With cattle and horse entries on the rise at Saturday’s show, and a Guinness Book of World Records attempt in sheaf tossing on Sunday, it was onwards and upward at the annual Charleville Agricultural Show last weekend.
“Yes, entries are up, numbers jumping are up, and cattle entries are up. And the crowd, as you can see, Denis,” said Honorary Treasurer Gerard Cott on Saturday.
Another big attraction at this noted farmers’ show was the still relatively new Minister for Agriculture Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, who officially opened the event, among the dairy and beef cattle on Saturday.
Those who came to see the sheaf tossing weren’t disappointed, with Co Clare’s Mike O’Brien lofting an 8 lbs sheaf 55 feet high, in the attempt to break his own record of 62 feet.
Windy conditions were blamed for performance falling short of the record — however, in calver conditions later, a 64 feet toss was achieved with a sheaf about half a pound lighter.
The show also offered farmers the opportunity to meet new IFA President Joe Healy.
“Agricultural shows like the one here in Charleville are a celebration of all that is good in Irish farming. A day to showcase what farmers can produce,” said the farmers’ leader.
“Of course, these are worrying times,” he said, referring to the Brexit crisis.
“No matter how we dress it up, it’s a serious time and a worrying time for Irish farmers and Irish agriculture, given that over 40% of our agricultural exports go to UK markets.
“What we need now is a calm head. We need leadership from the minister, his department and indeed the government to ensure that the markets that are already in place in the UK remain in place.
“Irish farmers have shown down through the years that we are a very resilient lot. That we are well capable of adapting to whatever challenges are put in our way.
"And while we do export over 40% of our produce to the UK, it’s also important to remember that we also export to another 120 countries worldwide.
“I grew up in a house where my father used to say, ‘never waste a crisis’, a crisis can bring out the best in us.
“We need to ensure that proper decisions are made and to make sure that all the other markets where we already have a foothold, like America and China, are maximised to their full potential.”
Livestock exhibitors at Charleville had quality on offer to impress the Americans, Chinese, and all-comers.
Among them was Ardnacrusha, Co Clare farmer Darragh O’Mara.
His smashing Limousin heifer, born in September 2015, scooped the Overall Show Calf Championship.
“I’ve been showing cattle now with three years,” Darragh said, “with this victory being the highlight so far for me.
“This heifer is home grown and reared, and it’s just great to win at a show like Charleville.”
What does it take to win? And how do you recognise a winner? I asked a man who knows a thing or two about livestock judging, Co Sligo Simmental breeder, Paddy Hennelly, one of the cattle judges on duty at Charleville.
“With heifers, you look for femininity in the head, a small head. Width in the animal is also important, running from the back, and right through to the shoulders.
"You look to see does she carry herself well, does she walk well, traits that could transfer to her offspring. An animal that catches your eye is really what you are looking for.
“With bulls, you are looking at the shoulders to ensure that they are oval in shape rather than something more square.
"This is to help with calving. You look at the feet. It’s very important for a bull to be good on his feet, because he has to work on his feet, mounting cows.”
“Is cattle judging something you can learn or does it need to be in you from the start?” I ask Paddy.
“It’s both, really. Go and buy an animal and compete would be the first move. Then you can learn and you can see the way your breed is developing.”
Thomas Blackburn of Charleville Show is tasked with the job of getting the best judges for the beef event.
“My interest is solely on the cattle, to ensure that the beef classes are judged properly, we have different judges here each year.
"Nobody but myself will know who will be on the judging panel until the class begins. Fairness, I feel, is paramount to the success of the event. It’s about judging the cattle and not the people.”
I met Lissarda, Co Cork based dairy farmer, Sean McSweeney, at the dairy show.
“Like many more, I come to Charleville for a break from the farm, this is a good cattle and dairy show where you will always see strong winners in the dairy classes,” Sean said.
I had to ask Sean about Brexit. “My biggest concern would be with the cheese market,” Sean said.
“It’s not good news of course, but these are the cards we are dealt and like everything else in life you just have to get on with it.”
I also came across some eager second level school students who are looking after five Angus cattle, taking part in the popular Irish Angus Schools Competition.
