Ulster Bank-Backed Investment in Antrim Farm Secures Future for Third Generation

The owners of an upland farm in County Antrim have purchased additional land and invested significantly in diversification and automation with the support of Ulster Bank to help secure the future of the family’s third generation of farmer.

Timmy and Karen Rea, who farm 260 acres of land between Larne and Slemish Mountain, have diversified their farming business by expanding into dairy production.

They have added dairy cows to their herd and commissioned a new Lely Astronaut robotic milking system to maximise quality, increase yield and support better cow health.

The system reduces the cost of labour associated with manual milking practices and the automated process greatly improves yield by milking to the herd’s full genetic potential.

“It’s allowing us to milk up to five times per day for our best cows, averaging over 35 litres per cow per day which we’re supplying to one of Europe’s largest cheese producers,” Timmy said.

“The ease of access means the cows decide themselves when to be milked, so it doesn’t create any strain on them, and the automation underlying the process allows us to refocus labour resources meaning the return on investment for the business is strong.”

It represents the second major investment in recent years to help secure the future of the family business for siblings Charlie, aged 11, and James, aged 9.

A traditional beef and sheep farm, the Reas managed over 300 Scottish Blackface and crossbred ewes – with all lambs finished on farm – and a mixed herd of 120 cattle, until June 2020 when the husband and wife duo set out to futureproof the farm.

Alongside the mix of sheep and beef cattle, the Reas expanded into egg production and invested in a free-range poultry shed, adding 16,000 laying hens to the farming enterprise. Today, the hens produce an estimated 5.5 million free-range eggs per crop.

Ulster Bank business development manager Conor McNeill said: “We’re very pleased to support Timmy and Karen to grow their poultry and dairy business. Farming enterprises like theirs are an essential component of a healthy local economy.

“These investments reflect our commitment to ensure the local agri sector has the resources and expertise it needs here and now, as well as making sure farming businesses are equipped with the tools needed to adapt and invest in new technologies that will help secure their future.”

Commenting on the future of the farm, Timmy said brothers Charlie and James “are showing a real interest in the business.”

“The investments in our poultry and dairy operations promise good return, but they also create two distinct areas of the family business so that both Charlie and James can eventually take over the reins.

“Our farm was originally purchased by my father and grandfather as a hobby. We’ve grown it from 40 acres to the 260 acres we have today so it’s great to see the boys’ passion to continue and expand on that legacy. It’s the support of Conor and the team at Ulster Bank that has made this possible for us. They were approachable, understanding and guided us through the entire process with ease. Without their backing we wouldn’t have been able to achieve what we have done.”

Ulster Bank has been principal sponsor of the Balmoral Show since 2009.

To find out more about Ulster Bank’s support for agri-food customers or to get in touch with a member of the team, visit ulsterbank.com.

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