Irish Beltex Sheep Breeders Club reflects on a ‘special year’

Office bearers and committee members of the Irish Beltex Sheep breeders Club pictured at their recent AGM held in the Greenvale Hotel Cookstown. Seated from left are, Shirlee Nicholson, Treasurer, Matthew Burleigh, Chairman, Kenny Preston, Secretary and Elizabeth McAllister. Back row, from left, John Harbinson, Seamus Kelly, Hugh O'Neill, Eddie O'Neill, Mark Latimer, Vice-Chairman, Wade McCrabbe and Patrick Brolly.
Office bearers and committee members of the Irish Beltex Sheep breeders Club pictured at their recent AGM held in the Greenvale Hotel Cookstown. Seated from left are, Shirlee Nicholson, Treasurer, Matthew Burleigh, Chairman, Kenny Preston, Secretary and Elizabeth McAllister. Back row, from left, John Harbinson, Seamus Kelly, Hugh O'Neill, Eddie O'Neill, Mark Latimer, Vice-Chairman, Wade McCrabbe and Patrick Brolly.
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The Irish Beltex Sheep Breeders Club is looking forward to a successful 2018, building further on the past 12 months, which was the Club’s 25th anniversary year.

Planning got underway early when the Irish Club held its AGM at the Greenvale Hotel in Cookstown on January 4.

Outgoing Chairman, Wade McCrabbe, reported that the breed continued to excel both at local and national sales with demand for pedigree and commercial stock at an all-time high.

Prior to the election of officers the evening got underway with a slide show presentation and talk given by Campbell Hume of Land & Crop Services.

Soils, mucks and manures were discussed in detail with the subject matter also covering slurry variation and digestates analysis. Ways of thickening sward was also discussed.

Elizabeth McAllister (Kells), Patrick Brolly, (Claudy), and Eddie O’Neill, (Glenarm), were re-elected to committee and will serve alongside Wade McCrabbe, (Donegal), John Harbinson (Limavady), Hugh O’Neill, (Glenarm), Shirlee Nicholson (Kilkeel), Matthew Burleigh, (Kinawley), Mark Latimer (Bessbrook, Kenny Preston (Omagh), Seamus Kelly (Omagh), and Colin Barnes (Dungannon).

Matthew Burleigh was elected as the new Club Chairman for 2018 with Mark Latimer taking on the role of Vice Chairman while Kenny Preston takes over as Club Secretary from John Harbinson. Shirlee Nicholson remains as Treasurer.

As well as planning for the year ahead the meeting also reflected on a successful 2017.

Matthew Burleigh, Matt’s Flock, was congratulated for taking Supreme Champion honours at the Balmoral Show with Hackney Wonderboy, one of his stock rams, while Elizabeth McAllister, Artnagullion Flock, was praised for taking Reserve Champion honours with an aged ewe, Artnagullion TT.

The Irish Club National Show staged in the beautiful setting of Gosford Forest Park, Markethill in June, by kind permission of Armagh Show, attracted a strong entry of sheep.

Judged by Paul Tippets from the Hackney Flock, Matthew Burleigh again took top honours, this time with an aged ewe, Matt’s Actress.

Reserve Champion status went to Elizabeth McAllister’s Artnagullion flock with a homebred shearling gimmer.

Hugh and Eddie O’Neill and John and Mellissa Harbinson were congratulated for producing a very impressive stand at the NSA Sheep event held at Ballymena Mart in July – the stand was awarded third prize in the best stand competition.

Colin Barnes, Patrick Brolly and John Harbinson were praised for their role in organising a very successful Beltex Crossbred Carcass Competition at Dunbia in Dungannon, also in July.

“It is important to involve our commercial sheep producers with events such as these, which are hugely successful in promoting all that is good about the Beltex breed,” explained Wade McCrabbe.

At this year’s event Rasharkin sheep farmer, Ian McCaughern, retained his pairs title and also lifted rosettes for pairs of carcasses that finished third, fourth and fifth – a tremendous result!

Runner-up in the pairs went to Patsy and Jason Cunningham from Rock, again with an outstanding pair of Beltex sired lambs.

In 2017 the Beltex story continued to grow with a new ram lamb price record being set at 27,000gns for Kingledores Crusader in Carlisle and this was supported by buoyant demand for one of the biggest entries to date.