Transition year students at Coláiste Mhuire, Buttevant, Aoife Buckley, Sharon Griffin, John Roche , Madeline O’Connell, and Annie Cronin were happy to talk about their experience since they collected their calves last September.
“Our cattle were brought by Larry Goodman and we were presented with them at the National Ploughing championships last September,” said Sharon Griffin.
“And while we are rearing the cattle, we are also undertaking a project which is all about informing farmers about the Angus bonus which is available to farmers when selling their cattle to the factory.”
The cattle are being reared on the beef and dairy farm of James Roche, John’s father, with all five students playing an active part in their upkeep.
Their animals have become local minor celebrities, having taken their place on a float in the Churchtown St Patricks Day Parade, and on show at Charleville last weekend.
An even younger show participant, eight-year-old Jerry O’Riordan from Feohanagh, Co Limerick was taking part in the young handler class, and as a third prize winner.
Jerry already has a few cattle handling competitions under his belt. Last Saturday, he was showing a Hereford bull owned by his uncle, Tony Hartnett of Rockchapel, Co Cork.
I asked Jerry, a pupil of Mahoonagh National School, Castlemahon, what his plans were for the future? Would farming feature?
“I want to be a farmer, a beef and dairy farmer,” he said, “I have five heifers already”. Like Charleville Show, the only way is up for Jerry.
n Show championship winning exhibitors included the following.
1. Bryan O’Connor, Kanturk, Co. Cork. 2.Denis & Claire White.
1. Bryan O’Connor. 2.Jerry & Diarmuid Murphy.
1. Bryan O’ Connor.
Bryan O’ Connor.
Jerry O’Keeffe, Knocklong, Co Limerick. Reserve: Donal Moloney, Ardnacrusha, Co Clare.
Darragh O’Meara, Ardnacrusha, Co. Clare. Reserve: Peter & Marion O’Connell, Mallow.
Tim O’Donovan. Reserve: David Pearson.
David Pearson. Reserve: Billy Donne.
Richard Hackett. Reserve: B Quinn.
Jerry O’Keeffe. Reserve: Jerry O’Keeffe.
Tony O’Leary. Reserve: Peter & Marion O’Connell.
James Browne. Reserve: Peter & Marion O’Connell.
Albert De Cogan. Reserve: J & F Appelbe.
Albert De Cogan. Reserve: Mathew Goulding.
Trevor Dudley. Reserve: John Neenan.
Mathew Goulding. Reserve: Trevor Dudley
William R. Gubbins, Kilfinane, Co Limerick. Reserve: Shane Giltinane.
William R. Gubbins. Reserve: William R. Gubbins.
HORSES AND PONIES
Sean McKenna. Reserve: Sally Sweeney.
Cathriona Glynn. Reserve: Mia Leonard.
Maria O’Grady. Reserve: Liam Ruttle.
Peter O’Riordan. Reserve: Carol Swan.
Susie Doyle. Reserve: Liam Ruttle.
Lorna Twomey. Reserve: Liam Ruttle.
Cathriona Glynn. Reserve: Susie Doyle.
Tom Murray. Reserve: Seán Ó Conaire.
William Williamson, Glandore, Co. Cork .
John Dineen, Kealkil, Bantry.
William Williamson. Reserve: Michael Galvin.
1. Lorna Twomey. 2. Sheelagh Barry.
John Roche, Foulksmills, Co Wexford.
Kieran Fahey, Enniskeane, Co Cork. Reserve: PJ Lehane.
Gina Heaps, Quin, Co Clare. reserve: John Roche.
Joannna Jones. Reserve: Glen Knipe.
Susan O’Keeffe, Mallow, Co Cork. Reserve: Sean O’Connor, Killarney, Co. Kerry.
Arthur & Patrick O’Keeffe, Mallow, Co Cork. Reserve: Robert Walker, Manister, Co. Limerick
Ena Nagle, Mitchelstown, Co Cork.
Jim & Fram Jeffery, Midleton, Co. Cork.
Eddie & Sheena McCarthy, Buttevant, Co Cork