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Monday 18 December 2017

Young Tyrone farmer refuses to let Brexit scupper his dreams of dairying in the Republic

Ben Christie farms in Strabane, Co Tyrone and his uncle has offered him the chance to also take over a farm in Donegal. Photo: Declan Doherty
Ben Christie farms in Strabane, Co Tyrone and his uncle has offered him the chance to also take over a farm in Donegal. Photo: Declan Doherty
Claire Mc Cormack

Claire Mc Cormack

Ben Christie, an ambitious young farmer from Strabane, Co Tyrone, refuses to let Brexit scupper his dreams of dairying in the Republic.

The 20-year-old graduate of Ballyhaise Agricultural College, who currently milks 140 cows on his family's dairy farm in the North, couldn't believe his ears when his uncle, Michael Chance, chairman of Donegal IFA, said he wanted to hand him over his tillage farm in Newtown Cunningham in the south.

"Three years ago my uncle came to me and said about taking on his farm, until then I had no plans to farm in the south but after a year in college and I learned about the low interest grass feed systems and other incentives for young farmers and it really attracted me," he said.

Although the youngest of three, who plans to get the ball rolling over the next year, is aware of the challenges Brexit may pose in terms of borders, customs and paperwork, he stresses that it won't stand in his way.

"It's difficult enough as it is to transfer stock from north to south, it's not easy, you nearly need a passport for every single animal, doing it twice is double the hassle. With Brexit I can't see that process getting any easier.

"I want to work both farms together with the dairy in the south and rearing the calves to heifers in the north, running them as separate units isn't an ideal option for me.

"What my uncle is offering is immense, that sort of land doesn't come around everyday and I'm sure in my lifetime I will never get the opportunity to buy that type of land so Brexit is not going to stop me, no way," he said.

His uncle's 275ac shared farm in Newtown Cunninghan, 15 miles from the border, has been farmed in tillage for the last couple of decades.

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"It's going to be a big ­operation to convert it to a dairy unit but it's some of the best land in Donegal and it has massive potential," he said.


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