Newry Show: Farmers want uncertainy over border sorted after Brexit vote

Stuart Dunlop and John Stewart from Banbridge get ready for the Holstein classes at Newry Show
Stuart Dunlop and John Stewart from Banbridge get ready for the Holstein classes at Newry Show

There was a record turnout of cattle and sheep at this year’s Newry Show on Saturday.

The beef inter-breed championship was won by Mullaghbawn Limousin breeder Larry Crilly with his eye-catching heifer Shanhill Jodie.

“She is 19 months old and was sired by Ampertaine Elgin,” he said.

“We are delighted with her progress. She is turning out to be a very special animal.”

North Down Charollais sheep breeder Diane Christie had another “good day at the office”.

She won with the inter-breed championship with a stunning shearling ewe. Home bred, the animal caught the eye of judges and the on-looking gallery of visitors to the show.

Christie has already won a number of inter-breed championships in 2016. But most impressive is the fact that she can command the total respect of judges with a number of different sheep. This speaks volumes for the quality of stock that she has throughout her entire flock.

The dairy inter-breed championship was won by North Down Holstein breeder Steven Robinson with Ortongrange Snowman Alysia. She calved for the second time in February and is currently giving 45 litres of milk per day. The cow was the All-Britain Heifer of the Year back in 2014.

The potential fall-out of last Thursday’s Brexit vote for agriculture was the key talking point for farmers attending this year’s show.

“There is totally uncertainty as to what now lies ahead,” admitted show society chairman Kyle Henry.

“But the last thing that farmers in this area want is the re-establishment of the border, from a trading point of view. This would create major difficulties for their businesses.”

He added: “Farming and food remain at the very heart of our rural way of life.

“And all of our local shows play a key role in providing a shop window for agriculture in Northern Ireland. But they also represent a tremendous coming together of our rural communities. Without the tremendous voluntary effort put in by countless numbers of people, they just would not take place.

“And Newry Show is no different in this regard. Large numbers of people come together of their own volition each year to make it happen. And it is this solidarity which represents the fundamental message of hope for our farming and food industries moving forward.”

Kilkeel pig producer Trevor Shields agreed that the issue of the border could become a problem for Northern Ireland’s farming and food sectors, once the UK officially leaves the European Union.

“I run a pedigree breeding operation. Two-thirds of the boar semen we sell is purchased by farmers in the Republic of Ireland.

“So I do not want to see the re-establishment of the border. And this is a key issue that must be addressed by all the relevant decision makers over the coming months.

“Our survival as an industry depends on us having access to as many export markets as possible.

“Free trade with the Republic is crucial in this regard.”

But Mr Shields believes that markets outside of Europe can play a vital role in maintaining the viability of Northern Ireland’s pig industry.

“Tremendous efforts have been made over recent years to secure direct access to the Chinese market for fresh pork that is produced here.

“That I am aware of, every box has been ticked in meeting all the requirements specified by the authorities in China. All we are waiting on now is the final decision on their part. Having access to the Chinese market would probably boost local pig prices to the tune of 6p/kilo.”