 15/5/19 The opening day of the Balmoral Show on Wednesday, Tens of thousands of people are expected to attend Ireland's largest agricultural and food show, over the next four days. The show is taking place at the former Balmoral Park just outside Lisburn and features a mix of farming displays as well as family activities. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 15/5/19 Animals os show on The opening day of the Balmoral Show on Wednesday, Tens of thousands of people are expected to attend Ireland's largest agricultural and food show, over the next four days. The show is taking place at the former Balmoral Park just outside Lisburn and features a mix of farming displays as well as family activities. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
15/5/19: Julie Anne Clyde with her bull Nijinsky from Crawford Brothers, winner of the Senior Bull Class at the Balmoral Show. Picture: Michael Cooper
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 15th May 2019 First day of the Balmoral Show, in partnership with Ulster Bank. Show cattle are brought out for their competition at Balmoral Park outside Lisburn. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
Pacemaker Press 15/5/19 The opening day of the Balmoral Show on Wednesday, Tens of thousands of people are expected to attend Ireland's largest agricultural and food show, over the next four days. The show is taking place at the former Balmoral Park just outside Lisburn and features a mix of farming displays as well as family activities. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 15/5/19 The opening day of the Balmoral Show on Wednesday, Tens of thousands of people are expected to attend Ireland's largest agricultural and food show, over the next four days. The show is taking place at the former Balmoral Park just outside Lisburn and features a mix of farming displays as well as family activities. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 15/5/19 Animals os show on The opening day of the Balmoral Show on Wednesday, Tens of thousands of people are expected to attend Ireland's largest agricultural and food show, over the next four days. The show is taking place at the former Balmoral Park just outside Lisburn and features a mix of farming displays as well as family activities. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 15/5/19 Katie Millar with her prize cattle at the opening day of the Balmoral Show on Wednesday, Tens of thousands of people are expected to attend Ireland's largest agricultural and food show, over the next four days. The show is taking place at the former Balmoral Park just outside Lisburn and features a mix of farming displays as well as family activities. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 15/5/19 The opening day of the Balmoral Show on Wednesday, Tens of thousands of people are expected to attend Ireland's largest agricultural and food show, over the next four days. The show is taking place at the former Balmoral Park just outside Lisburn and features a mix of farming displays as well as family activities. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 15/5/19 The opening day of the Balmoral Show on Wednesday, Tens of thousands of people are expected to attend Ireland's largest agricultural and food show, over the next four days. The show is taking place at the former Balmoral Park just outside Lisburn and features a mix of farming displays as well as family activities. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 15th May 2019 First day of the Balmoral Show, in partnership with Ulster Bank. Show cattle are brought out for their competition at Balmoral Park outside Lisburn. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 15th May 2019 First day of the Balmoral Show, in partnership with Ulster Bank. Show pigs are brought out for their competition at Balmoral Park outside Lisburn. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 15th May 2019 First day of the Balmoral Show, in partnership with Ulster Bank. Show pigs are brought out for their competition at Balmoral Park outside Lisburn. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 15th May 2019 First day of the Balmoral Show, in partnership with Ulster Bank. The Sheep shearing competition takes place at Balmoral Park outside Lisburn. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 15th May 2019 First day of the Balmoral Show, in partnership with Ulster Bank at Balmoral Park outside Lisburn. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 15th May 2019 First day of the Balmoral Show, in partnership with Ulster Bank at Balmoral Park outside Lisburn. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 15th May 2019 First day of the Balmoral Show, in partnership with Ulster Bank at Balmoral Park outside Lisburn. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
15/5/19: Cattle judging at the Balmoral Show. Picture: Michael Cooper
