Approximately 1,000 sheep were entered for this year’s Ballymena Show with over 200 beef and dairy cattle also participating. These are both record entry figures for the event.
The sheep section was marked by first-time classes for the Dutch Spotted breed. This is yet another production option for flockowners here in Northern Ireland as they strive to remain competitive in a world where consumers have a fast-expanding array of choice when it comes to the meats they choose to eat.
Admittedly, the name is a bit of a giveaway: Dutch Spotted sheep do have their origins in the Netherlands. The breed was first registered in Amsterdam back in 1880. The sheep are noted for their durability and ability to perform well at grass.
But it was a traditional breed that held sway in the Ballymena show rings this year. The Supreme Inter-Breed Championship was awarded to Ballymoney Suffolk breeder Jason Watson with a hogget ewe.
“She is home bred and is just over one-year-old now,” Jason explained.
“She did very well for us at Balmoral and will go to the ram for this first time this autumn.”
Meanwhile, in the cattle rings the Supreme Championship of the show came down to a ‘shoot-out’ between the inter-breed beef and dairy champions.
Ballymena is renowned for its commitment to hosting an overarching award, which reflects the best dairy and beef genetics entered for the show. This year’s dairy champion was the Holstein third calver, Robinwood Atwood Vicky. The cow is owned by the Henry family from Ballymoney. She calved in February of this year and is currently giving 55 litres of milk per day. The inter-breed dairy judge, John Gilmore from Ayrshire, described his champion as an excellent example of the Holstein breed.
In the final class of the day Vicky was up against the beef inter breed champion – the choice Limousin heifer, Clydevalley Osaka. She is owned by the Clyde family, from Templepatrick. Beef inter-breed judge, Gareth Behan from Portlaoise described the 11-month-old heifer as a breeding animal with tremendous potential.
But it was to be the Holstein cow’s day. Both inter-breed judges agreed that Vicky just had the edge on the younger Limousin heifer.
Heavy rain failed to dampen the spirits of the large crowds at the show. Adding to the attraction was the inaugural hosting of the event at its new home – Ballymena mart and surrounding lands.
“It looks like we are here to stay,” confirmed show committee member Randal Hayes.