Limavady Show: Diane celebrates hat-trick of ewe titles

Duncan McDowell from Newtownards with the inter-breed beef champion Castlemount Jet Liner at Limavady Show
Duncan McDowell from Newtownards with the inter-breed beef champion Castlemount Jet Liner at Limavady Show

The highlight of this year’s Limavady Show was the victory by Co Down Charollais sheep breeder Diane Christie in the final of the Northern Ireland Shows Association: Danske Bank Ewe Championship final.

This was the third year in succession that she has won the most coveted title. This time around she brought the silverware home with a young sucked ewe that had given birth to twin ewe lambs back in the spring. The animal had previously qualified for the final at Ballymena Show.

Christie is no stranger to success in the show ring. She has won numerous inter-breed sheep titles at venues right across Northern Ireland this summer. And all of this builds on the victories notched up in previous years.

By common consent her pedigree flock contains a selection of the best bloodlines in Northern Ireland. This is backed up by the fact that judges, who hail from all parts of the UK and Ireland, keep handing her team championship rosettes.

Limavady’s own inter-breed sheep title was won by Perth Blackface breeder Joe Adams with his eye-catching ewe. The animal had given birth to twin ram lambs back in the spring.

This year’s show was held a fortnight later than would normally be the case. And, according to event committee member Ian Mark, it has been a very positive development.

“It means that we have been able to hold the show on a date that did not clash with another event,” he said.

“Hosting the ewe championship final has been a major feather in our cap. And it is an honour that that we will have bestowed upon us again in 2017.”

The beef inter-breed championship at Limavady was won by Newtownards Shorthorn breeder Duncan McDowell with his eye-catching young bull Castlemount Jet Liner. Home bred, the animal was born in July last year.

As can sometimes happen, different judges can have a differing perspective on the same animal. McDowell’s animal won the reserve Beef Shorthorn breed title, losing out narrowly to Newry breeder Richard Henning. But when it came to the overall championship class of the show, McDowell got the nod.

The reserve inter-breed accolade at Limavady went to the McCrea family, from North Tyrone, with their British Blue heifer.

Selling embryos, produced from their elite cows, is helping Northern Ireland’s top dairy farmers remain financially viable at a time of record low milk prices, according to Bushmills’ breeder Iain Mclean. He won the dairy inter-breed championship at this year’s Limavady Show with his excellent Ayrshire cow Marleycote Sea Lilly.

“Embryos produced from cows with a top classification and bulls that are in strong demand will sell for up to £400 each,” he added.

“There is a strong home requirement for genetics of this calibre. But export opportunities can also be availed of.”

Mr McLean is currently selling embryos to dairy breeders throughout the UK and the Republic of Ireland.

“A cow can produce up to 25 viable eggs when flushed,” he said.

“But then there is the actual cost of producing the embryos. The process requires the input of a specialist veterinarian or geneticist. And the cost of storing the embryos in liquid nitrogen until buyers can be found must also be factored in.”

Mr McLean has also invested in embryos himself, in order to boost the pedigrees status of his own herd.

“Over recent years we have purchased embryos in the United States costing up to $5,000 each,” he explained.

“The conception rate, once the embryo is implanted, can be up to 80 per cent. But, again, this all depends on having the recipient cow prepared properly.”