WHEN chairman Arnold McClure and members of the Northern Ireland Branch take time to reflect on the 2012 season they’ll look back with a fair degree of satisfaction.
Of course, in hindsight, things on the odd occasion could have been done somewhat differently, however by and large it was another exceptional year when NI breeders continued to make an impact at home and abroad.
And pride of place goes to Rathkenny breeder Packie Donnelly whose Donrho flock was selected the best in the UK.
On home soil the renowned Co Antrim breeder had to settle for second best as Gary Beacom’s Lakeview flock scooped the top honour in the Northern Ireland flock competition. The Fermanagh breeder claimed the 31-ewes-and-over accolade while Patrick McVerry was the pick of the bunch in the small flock category.
Both Donnelly, who in July forked out 20,000gn for a Rhaeadr Giggsy son at Stirling, and Beacom featured prominently during the course of the season with an outstanding Baileys Paddy Power bred shearling ewe belonging to the Donrho flock walking off with the supreme championship at Balmoral Show in May.
An aged ewe presented by Alfred and Norman Robinson was selected reserve champion by Scottish judge Gordon Mackie, with Stephanie and William Tait, Lester and Darren Aiken and Alastair Gault sharing the remaining class honours.
From the grounds of the Royal Ulster Agricultural Society it was onto the splendid surrounds of the Omagh showgrounds for the Northern Bank (now Danske) sponsored Northern Ireland Championships where the Suffolk breed ultimately swept the boards in the interbreed championships.
In the Suffolk fold it was an eye-catching shearling ewe exhibited by Downpatrick breeder Norman Robinson that emerged victorious before going on to spearhead the breed challenge by scooping the prestigious LW Surphlis Champion Sheep of Show title.
That silverware success set the tone as Stephanie and William Tait and Packie Donnelly completed a remarkable treble by respectively annexing the Group of Three and Thompsons Interbreed Ewe Lamb titles.
Four weeks later all roads led to Ballymena for the Branch’s Ulster Bank sponsored Premier show and sale and it was an impressive Limestone To-Tal bred ram lamb presented by Denis Taylor that stole the show. The Ballynacanon flock owner claimed the winning rosettes in the Open and Group classes before going on to scoop the overall championship. And later in the sale ring the champion was purchased by Malcolm Beattie, Omagh for 1,300 guineas.
That amounted to the fourth highest price of the day behind a Baileys Paddy Power ram lamb of Patrick Donnelly’s which changed hands for 1700 guineas, a Rhaeadr Red Bull lamb belonging to L and M Liggett that fetched 1500 guineas and Glenho Royal Edition lamb belonging to Frazer Tweed that sold for 1400 guineas.
Regional show and sales continued throughout the course of late summer and autumn with the annual female event in Ballymena bringing the curtain on yet another productive season.
As in the premier event Denis Taylor scooped the top honour with an impressive Caragh Viagra shearling in-lamb to the 7,000 guineas Limestone To-Tal, which also bred the top priced exhibit of the evening – an outstanding ewe lamb belonging to Mark Priestley which changed hands for 3,800 guineas.
On the mainland Northern Ireland members also featured among the rosettes and at the top end of the market with William and Stephanie Tait achieving 16,000 gns in Stirling while Gary Beacom sold a Cairness Cyclone son for 5,500gns at Shrewsbury
The Branch again did its bit for charity by holding a successful barbecue and auction in Dungannon Rugby Football Club.