Cattle embryo trade keeping farmers afloat, says breeder
Selling embryos produced from elite cows is helping Northern Ireland's top dairy farmers remain financially viable at a time of record low milk prices.
The embryos can attract prices of up to £400, according to Bushmills breeder Iain McLean.
He won the dairy inter-breed championship at this year's Limavady Show, with his Ayrshire cow Marleycote Sea Lilly.
"Embryos produced from cows with a top classification and bulls that are in strong demand will sell for up to £400 each," he said.
"There is a strong home requirement for genetics of this calibre. But export opportunities can also be availed of."
Mr McLean is currently selling embryos to dairy breeders throughout the UK and the Republic of Ireland.
He has also invested in embryos himself in order to boost the pedigree status of his herd.
"Over recent years we have purchased embryos in the United States costing up to $5,000 (£3,780) each," he explained.
"The conception rate, once the embryo is implanted, can be up to 80%. But, again, this all depends on having the recipient cow prepared properly."
The beef inter-breed championship at Limavady was won by Newtownards Shorthorn breeder Duncan McDowell, with his young bull Castlemount Jet Liner. Home-bred, the animal was born last July.
One of the show highlights was the victory by Co Down Charollais sheep breeder Diane Christie in the final of the Northern Ireland Shows Association Ewe Championship. This was the third year in succession she has won the most coveted title.
This time around she brought the silverware home with a young ewe that had given birth to twin ewe lambs back in the spring. The animal had previously qualified for the final at Ballymena Show.
This year's Limavady Show was held a fortnight later than normal. According to event committee member Ian Mark, that was a very positive development.
"It means that we have been able to hold the show on a date that did not clash with another event," he said. "Hosting the ewe championship final has been a major feather in our cap.
"And it is an honour that we will have bestowed upon us again in 2017."