Young members take centre stage at Irish Beltex open day

Thomas and Stephen Palmer’s Farm at Dickeystown Road in Glenarm was the venue for this year’s Irish Beltex Sheep Breeders Club’s open day held at the end of July.

Stephen, who is vice-chairman of the club and his father, Thomas, are enthusiastic supporters of both the breed and the club.

“My father decided to start breeding Beltex Sheep back in 2001 following his retirement,” explained Stephen. “We were both attracted to the well documented features of the Beltex breed and what it has to offer.

“Its double muscle and strong hindquarters make Beltex an excellent choice for crossing with both local and half bred Continental sheep.

“Their temperament is excellent, they are easy to work with and they produce very good quality lambs for the commercial market.”

Today Thomas and Stephen’s Burnside flock is comprised of 30 breeding females and three stock rams.

Well positioned on high ground a couple of miles outside the quaint County Antrim village the Palmers have grassland extending to 32 acres in total.

As well as taking in local sales such as the Beltex Sheep Society’s Premier Sale in Dungannon on August 28 the Palmers also travel to sales in Carlisle and Chelford on an annual basis.

“We also rely heavily on repeat customers and through word of mouth we have added quite considerably to our customer base over the years,” continued Stephen. “At the end of the day the Beltex breed works for us and our customers, achieving excellent results under the hammer and in the marts.”

Visitors to the open day were able to see the evidence of that both in open pasture and in an enclosed and covered space to the rear of the farmhouse.

A good crowd attended the event, an excellent mix of Irish Beltex Sheep Breeders Club members and commercial sheep farmers.

Organised activities included a trimming demonstration by club chairman, Hugh O’Neill and a stock judging competition for both adults and juniors.

On display was the winning carcase from the Beltex cross bred carcase competition held earlier that day at Dunbia’s premises in Dungannon. (winner, James Carten, Limavady.)

On the night the carcase was purchased by Tom McMaster of McMaster’s Butchers, Whitehead, for £100.

Tom McMaster and Heather Mahon from McMaster’s Butchers had earlier in the evening cooked a tremendous hog roast for the assembled audience – a superb spread altogether!

Making his debut as an auctioneer was young Ciaran O’Neill from Glenarm, son of club member Eddie O’Neill and grandson of chairman, Hugh O’Neill.

Ciaran did a grand job having earlier in the evening auctioned off a young ewe lamb belonging to Thomas and Stephen Palmer.

The lamb was purchased by Irish Beltex Sheep Breeders Club member, Patrick Brolly from Foreglen, Claudy for £330.

For the young club members it was a night for demonstrating skills.

Josh McCrabbe from Raphoe, Donegal not only won the stock judging competition in the Under 18s category, he was also named the overall winner, beating all the participating adults.

Commenting on the success of the open day Stephen Palmer said: “On behalf of my father and myself, and indeed the whole family, I would just like to thank everyone who attended our open day, making it a very enjoyable event.

“We had sheep farmers 
in attendance from all over 
the province and indeed from as far away as Sligo and Donegal.

“The support for Beltex as a breed and the Irish Beltex Sheep Breeders Club as an organisation was excellent and long may that continue.”

Stock Judging Competition Results

Adults: 1st, Matt Burleigh, County Fermanagh; 2nd, Moore Hamilton, Derry; 3rd, Chloe McIlwaine, Ballynure

Juniors (Under 18s): 1st, Josh McCrabbe, Raphoe, Donegal; 2nd, Sean McKillop, Balleran; 3rd, Michael Donaghy, Garvagh.

Overall winner: Josh McCrabbe, Raphoe, Donegal.