Dunleath Estates Limited was registered in 1965 as a Company to manage the estates, farms and other interests of Lord Dunleath.
The Company is based at Ballywalter Park, near Newtownards in County Down, Northern Ireland.
Registered Office: The Estate Office
Northern Ireland BT22 2PA
Tel: 028 4275 8264
Fax: 028 4275 8818
Board of Directors:
The Lord Dunleath Chairman
The Lady Dunleath
The Lord O’Neill
J McK Harris Managing
R P Blakiston-Houston
The principal activity of the Company lies in agriculture and the lands total approximately 1,500 acres, located at Ballywalter and Kearney, on the Ards peninsula and at Downpatrick. A little under 1,200 acres is farmed in hand and the remainder, at Downpatrick is let for summer grazing.
The main farming enterprise is at Ballywalter, where Dunleath Estates Limited run a pedigree Holstein-Friesian herd of some 420 cows in milk, with a further 310 heifers and calves on the farm. The Company also owns three bulls. All milk is presently sold to United Dairy Farmers and total production for the year 1999/2000 is estimated at 3.2 million litres.
The Company has invested heavily in milk production and a new purpose built state-of-the-art dairy complex was completed in March 1999 and subsequently officially opened by Lord Dubs, the Northern Ireland Minister for Agriculture.
The complex comprises 71,000 sq ft of buildings, together with associated aprons and concrete standings. The are three portal frame buildings, the centre containing the parlour, offices, bedded pens and all equipment, and this is flanked by two cubicle houses, each with a capacity for 180 cows.
The main contractor for the project was McGimpsey & Kane of Kircubbin, and Ian McClure of Donaghadee erected the steelwork.
The rotary parlour was constructed by Westfalia GmbH, to a design by Jack Harris, and was installed by James Duke Dairy Systems, Chichester England and by the Northern Ireland Westfalia Agent Marcellus Clarke, Crossgar. The parlour comprises 40 stalls and has a milking capacity of around 200 cows per hour. No feeding takes place in parlour and the unit is equipped with
Two dairymen are required to operate the parlour. Milk is transferred to an 18,000-litre Dairy Kool bulk tank; supplied and installed by United Dairy Farmers Limited. Milk is collected daily.
The emphasis of the new unit is on both animal and human welfare. All circulation areas for the cows are slatted, with underfloor scrapers to transfer slurry to the holding tanks, from which it is pumped to two 350,000 litre external Boythorpe slurry tanks, supplied by Alfa Laval Limited. These provide a 5 months storage capacity and all slurry is used on farm, both on grassland and on stubble.
The building which is constructed of blockwork and cladding is airy and spacious and slots in the cladding allow for good ventilation. 30% of the roof cladding is in clear Perspex, providing an exceptional amount of natural light. Comfort mattresses are provided in the cow cubicles.
Water for the dairy is available from three sources: mains metered water, two boreholes [sunk to a depth of over 400 feet] and a sophisticated water recovery system, which collects rainwater off the roofs of the buildings. The whole process is managed via an automated pumphouse.
The dairy herd is overwintered in the cubicle houses from October through to March and, for the remainder of the year, are turned out to grass over a system of paddocks covering 500 acres. Three cuts of silage are taken from 300 acres each year, totalling around 12,000 tons. The cows are fed a total mixed ration [TMR], prepared on farm, using the estate’s grain.
Cereal production encompasses 400 acres, both at Ballywalter and at Kearney. Crops grown are winter barley and winter wheat, spring barley and, in 2000, maize.
In 1999, the decision was taken to use contractors for silage making and grain harvesting and for the majority of future cultivation operations.
Farm Staff Levels as at 31 July 1999 are:
Dairy and Young Stock 4
Farm Mechanic 1
Farm Secretary 1
Dunleath Estates Limited also runs a separate commercial horticultural operation, which can be divided into two units.
Commercial Strawberry Growing
The Company cultivates 1.5 acres of tabletop strawberries under glass and in polytunnels, and is in fruit from May to October each year. Two varieties, Elsanta and Bolero are currently grown are the fruit is supplied almost exclusively to J Sainsbury Plc. Production levels vary, but peak early in the season at 2.5 - 3 tonnes per week. Supplies mainly service Sainsbury’s Northern Ireland stores, but due to early availability, supplies are also sent to Scotland and England at the start of the season.
The fruit is all supplied to Sainsbury’s through Fruition Group Limited, a Growers’ Co-operative, based at Canterbury. Packaging of fruit for Sainsbury’s is carried out on site at Ballywalter, with a new purpose-built packhouse being constructed in 1998.
The Company’s other customer for strawberries is Shanks Restaurant a multi-award winning and Michelin starred Restaurant at Blackwood Golf Course, near Bangor. Here the owner, Robbie Millar and his brigade of chefs concoct the most innovative and delicious creations, using Dunleath strawberries –to such an extent that they gained a special mention in the Financial Times!
Pick Your Own Facility
The Company also operates a 6-acre pick your own operation, situated within the demesne at the Greyabbey entrance gates. The season normally runs from June to august each year. Here, and in beautiful surroundings, the general public can pick strawberries, raspberries, red and blackcurrants, gooseberries, peas, mangetout, beans, cauliflower, cabbage and other produce. The Farm Shop also sells soft drinks and confectionery.