Northern Ireland dairy breeders are rising to the challenge of competing in the forthcoming Diageo Baileys Champion Cow with a strong interest recorded according to the competition director Brendan Smyth.
He said: “The later date of the Virginia Show on 24th August within the shows circuit was perhaps providing the right window of opportunity for Northern Ireland breeders to bring their cows south this summer.”
Conor McAufield of Lissue Holsteins, which is based just outside Lisburn, is a well-known local breeder who has already confirmed his intention to enter. He came a respectable fourth in the competition overall last year and said he would encourage fellow Holstein Friesian breeders to take part.
He said: “Last year was the first time I took part and I was very impressed with the whole event. The hospitality shown by Glanbia Ingredients and Diageo made us feel very welcome. The publicity it attracts for the winner is like no other competition. But win or lose, it is a great experience.”
From a €10,000 prize fund, which is said to be one of the biggest of its kind in Ireland, €1,000 will be awarded to the breeder of the Reserve Champion and €500 for Honourable Mention.
“There is also a Best Heifer in Milk prize fund of €1,700,” explained Brendan, “and it has become an extremely popular category. There will also be prizes for Highest Protein Content, Best EBI and Best Exhibitor-Bred Cow and a Dry Cow fund of €500. The special awards for Best Protein and EBI emphasise important factors in milk production and have a cash prize element for the first time this year.”
But it is the kudos of winning ‘the Baileys,’ according to Brendan that consistently attracts the top breeders in the land.
He said: “Neal Pepper, of Utopian Holsteins based at Dromore won the top prize in 2013 so the trophy has travelled to Northern Ireland in recent years.”
Since then Cork breeders have been taking it home. Whether it stays in Munster this year remains to be seen.
“Ulster has a great breeding heritage,” agrees Brendan, “so we would be delighted to see a strong display at this special 75th anniversary show in Cavan.”
Entries close on 12th August and entry forms can be downloaded online at the Virginia Show website www.virginiashow.com; or call Brendan Smyth ++ 353 (0)87 2560952.