AS the New Year dawns members of the Northern Ireland Simmental Cattle Breeders’ Club are looking back on 2012 as one of the most successful years in the club’s history.
The Simmental breed has improved significantly over the last decade, and as a result has enjoyed a resurgence in recent years. The strong demand for bulls and females continued throughout 2012, resulting in increased, and on a few occasions, record sale averages, as commercial suckler herd owners recognise the potential of the Simmental’s terminal and maternal traits.
With several new breeders making their debut in the showring, the Simmental entry boasted quality and quantity at the majority of the province’s agricultural shows. There was strong competition in the various classes, with the busy show season reaching a climax at Enniskillen Show, which for years has hosted the finals of the prestigious Northern Bank Male and Female of the Year Awards, and the Ivomec Super Simmental Pair of the Year competition.
Throughout the year breeders from Northern Ireland judged at leading national and international shows; several herds secured championship awards and top prices at Stirling; and a NI-bred heifer sold for 16,500gns setting a new UK breed record for a maiden heifer.
The start of 2012 saw Adrian Richardson from Maguiresbridge win the intermediate and reserve supreme championship at Stirling with Longbeach Bosco, which later changed hands for 10,000gns.
Breed stalwart Billy Robson OBE, and sons Michael and Norman, from Doagh, also had a successful trip to the February sale, selling to a top of 12,000gns, with three bulls from their long-established Kilbride Farm Herd commanding an average of £10,220 per head. Many local herd owners featured strongly at the Scottish venue which attracts the cream of beef bloodlines from across the UK.
March was a busy month for club members with the Dungannon show and sale achieving a 92% clearance, resulting in 22 bulls selling to average £2,866 each – up £270 on the previous year. Prices peaked at 4,200gns, paid to the Nelson family from Rosslea for the seventeen-month-old Scribby Farms Barney.
An entry of commercial females at the same sale attracted buoyant bidding, with prices reaching a ceiling of £306.80 per 100kgs. Cows with calf at foot peaked at £1,700, and in-calf heifers sold to a top of £1,440.
The club’s annual dinner and presentation of awards was well supported, attracting more than 100 members, friends and sponsors.
Rounding off the March activities was the club’s AGM, which saw Pat Kelly from Tempo step down after two years at the helm. He handed the reins to Nigel Glasgow from Cookstown, while Richard Rodgers from Portglenone was elected as vice-chairman.
May was another busy month starting off with an export show and sale of pedigree stock which attracted bidders from throughout Ireland. Trade peaked at 4,200gns, paid to John Moore from Beragh, for the January 2011 born Omorga Chieftain ET. Twenty lots were traded at the Dungannon venue to average £2,551 each, while heifers peaked at 2,100gns, with five selling to average at £1,900 per head.
As the curtain came down on Balmoral’s final show at the historic King’s Hall complex in Belfast, the Simmental section attracted one of its largest entries for some years. Judged by Bertie Houston from County Donegal, top honours went to breed new comer Mike Fraser of the Bruces Hill Cattle Company based at Ballyclare. Claiming the male and supreme overall championship was the herd’s senior stock bull Hockenhull Ali Baba, who was joined on the winner’s podium by the female champion and reserve supreme champion, Ballinlare Farm Buttercup 2nd, a senior heifer from Joe Wilson’s herd in Newry.
The beginning of June coincided with Lurgan Show’s 100th anniversary celebrations, and the tranquil setting of Lurgan Park was the ideal venue for the Woodcraft Kitchens (Kilrea) Junior Heifer Derby. The classes were hotly contested with breeders travelling from throughout the province to compete for a share of the prize fund. Claiming the overall title was the much-admired Lisglass Clover 2nd, a sixteen-month-old heifer bred and exhibited by the father and son team of Leslie and Christopher Weatherup, Ballyclare.
Brothers Shane and Paul McDonald from Tempo collected the runner-up award with the home-bred April 2011 born Coolcran Lady Cara.
A few days later and the club’s annual stockjudging competition, hosted by Robin and Darla Boyd and family, attracted a large number of breed enthusiasts from all six counties. Everyone was very impressed with the quality of cattle at the Portglenone-based Slievenagh herd. There was a good turnout of young breeders who were competing for a place on one of two teams to represent Northern Ireland at the national finals, held at the East of England Show.