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 15th May 2019 First day of the Balmoral Show, in partnership with Ulster Bank. Pictured at Balmoral Park, outside Lisburn, is Jack Morton with his Jack's Fudge business. Ulster Bank has provided space in its market at Balmoral Show to entrepreneurs from Ulster Bank's Entrepreneur Accelerator programme as well as small business customers. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 15th May 2019 First day of the Balmoral Show, in partnership with Ulster Bank. Pictured at Balmoral Park, outside Lisburn, are(L-R) Andy Laverty, David Knowles and Jonny Laverty with their sweet potato crisps business Wolf and Woodsman. Ulster Bank has provided space in its market at Balmoral Show to entrepreneurs from Ulster Bank's Entrepreneur Accelerator programme as well as small business customers. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 15th May 2019 First day of the Balmoral Show, in partnership with Ulster Bank. Pictured at Balmoral Park, outside Lisburn, is Betty Rodgers with her creams and balms business A Blissful Blend. Ulster Bank has provided space in its market at Balmoral Show to entrepreneurs from Ulster Bank's Entrepreneur Accelerator programme as well as small business customers. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
PressEye-Northern Ireland- 15th May 2019-Picture by Brian Little/PressEye General views. of Balmoral Park during the first day of the Balmoral Show 2019 Picture by Brian Little/PressEye
PressEye-Northern Ireland- 15th May 2019-Picture by Brian Little/PressEye Sam Beattie aged 2 from Tullyveery, Killyleagh at Balmoral Park during the first day of the Balmoral Show 2019 Picture by Brian Little/PressEye
PressEye-Northern Ireland- 15th May 2019-Picture by Brian Little/PressEye Cattle at Balmoral Park during the first day of the Balmoral Show 2019 Picture by Brian Little/PressEye
PressEye-Northern Ireland- 15th May 2019-Picture by Brian Little/PressEye Cattle judging taking place at Balmoral Park during the first day of the Balmoral Show 2019 Picture by Brian Little/PressEye
PressEye-Northern Ireland- 15th May 2019-Picture by Brian Little/PressEye Alpacas at Balmoral Park during the first day of the Balmoral Show 2019 Picture by Brian Little/PressEye
15/5/19: Competitors enjoy a cup of tea during a break in the cattle judging at the Balmoral Show. Picture: Michael Cooper
15/5/19: Cattle judging at the Balmoral Show. Picture: Michael Cooper
PressEye-Northern Ireland- 15th May 2019-Picture by Brian Little/PressEye Lesley Shields with daughter Paislee aged 18 months from Kilkeel at Balmoral Park during the first day of the Balmoral Show 2019 Picture by Brian Little/PressEye
PressEye-Northern Ireland- 15th May 2019-Picture by Brian Little/PressEye Cattle judging taking place at Balmoral Park during the first day of the Balmoral Show 2019 Picture by Brian Little/PressEye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 15th May 2019 First day of the Balmoral Show, in partnership with Ulster Bank. Pictured at Balmoral Park, outside Lisburn, is (L-R) Leanne(13) and her mother Ann Marie Laverty from Mayobridge, Co. Down, with Thompson's Teas Jamie Thompson. The mother and daughter were getting their Ulster Bank Food Trail card stamped. Customers can visit different stands in the food hall getting their cards stamp which can be entered into a free draw. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 15th May 2019 First day of the Balmoral Show, in partnership with Ulster Bank. Pictured at Balmoral Park, outside Lisburn, is Ulster Banks Catherine McMullan at the start of Ulster Bank's Food Trail . Customers can visit different stands in the food hall getting their cards stamp which can be entered into a free draw. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 15th May 2019 First day of the Balmoral Show, in partnership with Ulster Bank. Pictured at Balmoral Park, outside Lisburn, is Tara Mullan with her Refuge Hot Chocolate business. Ulster Bank has provided space in its market at Balmoral Show to entrepreneurs from Ulster Bank's Entrepreneur Accelerator programme as well as small business customers. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
15/5/19: Kids enjoy sitting in a PSNI tractor at the Balmoral Show. Picture: Michael Cooper
Naomi Alexander, Hannah Alexander, Zara Gabbry and Lucy Gabbey with Dexter Cattle, Ballyboley Dexters from Graeyabbey Co Down showing at Balmoral Park during the first day of the Balmoral Show 2019. Picture by Brian Little/PressEye
Ernest Gregg from Ballybollem Pedigree Livestock farm in Randalstown, Co. Antrim, pictured with his two-year-old bull Moore at Balmoral Park outside Lisburn. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
PressEye-Northern Ireland- 15th May 2019-Picture by Brian Little/PressEye Briege Diamond Pointhouse Herd at Balmoral Park during the first day of the Balmoral Show 2019 Picture by Brian Little/PressEye
PressEye-Northern Ireland- 15th May 2019-Picture by Brian Little/PressEye Jenna Hunter from Markethill enjoying the sunshine at Balmoral Park during the first day of the Balmoral Show 2019 Picture by Brian Little/PressEye
PressEye-Northern Ireland- 15th May 2019-Picture by Brian Little/PressEye Billy Coote aged 3 from Dungannon at Balmoral Park during the first day of the Balmoral Show 2019 Picture by Brian Little/PressEye
PressEye-Northern Ireland- 15th May 2019-Picture by Brian Little/PressEye Rosa Finnegan aged 2 from Co Louth at Balmoral Park during the first day of the Balmoral Show 2019 Picture by Brian Little/PressEye
PressEye-Northern Ireland- 15th May 2019-Picture by Brian Little/PressEye Kieran Loughran aged 4 from Dungannon in the shovel of a CAT Wheel Loader , 18,849 kg, at Balmoral Park during the first day of the Balmoral Show 2019 Picture by Brian Little/PressEye
