Castlewellan Show: Former Ulster Farmers' Union president Victor Chestnutt highlights importance of agriculture to the local economy at busy show
He was speaking at Saturday’s Castlewellan Show where, despite the persistent and heavy showers of thundery rain, large crowds were still the order of the day.
As is traditional at the Co Down venue, the event was marked by a tremendous turnout of top quality livestock.
The supreme beef inter-breed championship was won by the Rodgers family, from Dromara, with an elite, five-year-old Blonde d’Aquitaine cow with a seven-month-old calf at foot.
A pedigree livestock breeder himself, Mr Chestnutt, judged the beef inter-breed classes at Castlewellan.
The North Antrim man confirmed that he had selected his champion as soon as she entered the ring, adding: “She is an excellent animal example of the breed: fantastic conformation and great
locomotion. But the presence of the calf also confirmed that she is a working cow. And this
is what cattle breeding is all about.”
The Rodgers family has been breeding Blonde cattle for the past thirty years.
Mr Chestnutt used his presence at Castlewellan to highlight the importance of agriculture to the
local economy as a whole.
“Northern Ireland is home to 1.8 million people, yet our farming and food sectors are feeding the equivalent of 10 million people around the world on a daily basis,” he said. “This represents a tremendous level of performance, which we can build on for the future. There is nothing to stop our farmers from producing more food while still meeting their climate change obligations.”
Turning specifically to beef, Mr Chestnutt highlighted the role that local restaurants can play in supporting Northern Ireland’s livestock sector.
He continued: “I know that most of our catering outlets work with processers based here in Northern Ireland.
“But they should go that extra mile and ensure that the beef they actually procure comes from local farms.”
The sheep inter-breed championship was won by Orla and Patrick Grant, from Kilcoo in Co Down with a hogget ewe.
Archie McGregor, from Stirling in Scotland, judged the inter-breed sheep classes at Castlewellan.
He described his champion as an excellent example of what is still a new breed to the UK and Ireland.
McGregor also confirmed the elite quality of the sheep entered for Castlewellan 2023, across the board.
As the name suggests, Dutch Spotted sheep hail from the Netherlands.
They are a naturally polled (hornless) breed and consistently colour-mark their progeny, even in cross breeding scenarios.
Dutch Spotted sheep are multi-purpose animals, being of equal value in both hill and lowland situations.
When used a terminal sire, they produce lambs with an exceptionally high kill-out percentage. The quality of the meat is also excellent.