‘Rare Breed’ farmer loses straw and machinery in major shed blaze

A well-known Co. Antrim farmer has lost his winter supply of hay and straw after a shed fire destroyed thousands of pounds of supplies at the weekend.

The 45,000ft² shed had been used to store Randalstown beef and sheep farmer James Alexander’s supply of straw and hay for the winter, as well as some machinery and lambing equipment.

Alexander is a familiar face in Northern Ireland, having appeared several times on UTV farming show Rare Breed.

Randalstown farmer James Alexander lost his winter straw and hay in a farm fire

Alexander is also well known in beef and sheep breeding circles for his Jalex prefix.

At one point, the family had been running an impressive 1,200 head of cattle made up of a mixture of Simmentals, Simmental crosses, Limousin cross, Belgian Blue crosses and Aberdeen Angus crosses.

The Alexanders also run a machinery dealership.

Randalstown farmer James Alexander lost his winter straw and hay in a farm fire

22 hours to put out the flames

A Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) spokesperson said officers received a report of a shed fire at premises on Gloverstown Road, Randalstown, at around 10:00pm on Sunday, November 5.

It took firefighters around 22 hours to tackle the flames. Firefighters also helped Alexander move animals from an adjacent shed. However, none were injured in the blaze.

It’s understood the damage could total hundreds of thousands of pounds.

A spokeswoman for Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service said two fire engines from Magherafelt Fire Station, one from Antrim Fire Station and a water tanker from Dungiven Fire Station were sent to the scene.

She said it was 6:51pm the next day before crews left the scene and added that the fire was “well alight” on the crews’ arrival.

Investigations are underway into how the fire began; it’s not yet known whether it started accidentally.