Animal disease control, climate change and the future of Northern Ireland farming post Brexit are among the many issues facing UFU President, David Brown, as he is now six months into his two-year term with the farming organisation.
Admitting that he is now a part-time farmer with his emphasis during the week on his Union activities, David recently hosted a visit of members of the Guild of Agricultural Journalists in Northern Ireland to his 200-acre suckler and beef farm at Drumhack Road, Florencecourt where he farms in partnership with his son, Neil.
Following a welcoming cup of tea and coffee and homemade bakes from his wife, Mary, a Marie Curie nurse, David discussed some of the main issues which will continue to dominate his presidency.
Among these is Northern Ireland’s BVD eradication programme as it struggles to eliminate the disease from farms. 
Recently there has been a rise in PI’s (Persistently Infected) animals and this now complicates the trading of animals as the Republic of Ireland has enjoyed its declared officially free status from BVD.
He recalls his time in the UFU South-West Fermanagh Group saying in 2017 that NI needed to adopt the same rules as the ROI to get rid of PI’s. That case was made strongly to government but despite industry lobbying, that has never taken place.
He says DAERA’s response is that it is a resource issue.
“It is extremely frustrating at farm level,” he said.
In fact he thinks this may lead to problems for exhibitors of dairy cattle from the Republic of Ireland appearing at this year’s Winter’s Fair.
He says one of the problems has been some farmers not getting rid of calves at an early stage because they felt they were of good quality.
David has been participating in a number of county meetings over the TB eradication programme strategy which aims to introduce a culling programme of badgers in 2023 if they get the legislation to get the go ahead.
He said TB has influenced him finishing his male suckler calves as bull beef which he believes in hindsight has been a more efficient way to produce carcase weights of 395-405 kgs at around 15 months. He thinks finishing bullocks over 24-26 months would cost more.
His progeny are bred from Sim Lim cross cows with AI used followed by a Charolais sweeper bull. Although he feels his cows are slightly too big for the land type.
In terms of the climate debate, he says there is a perception that red meat is the problem but feels they as farming advocates need to tell the positive stories of red meat production in NI.
“In the defence of our production systems, we have a real story to tell as well as the issue of food security," he said, recognising this is being taken on board more in Brussels.
He repeatedly reminds everyone that Northern Ireland farmers are able to produce enough food for 10m people in GB from an area with a population of 1.9m. And regarding Brexit, insists that Northern Ireland farmers and businesses must retain market access with GB.
He asks for the EU and UK to at least sort out the issue of moving pedigree cattle to sales in GB. At present if they are not sold, they must remain there for six months.
“That would be a valuable sign of progress,” he said.
The uncertainty over availability of animal medicines from the end of the year is also worrying.
In terms of weather dependency for Fermanagh farmers, he said in this county, farmers were just a wet week away from housing cattle. However this year was well improved with many cattle housed in mid October.