August was another busy month in the club’s calendar, kicking off with its annual charity barbecue and auction in Dungannon Rugby Club. The event celebrated its 21st anniversary, and everyone enjoyed the succulent steaks which were accompanied by an array of salads, followed by delicious desserts, all provided by ladies from within the club. Over the years the event has raised tens of thousands of pounds for local charities, and this year’s nominated charity was the NSPCC which received a cheque for £6,250.
Enniskillen Show marked the end of another busy show season, and the large entry of Simmental cattle proved to be one of the main spectacles at the County Fermanagh venue, which attracted spectators from the north and south of Ireland. Following the scheduled classes the winners of the Northern Bank-sponsored Male and Female of the Year Awards were announced.
The Male of the Year was Mike Fraser’s Hockenhull Ali Baba who had notched up five championships and one reserve championship during the show season. Securing the reserve award was Slievenagh Bon Jovi, stock bull in Duncan McDowell’s newly-founded Castlemount herd in Newtownards.
The Female of the Year title went to Adrian Richardson’s home-bred Cleenagh Bambi, while the runner-up was Leslie and Christopher Weatherup’s Lisglass Clover 2nd. Adrian Richardson also won the Ivomec Super Simmental Pair of the Year competition, with a home-bred bull and heifer team, Cleenagh Cannon and Cleenagh Bambi, which were described by judge Peter O’Connell as well presented, and showing great power and confirmation.
Runner-up in the strongly contested competition, which attracted seven pairs of cattle, were home-bred junior heifers Coolcran Lady Cara and Coolcran Juliet Cinderella, bred and exhibited by Shane and Paul McDonald, Tempo.
The club’s newly founded Young Members’ Association, which is headed up by Zara Stubbs from Irvinestown, held its first-ever meeting which attracted more than 30 young breeders. Hosted by club chairman Nigel Glasgow, the social event included a BBQ and highlighted the various aspects involved in clipping, preparing an animal for the showring, stockjudging and structured reasoning.
The Pedigree Sales Arena at Moira was the venue for the inaugural production sale from Ballinlare Farm and Ranfurly Herds, an event which attracted numerous breeders from England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland.
Prices peaked at 16,500gns for the twenty-month-old heifer Ranfurly Beauty 5th, which sold over the telephone to Michael Barlow’s Denizes herd in Lancashire. Beauty’s 16,500gns price tag sets a new breed record for a maiden heifer in the UK, and shatters the previous 12,000gns record set in 2010 for a Simmental female sold in Northern Ireland.
Bidding was spirited from start to finish with 15 in-calf and maiden heifers from David Hazelton’s Dungannon-based herd selling to average £5,558, while 29 lots from Joe Wilson’s herd at Newry sold to level at £3,134 each.
During their trip to Northern Ireland for the sale, many of the national breeders used the opportunity to visit a number of prominent herds.
The club’s autumn show and sale was hosted by Dungannon Farmers’ Mart in October. Trade for bulls peaked at 3,400gns, paid to Frank and Matthew Cunning, Glarryford, for the March 2011 born Pointfarms Columbo. Leading the female line-up at 2,400gns was the female champion Corrick Chelsea from Cecil McIlwaine’s herd in Newtownstewart. Bulls averaged £2,690, while 10 heifers averaged £1,885 per head.
An entry of commercial females saw in-calf heifers reach £1,160, while maiden heifers peaked at £710 over their weight.
Local breeders continued to dominate at the Stirling Bull Sales in October, claiming both the supreme and reserve championship awards.
Intermediate and supreme overall champion was the March 2011 born Cairnview Snazzy son, Kilbride Farm Comber, which secured the day’s top price of 20,000gns, setting a new herd record for the Robson family’s 60-cow herd based at Doagh.
County Fermanagh breeder Kenneth Veitch won the reserve intermediate and reserve supreme championships with the April 2011 born Drumlone Convoy, which later attracted a bid of 6,000gns.
Reflecting on 2012, club chairman Nigel Glasgow said: “It certainly was a year to remember. Breeders in Northern Ireland have invested heavily in genetics, and are at the top of their game when it comes to producing high-calibre Simmental cattle.
“Our club is continuing to attract new members, and the demand for breeding stock, both locally and nationally, is testimony to the quality of cattle in Northern Ireland.
“Well done to everyone, and thanks to our sponsors, without whom many of our club events would not be possible.”