Erin Cunningham aged 2 from Armagh at Balmoral Park during the first day of the Balmoral Show 2019. Picture by Brian Little/PressEye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 15th May 2019 First day of the Balmoral Show, in partnership with Ulster Bank: Showing cattle takes place in the main area at Balmoral Park outside Lisburn. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 15th May 2019 First day of the Balmoral Show, in partnership with Ulster Bank: Showing cattle takes place in the main area at Balmoral Park outside Lisburn. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 15th May 2019 First day of the Balmoral Show, in partnership with Ulster Bank: Showing cattle takes place in the main area at Balmoral Park outside Lisburn. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 15th May 2019 First day of the Balmoral Show, in partnership with Ulster Bank: Showing cattle takes place in the main area at Balmoral Park outside Lisburn. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 15th May 2019 First day of the Balmoral Show, in partnership with Ulster Bank at Balmoral Park outside Lisburn. Horse show jumping takes place at the start of the show. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 15th May 2019 Gates open for the first day of the Balmoral Show in partnership with Ulster Bank at Balmoral Park outside Lisburn. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
PressEye-Northern Ireland- 15th May 2019-Picture by Brian Little/PressEye Lexie and Dorothy Johnston from Ballymacan Blondes Clogher Co Tyrone showing at Balmoral Park during the first day of the Balmoral Show 2019 Picture by Brian Little/PressEye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 15th May 2019 First day of the Balmoral Show, in partnership with Ulster Bank. Ernest Gregg from Ballybollem Pedigree Livestock farm in Randalstown, Co. Antrim, pictured with his two-year-old bull Moore at Balmoral Park outside Lisburn. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
PressEye-Northern Ireland- 15th May 2019-Picture by Brian Little/PressEye Andrew Davidson Gleno Valley YFCU receives his first prize in the Advanced Shearing competition from Zita McNaugher YFCU President at Balmoral Park during the first day of the Balmoral Show 2019 Picture by Brian Little/PressEye
PressEye-Northern Ireland- 15th May 2019-Picture by Brian Little/PressEye Liam Kelly from Randalstown YFCU during the Advanced YFCU Final at Balmoral Park during the first day of the Balmoral Show 2019 Picture by Brian Little/PressEye
REPRO FREE. 15/5/19: Anthony Harbinson, Director of Safer Communities at the Department of Justice (left), visited the Balmoral Show to offer support and thank the many partner agencies who have joined forces to engage with the rural community to raise awareness of criminal activity and offer guidance on how to protect their property and report suspicious activity. He is pictured with Shelly Ann Grimes, PSNI Crime Prevention and (middle) Chief Superintendent Jonathan Roberts. Picture: Michael Cooper
REPRO FREE. 15/5/19: Anthony Harbinson, Director of Safer Communities at the Department of Justice, visited the Balmoral Show to offer support and thank the many partners who work with the DOJ on the Organised Crime Task Force (OCTF). The OCTF used the opportunity to highlight to the public the vulnerabilities exploited by Organised Crime Groups and provided advice and guidance on how to safeguard against crime and, importantly, to report crime. He is pictured with Detective Superintendent Rachel Shields Head of PSNI Organised Crime Task Force and (middle) Chief Superintendent Jonathan Roberts. Picture: Michael Cooper
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 15th May 2019 First day of the Balmoral Show, in partnership with Ulster Bank: Sheep showing during the show at Balmoral Park outside Lisburn. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 15th May 2019 First day of the Balmoral Show, in partnership with Ulster Bank: Sheep showing during the show at Balmoral Park outside Lisburn. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 15th May 2019 First day of the Balmoral Show, in partnership with Ulster Bank: Sheep showing during the show at Balmoral Park outside Lisburn. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

The outlook also looks good for the local pig sector. While feed prices are coming down, the African swine fever epidemic in China has also created a massive hole in the market as a result of widespread culling.

"China domestically can't support that market, they're going to have to import," he said.

"Obviously there's a trade war with America, so they will do business with more European pork. Pig prices will go up, input costs are going down, so the margin on pigs is a good news story."

And despite Brexit, demand for farm land remains high, driving prices to record levels. Last year saw the average price for quality farm land pass £10,000 per acre for the first time. "It's a sign that farmers still want land and there's a fantastic market for it," said Mr McKervey.

"It grew by 4.4% last year despite the uncertainty over Brexit.

"When it comes to land, farmers are still keen to buy it."

However, the Ulster Bank manager painted a gloomier picture for the poultry sector.

It is suffering from a double whammy arising out of cuts to RHI tariffs and what appears to be an easing back on demand from broiler houses by chicken giant Moy Park.

Belfast Telegraph

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