THERE was a tremendous turnout of both livestock exhibitors and visitors for the Rare Breeds’ Survival Trust (RBST) Support Group NI Annual Show, held in the picturesque setting of Gosford Forest Park, near Markethill in County Armagh.
According to support group chairman Brian Kelly, the event continues to grow from strength to strength.
“It is important that the work to ensure the survival of many endangered breeds of farm animals is maintained.
“These animals represent a unique and different gene pool, which may well be utilised as the farming and food industry looks to an uncertain future.”
RBST’s Fleece Convenor Freda Magill agrees: “An animal’s gene make-up can confer disease resistance,” she explained.
“For example, certain rare breeds of sheep have a natural resistance to the disease Scrapie. In addition, using rare breed bloodlines will help boost hybrid vigour within a flock or herd. This represents a tremendous production bonus within every modern farm business.”
According to support group vice chair Brian Hunter, eight cattle breeds were represented at Gosford this year.
“In addition, we had classes for nine breeds of sheep, seven breeds of pigs and an outstanding entry across the board in the poultry section.
“Our annual show is now a firm fixture in Northern Ireland’s farming calendar.”
In the cattle ring, Irish Moiled breeders Nigel Edwards and Michelle McCauley (N&M Moilies) had a day out to remember. They won the Supreme Inter-Breed Championship with their homebred heifer Currraghnakeely Bluebell. This was Nigel’s second RBST inter-breed title.
“The heifer is 17-months-old,” he explained. “We have 50 Irish Moiled cows at home. They are medium sized, extremely versatile and thrive well at grass.”
Nigel continued: “Thirty-five years ago, there was just over 30 Irish Moiled cows in the country: today the figure stands at almost 400. This is a tremendous news story for the breed.”
Earlier in the day N&M Moilies had also picked up the Junior Inter-Breed Derby championship with the same animal. The reserve title went to the Ravelglen moiled herd, from County Antrim – this time with an 18-month bull, Ravelglen Ruben.
Meanwhile the Senior Inter-Breed Derby Championship was won by Newry Belted Galloway breeder Kenny Dodds with his eye catching two-year-old heifer Bexie.
The Dexter championship was won by Dungannon breeder Desmond Bloomer with his seven-year-old bull Northbrook Atlas.
Susan McCullough, from Hollywood in County Down, was another Dexter breeder competing at this year’s RBST show. She confirmed the growing demand for Dexter beef.
“The cattle kill out at around 250kg,” she said.
“They can be finished completely at grass. Farmer prices available at the present time are in the region of 550 pence per kilo. This is well in excess of what is available for commercial animals at the present time.”
Meanwhile in the sheep rings, all the judges were having a very busy day. The Supreme Inter-Breed Championship was awarded to Omagh breeder Lynda Hamilton with her aged Oxford Down ewe.
“I have had an excellent show season,” Lynda confirmed. “But to have done so well at the RBST event really is the icing on the cake.”
The reserve inter-breed title went to Alice Cochrane, from County Down, with a South Down ewe.
The Jacob championship went to Omagh breeder James McGrath with a shearling ram.
Wool classes traditionally feature strongly at all RBST events. This again reflects the wide range of uses to which sheep have been used in the past. The winners of the ‘Wool on the Hoof’ championship were Clare and Gary Wright, from Crossgar in County Down, with a two-year-old Leicester Long Wool ewe.
“There are only 500 ewes left to represent the breed at the present time,” Gary explained.
“We currently sell our wool to Ulster Wools. However, there may well be an opportunity to look at the option of selling directly to traditional spinners in the future.
“The Leicester Long Wool breed was developed by noted innovator Robert Bakewell in the 18th century.”
The pig section saw Lurgan-based Tannaghmore Gardens Farm take a clean sweep of all the championship classes.
Brian Kelly again: “Well done to everyone involved. This was a great showing. The Oxford Sandy and Black champion is an exceptional pig.”