Antrim Show: Future looking bright, says association boss

Holstein young handler, Ben Shanks from Dunadry, relaxes in the sunshine at Antrim Show
Holstein young handler, Ben Shanks from Dunadry, relaxes in the sunshine at Antrim Show

Agricultural shows are playing a greater role than ever within all our rural communities, according to Northern Ireland Shows Association (NISA) chairman Bill Leeman.

He was speaking at the weekend’s Antrim Show, which hosted two of the association’s flagship event finals: the McLarnon’s-sponsored Dairy Cow of the Year and the Danske Bank-sponsored Ewe Championship.

Sharon Hazelton from Dungannon with her first prize winning pygmy goat

Sharon Hazelton from Dungannon with her first prize winning pygmy goat

“Increasingly, rural communities are taking greater ownership of their local shows. And this is mirrored in the significantly increased number of exhibitors and competitors taking part in all our events this year,” he said.

“Crowd numbers are also well up at all the events held in 2015.

“And, I firmly believe that all of this bodes well for the future of the agricultural show circuit.

“This year’s Antrim Show is a perfect example of this progress. The organising team has put in an enormous amount of work to develop a tremendous event, which constitutes a perfect shop window for the farming industry and our rural way of life.”

The great strides made by Dairy Shorthorn breeders over recent years were fully reflected in the victory achieved by Iain McLean, from Bushmills, in this year’s McLarnon Feeds: NISA Dairy Cow of the Year competition. He carried the day with his elite third calver Marleycote Sea Lily 14.

Judging the class was Duncan Hunter, from Hertfordshire. He described the winning cow as an almost perfect example of the Shorthorn breed.

“I couldn’t fault her,” he said.

“Even more remarkable is the fact that she calved last November and is due to calve again in January 2016. The cow has great strength, making her totally suited to a modern dairying environment.

“All the other animals that had qualified for the final had many positive features. In fact, the line-up of cows presented to me could have graced any show ring in the UK and beyond.”

The McLean family had five cows participating in Saturday’s final. But this was the first time they had actually won the Dairy Cow of the Year title.

“It means everything to us,” said Iain McLean.

“We had great hopes for the group of cows taking part in this year’s final. The tremendous accolade associated with the winning of the title will encourage us to push on and further improve the breeding stock within the herd.”

Duncan Hunter selected the Jersey second calver, Clandeboye Jazzi Bambi, as his runner-up. He referred specifically to the strength of her mammary system.

“Again, another excellent cow, which any dairy farmer would want to own,” he said.

Bambi was bred by the team at Clandeboye Estate. Farm manager Mark Logan described her as a tremendous example of the Jersey breed with exceptional potential for the future.

“She is currently giving 28 litres of milk per day at 5.3 per cent butterfat and 3.9 per cent protein,” he said.

Adding to Logan’s satisfaction with the cow was the fact that she had won Antrim Show’s own inter-breed dairy championship class earlier in the day.

Meanwhile, in the sheep ring, Diane Christie from Comber was having another tremendous day out to remember. She won the NISA: Danske Bank Ewe Championship with a three shear Charollais.

The animal in question, which gave birth to triplet ewe lambs back in the spring, had previously qualified at Lurgan Show.

Suffolk breeder Patrick Donnelly, from Ballymena, took the runner-up prize with his home-bred ewe: a tremendous example of its breed.

Special mention also goes to Brian Williamson and Adrian Liggett, from Omagh in Co Tyrone. They won the sheep inter-breed championship with a Texel ewe. It was their first champion of champions’ title: well done to both.