Irish breeders continued to be a force to be reckoned with hitting the headlines with 12,000gns being paid for an Ardstewart shearling followed by 7,000gns for an Artnagullion ram lamb with the same breeder selling a shearling for 6,000gns.

Matt’s Flock followed with a ram lamb that fetched 3,400gns.

Irish gimmers also took five of the top six spots in the show ring with Ardstewart taking first place and female champion status (going on to sell for 5,000gns) while the Reserve Female Champion title went to Gary Scott’s Bessy Bell Flock.

All Irish breeders had a good clearance and the sale in general saw averages increase in all sections for a significantly higher number of sheep sold on the previous year.

“Commercial producers were prepared to dig deep and invest in their Beltex rams as well as many sheep being sold for pedigree breeding,” continued Wade McCrabbe.

Closer to home and the Irish Premier Sale was held in Dungannon Farmers Mart in August with David Thornley travelling from Derbyshire to judge the event.

Matthew Burleigh’s ram lamb, Matt’s Crown Jewel, took the Show Championship with Patrick Brolly taking Reserve Champion with his shearling ram, Munreary Bingo.

The sale saw enthusiastic bidding from start to finish with a virtual clearance selling to a top price of 980gns for a shearling gimmer from Hugh and Eddie O’Neill.

Richard Beattie’s Balmoral Rams Sale attracted a good entry of Beltex to meet with steady trade. Entries from Hugh and Eddie O’Neill’s Laghyveagh Flock were selected as Champion and Reserve Champion by judge, Brendan McQuaid.

The Omagh sale at the end of September saw a top price of 980gns paid to the McCutcheon family for their champion, Bodoney Cowboy, selected by judge Ryan Murray.

This year the Irish Club hosted the Beltex Sheep Society AGM as part of their 25th anniversary celebrations.

This was held at the Dunadry Hotel, Templepatrick in November and included everything from a Murder Mystery to Horse Racing and the presentation of prizes in the Irish Flock Competition. Judge was Society President, Mary Dunlop. Matthew Burleigh’s Matt’s Flock was named Overall Champion Flock with Wade and Alison McCrabbe’s Ardstewart flock being named Reserve Champion Flock.

Show Flock of the year was won by Elizabeth McAllister’s Artnagullion Flock with Reserve going to David Brown and Mark Latimer’s Brownville Flock.

A charity auction in aid of Crohn’s and Colitis UK was also held at the AGM with £5,600 raised on the night.

A big thank-you was expressed to Matthew Burleigh for donating a ewe lamb and to Patrick Brolly for donating a ewe with a guaranteed single pregnancy and Sally Ritson (Farmer’s Daughter Draws) for auctioning off a beautiful framed drawing of Beltex sheep.

Kevin Buckles from Yorkshire and Neil McQuiston from Stranraer were also thanked for donating shooting days and Elizabeth McAllister was thanked for all her hard work in organising what was a very enjoyable weekend.

Following on from the National AGM a golf day was held to further support the chosen charity, and along with donations, a further £500 was added to the money raised taking the total to £6,100.

At the Irish Club AGM a cheque for £6,100 was presented to Audrey Derby and Peri Gillespie, co-chairs of the NI Network of Crohn’s and Colitis UK.

December saw the Beltex in-lamb sale at Dungannon Mart with David Brown from Bessbrook judging the event.

Overall Champion went to Artnagullion Blossom from Elizabeth McAllister with Ballycreely Waylast from K & A McCarthy named Reserve Champion.

On behalf of the Irish Club Wade McCrabbe thanked all office bearers and members who had contributed to the successful running of the Club throughout the year.

He also thanked sponsors for the assistance they had provided throughout the year and expressed condolences to any Club member who had lost a family member during 2017.

Outgoing Secretary, John Harbinson was congratulated on his appointment as Chairman of the Beltex Sheep Society and acknowledgement was made to outgoing Chairman, John Barclay, for the sterling work he carried out during his term in office.

“Personally can I thank everyone who has supported me in my role as Chairman,” added Wade McCrabbe. “It has been encouraging to see how the past 12 months has seen a marked increase in the popularity and the performance of the Beltex breed and I hope this trend will continue throughout 2018.”