It has taken a quarter of a century for a British Blue breeder to secure the highest beef accolade that the Balmoral Show can offer.
However, that all changed on day two of this year’s event when the Martin family from Newtownards won the Beef Inter Breed championship with their five- year-old cow Springhill Golden Lady.
They say that God loves a trier, and in the case of the Martin family, this is undoubtedly the case.
The cow in question had been selected as the Blue champion for the past three years at Balmoral. But she was always the bridesmaid when it came to the handing out of the main silverware. So what made the difference in 2016?
“She arrived at this year’s show with her first natural-born calf at foot,” said James Martin.
“The bull was born three months ago. Thankfully, he was delivered with a minimum of fuss. A high proportion of pedigree Blue calves require a caesarean section at birth.
“So Golden Lady arrived at Balmoral looking her absolute best.
“We are truly delighted with this year’s result. There was a tremendous turnout of cattle at Balmoral 2016.
“Yes, Golden Lady is a former breed champion, but we were taking nothing for granted.”
Both Golden Lady and her calf – christened Leo – will now take their chances in next month’s Highland Show.
The Springhill herd comprises 20 cows. And it is a name linked to success, both here in Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.
“We also make 150 dairy cows,” James continued.
“A Balmoral title is a tremendous accolade to receive. It both rubber stamps the quality of the cattle in the herd and underpins the prices that can be achieved for stock coming under the auctioneer’s hammer.
“We have invested heavily in the herd over recent years, striving at all times to introduce the best blood lines that are available internationally.”
The Co Down breeder confirmed that demand for quality British Blue livestock remains high.
“We sell to both commercial dairy and suckler farmers in Northern Ireland. But the real demand lies across the water. In a normal year, approximately three-quarters of our stock would be sold to breeders in GB.”
Sam confirmed that British Blue cattle are renowned for their beefing qualities and their tremendous temperament.
“Calves are very easily reared and have a real will to live,” he explained.
BALMORAL RESULTS, DAY TWO
Inter Breed Beef Champion: Martin family, Newtownards
Charolais Champion: Millar family, Coleraine
Charolais Reserve: D Bothwell, Enniskillen
Simmental Champion: K Mullarkey, Sligo
Simmental Reserve: Weatherup family, Ballyclare
Blonde Champion: D G Greene, Lisburn
Blonde Reserve: J & P Rainey, Kilrea
Salers Champion: Stewart family, Newtownstewart
Salers Reserve: R Millar, Larne
Commercial Champion: J C B Commercials, Newtownards
Commercial Reserve: Mark family, Castlerea
Beef Shorthorn Champion: Caramba Shorthorns, Kinvara, Co Galway
Beef Shorthorn Reserve: N & L Dowds, Creggs
Dexter Champion: H Briggs, Ballymena
Dexter Reserve: W Montgomery, Newtownards
Irish Moiled Champion: Baxter family, Omagh
Irish Moiled Reserve: N Edwards, Eglinton
Border Leicester Champion: J Aiken, Dromore, Co Down
Border Leicester Reserve: D Mawhinney, Newtownards
Suffolk Champion: G C Beacom, Fivemiletown
Suffolk Reserve: D Taylor, Coleraine
Champion Mule: M Wright, Ballymena
Reserve Mule: J Adams, Ballymena
Champion Bluefaced Leicester: B Blaney, Cushendall
Reserve: Bluefaced Leicester: B Blaney, Cushendall
Champion Ile de France: E Adamson, Carrickfergus
Reserve Ile de France: R Milligan, Maghera
Champion: Perth Blackface: J Adams, Ballymena
Reserve Blackface: Carson family, Ballymena
Champion Greyface: J Adams, Ballymena
Reserve: R Crawford, Ballymena