Castlewellan Show: Our farming has great story to tell, says UFU chief

Taking in the sights of this years Castlewellan Show were Lauren and Tim Montgomery, from Ballymena
Taking in the sights of this years Castlewellan Show were Lauren and Tim Montgomery, from Ballymena

A combination of record crowds and record temperatures will ensure that Castlewellan Show 2016 lives long in the memory for the many thousands of visitors who delighted in the sights and sounds of this year’s event.

Ulster Farmers’ Union president Barclay Bell summed it up nicely when he said that Castlewellan and the other agricultural shows held throughout the summer months play a critical role in communicating the link between farming and food security to members of the general public.

Dexter cattle breeders had a great day out at the Castlewellan Show (from left) Heather Briggs, Ballymena; Matthew Bloomer, Dungannon; Andrew Sheppy, Somerset (judge of Dexter classes) and Alanna Bloomer, Dungannon

Dexter cattle breeders had a great day out at the Castlewellan Show (from left) Heather Briggs, Ballymena; Matthew Bloomer, Dungannon; Andrew Sheppy, Somerset (judge of Dexter classes) and Alanna Bloomer, Dungannon

“And this role will take on even greater significance over the coming years,” he added.

“The farming and food industries must communicate a clear message to consumers. Farming in Northern Ireland has a great story to tell. But the industry must take the initiative and get on with the job in hand. No one else can do it for us.”

South Down MP Margaret Ritchie echoed these comments, adding: “Brexit will become a reality. My priority is to ensure that the best possible deal is secured for farming and food here in Northern Ireland.

“In the first instance this means that the free movement of people and goods across the border must be maintained. London must also recognise the important role which farming and food play within the local economy. I hope to be meeting the new DEFRA secretary Andrea Leadsom on these matters over the coming days.”

Meanwhile, in the show rings, a record entry of livestock made sure that judging continued well into the afternoon. The dairy championship was won by Saintfield Holstein breeder David Dodd with his tremendous second calver Glenbrae Gerard Doris. Judge Tom Kelly, from Drogheda in Co Louth, described her as an excellent example of the Holstein breed with tremendous dairy strength. The cow is currently giving 52 litres of milk per day: she calved in February of this year.

The sheep inter-breed championship was won by Jim Aiken, from Dromara in Co Down, with his impressive Border Leicester shearling ewe.

“She is a 2015 lamb,” said Mr Aiken. “From day one I felt that she had great potential. And the results notched up so far this year are proving this.

“We had a great Balmoral 2016 and this was followed by breed championship wins at a number of the shows held so far this year.

“The plan is to put her in with a ram this autumn. Hopefully she will lamb down successfully for the first time next spring.”

Judge Alex Gray, from Lanark in Scotland, described his inter-breed sheep champion as a young animal with tremendous potential.

“She caught my eye immediately,” he said.

“We keep pedigree Texel, Suffolk and Charollais sheep at home. The strength of the sheep entry at Castlewellan this year was outstanding. But the Border Leicester shearling had three key attributes: outstanding breed character; tremendous balance and great poise.”

Northern Ireland’s chief veterinary officer Robert Huey was another visitor to the show. He described the recently announced £8.7m investment in a new animal traceability system as being of critical importance for the farming and food sectors.

“We will be rolling out the new system over the coming months. It represents a £8.7m investment and should act to make life easier for farmers and help the food industry secure new export markets.”