Society’s Long Service Awards for Northern Ireland Dexter breeders

The NI Dexter Cattle Group would like to extend its congratulations to founding members Howard and Deirdre Hilton and Newell Bingham, who have recently been awarded Long Service Awards from the Dexter Cattle Society, for their efforts in promoting the Dexter breed in the province.

Friday, 5th March 2021, 8:36 am
Newell Bingham chats to Hannah Alexander at Balmoral Show 2019, who is leading a Ballykeel cow
Newell Bingham chats to Hannah Alexander at Balmoral Show 2019, who is leading a Ballykeel cow

Many local breeders will recognise Newell’s Ballykeel, or the Hiltons Hillhead prefix’s in their pedigrees, and will rest assured that their stock are bred from high quality cattle.

NI Group members are under no illusion that the breed would not be as popular or numerous today if it wasn’t for these dedicated individuals.

Newell who heralds from Ballymartin, Co Down, got involved in the Dexter breed after retiring as a poultry adviser for the Department of Agriculture. The Harper Adams graduate was viewing rare breed sheep at the RBST sale when he spotted his first Dexter - Woodmagic Diver 2. This cow bred Ballykeel Lassie, the foundation cow in the Ballykeel herd, and through the careful selection of AI Bulls has lead the herd to where it is today.

Howard and Deirdre Hilton being presented with their award from Dexter Cattle Society NI Representative Mike Frazer

No stranger to the show ring, Newell has been a very active participate on the circuit until just a few years ago, indeed winning the NI Group Showman of the Year in 2016. Ballykeel stock have enjoyed much success in the ring having produced several Championships for both Newell and other breeders over the years. A true testament to the quality of the Ballykeel herd.

Another name synonymous to the Dexter Breed in Northern Ireland is Deirdre Hilton, who along with her husband Howard ran the Hillhead herd until retirement in 2016.

Both trained in health care, the couple bought their first Dexter in 1990, and moved from England to Kilrea in 1994, bringing their growing herd with them.

Many breeders have made their way over the years to Kilrea to purchase stock from the Hillhead herd, which has had considerable success over the years in the show ring. A standout cow in the herd has been Hillhead Fairy, who won Champion Dexter at RBST Cultra four years running, Reserve Interbreed Champion two years running and finally Interbreed Champion in 2004 - the first Dexter in the shows twenty year history to do so.

Since ceasing showing in 2006, the Hilton’s concentrated their efforts on promotion of the breed in NI through the NI Group, with Deirdre only recently retiring as Chair in 2015. Improved quality of the cattle in NI has been done through the strategic use of AI, with Deirdre coordinating this since the group formed.

An Honorary Life member of the Dexter Society and past President, Deirdre’s devotion to the breed has not been without recognition as she was awarded an MBE for services to the Dexter Breed, by Prince Charles.

Both Newell and the Hiltons, along with few other individuals were the original founders of the NI Group, whose first meeting was held in September 2002 at Belfast Zoo, one of very few herds in the province at this time. Their determination and adoration of ‘the wee black cow’ has helped shape the breed in NI to what it is today, with over 100 pedigree herds based in NI and over 2000 head of stock.

A far cry from the early nineties when there was only 34 Dexters in the whole of NI. Well done to them both.