It’s fair to say that the farming spirit never leaves a person that was reared on a farm, no matter what career path they take. In his next exclusive interview for The Scottish Farmer, Chris McCullough chatted to Kim Montgomery, from Ballyrobin Limousins, near Antrim.

Farming has always been in the blood of Kim Montgomery, 33, who was brought up on her late grandparents beef and sheep farm. Today that farm is owned by Kim’s aunt, Joan Gilliland, and together they run beef, sheep and pedigree Limousin cattle.

Kim is married to Ian and they have two children, daughter Emilia (2), and one-year-old son, Matthew. Kim works as a primary school teacher but also rents land and runs her own sheep farm. With her husband, she has purchased some land to increase her farming activities.

Tell me about your farm?

My aunt owns a lowland farm of 100 acres which is stocked with approximately 150 Mule breeding ewes crossed with the Suffolk and Texel rams, 30 commercial Limousin cross cows and 20 pedigree Limousin cows with the Ballyrobin Limousins prefix.

Over the past five years I have gained my own flock number and rented 40 acres. I run approximately 60 breeding ewes which I cross with the Texel ram. On the land, I fatten commercial lambs and I sell ewe lambs with lambs at foot in the spring time. I also have a few pedigree Limousin cows and 15 pedigree Suffolk ewes that I share with my aunt Joan.

Why the Limousin breed?

Well, because it is the number one breed! In my experience a Limousin cow will calve with ease when using a Limousin sire.

She possesses excellent maternal traits for rearing a calf, good milking ability, produces a calf with good meat to bone ratio and good liveweight gain. Some may say nervous temperament is an issue within the breed but I feel over the past 20 years breeders have worked hard to improve this.

Who runs the farm and how involved do you get?

My aunt Joan has been running the family farm for nearly 40 years. We are a very close family and everyone helps out when needed. I live on the farm with my husband and children.

I have always had an interest in farming and when I wasn’t at school I was at home in my wellies. I help with all duties on the farm from feeding stock, cleaning out, dosing, lambing and calving and if pushed I will sit in a tractor if need be for field work.

Are you still involved in the showing of livestock?

Yes. The Ballyrobin Limousin herd was established in 1994. In order to sell bulls at British Limousin Club Society (BLCS) sales, they had to be halter trained.

I always enjoyed watching and being a part of washing, brushing, dressing and then handling and leading the stock from an early age. I also joined the Young Limousin Breeders Club (YLBC) and through training nights held at Greenmount College with the late Victor Woods and YLBC young handlers competitions, I gained invaluable experience.

I enjoy seeing animals develop and being shown at their true potential. After a tough day in the classroom it’s like perfect therapy for me!

Have you any plans to expand the farm?

Recently, Ian and I have purchased 35 acres of land. Ian runs 500 Mule and Blackface breeding ewes, 200 Mule ewe lambs and 20 pedigree Bluefaced Leicesters at his home farm, near Glenwherry.

We already have our hands full and with a young family the plan is to do what we are currently doing, only more efficiently. Ian is working on building a shed to fatten lambs and Joan and I would like a multi-purpose cattle shed with a fixed race and handling pens but with increased costs this year for building materials it’s hard to know what the future holds.

Would you rather be a teacher or a farmer?

I enjoy teaching as I love working with children and I couldn’t have a better team of work colleagues but farming will always be in my blood! It’s a lifestyle like no other, but when there are bills to pay it is a very tough occupation.

Have you any connections to farming in Scotland?

As a teenager I loved nothing more than getting to Perth Bull Sales with the bulls.

We also attended the first Stirling bull sales with Ballyrobin Drambuie which was the overall Limousin champion in October, 2009, and sold for 8000gns.

More recently, we have attended and sold at Carlisle sales but Ian and I love nothing more than a weekend away to the Highland Show. It always ties in well with the end of school report writing.

What would you say NI farmers do best?

I was once told by a Scottish farmer that Northern Irish pedigree bulls are produced out of byres! I suppose to a certain extent that is true.

Compared to Scotland, a lot of farms in Northern Ireland are much smaller on scale but that does not mean the quality is any less, particularly in the pedigree breeding world. We have some of the best genetic breed lines in the UK and possibly in the world and success in the show rings and sale rings is evidence of this.

If you were the Minister for Agriculture in NI, what would you change?

I think after witnessing what the world has been able to achieve with regards to a vaccination programme for Covid-19 that we surely should be able to implement a vaccination policy to work towards the eradication of Bovine TB.

I would also look at the eligibility of land used to feed anaerobic digesters given the miles clocked up carting slurry to and removing the product from, all of which must significantly contribute to the high emission levels in Northern Ireland.

Do you normally show and sell cattle and sheep in Scotland?

Although we have been able to continue selling stock privately to the mainland, we have not taken any stock to the Carlisle bull sales since Brexit due to the unreasonable six months quarantine period for returning an unsold animal.

The mind boggles as to how I can purchase an animal from the mainland in a sales yard and it will only have to do 40 days before importing to Northern Ireland, yet my own animal which has been tested and veterinary inspected prior to leaving NI cannot be returned home for six months. That's another matter that urgently needs addressed by the Minister of Agriculture.

How important do you consider an environment bill in NI farming?

I agree it is important that we all work towards protecting the environment but at the same time I think most farmers should be proud of what they already do.

It is vital that there is an environmental bill for farming, manufacturing and the general public.