UTV farming series Rare Breed returns to our screens

New faces, farms and stories

The McCann family from Co Armagh are amongst the twelve families featured in the latest series of Rare Breed - A Farming Year
The McCann family from Co Armagh are amongst the twelve families featured in the latest series of Rare Breed - A Farming Year

The highs and lows of agricultural year will be presented on our television screens with a new series of Rare Breed – A Farming Year.

The ground-breaking year-in-the-life observational documentary series charts the agricultural year, giving a unique insight into one of Northern Ireland’s largest and oldest industries.

Now in its twelfth year, the latest series follows 12 families working in a variety of sectors on farms across the north of Ireland.

Filmed during 2023, each episode captures the highs and lows of each month of the year, as the families deal with economic and environmental challenges.

Narrated by Mark McFadden and Rita Fitzgerald, the series reflects the diversity and innovation in the Northern Ireland’s agri-food sector – from, sheep, dairy and pig to arable, farm shops and tourism, with passion and commitment shining through in every episode.

In the first episode, airing on January 18, viewers meet five families, including Cookstown girl Bronagh O’Kane.

Bronagh O'Kane at work in her farm in Cookstown
Bronagh O'Kane at work in her farm in Cookstown (Johnston, Olivia)

A former fast-jet engineer, she returned to the family farm with the ambition of running a sustainable enterprise of sheep and cattle, focusing on soil health, using worms to create fertiliser for the land.

“It’s a tough way to make a living but I think we’ve just got to embrace change a lot more. When you own land, you are part of the bigger eco-system,” said Bronagh.

Near Garvagh,  father and son, Michael and Kile Diamond,  are in the middle of peak lambing seasonKile is 18 and studying at Greenmount College.  They’re keeping a close eye on their flock and are swift to help a ewe deliver twins.  All goes well and they help the lambs feed off the mother’s colostrum.  Michael says: “It’s just like giving them Lucozade!”

The cameras also visit Limavady arable and livestock farmer Jonny Kelly.  The father of three works 800 acres and is spending January making sure all his machinery is in good order ahead of springtime.

Limavady farmer Jonny Kelly standing in his field
Limavady farmer Jonny Kelly

He’s also off to market with cattle but he says, “A few aren’t allowed to go, they are my kids’ pets and I’m not allowed to sell them.”

Joining the line-up on the Ards Penninsula is the McClements family. They run a dairy farm which is a 365 day a year job. All three teenagers, Josh, Jude and Sarah have a keen interest, and we see them hard a work early in the morning before they head off to school.

They talk of their love of calves and working on the farm. “They’re low maintenance, very cute and energetic, they brighten up your day,” comments Jude.

Co Armagh beekeepers Jack and William Wilson
Co Armagh beekeepers Jack and William Wilson

Other families featured in this series of Rare Breed include Loughgall beekeepers Jack and William Wilson, turkey farmers Leanne and Trevor Hutchinson and Emma and Rodney Balfour from Mullygarry in Fermanagh, who farm sheep part-time while both working full time for the health service.

James Alexander from Randalstown, a familiar face on various previous series of Rare Breed pops up in the June episode to share how he’s diversifying into farm tourism.

Rare Breed - A Farming Year regular James Alexander
Rare Breed - A Farming Year regular James Alexander

The series is produced for UTV by local independent production company Strident. Managing Director, Kelda Crawford-McCann said, “It’s always a pleasure to meet the families that take part in Rare Breed.  This series has something for everyone – from families just starting out on their farming journey, to third and fourth generations combining the old with the new, and learning from each other.  It’s a great reflection of the breadth and depth of farming in Northern Ireland.”

Rare Breed – A Farming Year starts on Thursday January 19 at 8.30pm on UTV. Catch up on ITVX.