Balmoral Show: Ashley Fleming wins sixth title 40 years after his first
Ashley Fleming was just coming out of short trousers back in 1974 when he won his first Dairy Inter Breed title at Balmoral Show.
Forty years later – almost to the day – he left the cattle lawn clutching his sixth.
Nobody is quite sure, but the senior members of the RUAS are pretty confident that the Seaforde-based Jersey breeder has created a record that may never be beaten.
Friday is traditionally Dairy Day at Balmoral. Cows capable of giving up to 60 litres a day strut their stuff against the backdrop of the pristine Balmoral sward, with hundreds of onlookers on hand, keen to see how events unfold.
But it was the picturesque Jersey second calver Potterswalls Glams Elisha that carried the day for the Fleming family.
"She calved two months ago, her second heifer," Ashley told the Belfast Telegraph.
"The cow gave 5,400 litres at 5.8% butterfat and 4.2% protein during her first lactation. So, all things being equal, she will perform that little bit better now that she has calved for the second time.
"Elisha is the most functionally correct cow that we have ever bred. Our aim is to enter her for the Northern Ireland Shows Association Dairy Cow of the Year competition, which is the main dairy event held over the summer months."
But, in truth, Ashley Fleming will not have much time to reflect on his 40 years of success at Balmoral. Given the upbeat prospects for dairy and the fact that his son Lindsay is keen to get formally involved in the family business, expansion may well be the order of the day over the coming months and years.
"These are exciting times for dairy farming in Northern Ireland," Ashley confirmed.
"We would like to increase cow numbers but that will mean adding to the livestock accommodation on the farm and investing in new management facilities."
The Flemings' decision to expand the scale of their enterprise coincides with pending changes in the way EU support is made available to local farmers. Next year will see enhanced support payments introduced for young farmers. There is also an expectation that new Rural Development Programme for Northern Ireland will make available significantly enhanced capital grants for local farmers.
"The future prospects for farming look very positive for the coming years," added Ashley.