Countdown starts to 'biggest and best Balmoral Show ever'
We thought we'd seen it all at the Balmoral Show - but cows that milk themselves?
That's right - the latest new attraction at Ireland's biggest agricultural show is a herd of 40 cows that will be milking themselves with the help of robots.
Chief executive Colin McDonald said the cows, from Draynes farm in Lisburn, will be coming to the showgrounds at Balmoral Park a few days before the start of the show in May to settle in.
And the robotic milking system being showcased by a company from the Netherlands will sure to cause a stir among visitors, as the animals line up of their own accord to be milked by a Lely Astronaut A4 robotic milking system.
Yesterday's launch, at the old King's Hall site, featured birds of prey, a calf and a Gloucester Old Spot sow with a litter of tiny piglets that made repeated bids for freedom - and protested loudly when they were recaptured by members of the media pack.
Speaking at the launch, Mr McDonald promised a bigger event than ever before, saying it has expanded by 10% on last year's offering.
It will be the third year that the show runs at Balmoral Park on the former Maze site and the size of the site means more room for new initiatives. New developments include the Spar Arena, a dedicated area for fun family entertainments, with everything from circus workshops to falconry and dog agility.
Another new addition is the Sustainable Village, offering a showcase of innovative products, materials, ideas and information for anyone interested in energy efficiency, recycling performance and waste management.
The organisers have promised that the much-loved Food NI pavilion will be bigger and better than ever.
There will also be plenty for adrenalin junkies as the Jason Smyth Stunt Show performs daredevil moves at the main arena throughout the three days.
Mr McDonald said: "We were extremely encouraged by the increase in activity at the 2014 show.
"We are determined to build on that success.
"The 2015 show will be bigger again with more livestock competition, more stands and displays and most importantly there will be more to see, do and enjoy."
Lovers of retail therapy will be able to peruse a host of stalls in the Shopping Village.
The Garden Village next door will offer a refuge for green-fingered enthusiasts and there will be plenty of opportunity to feast your eyes on a variety of animals, from prize-wining stock to cute and cuddly creatures at the Children's Farm.
The Rare Breeds Survival Trust will also be back at the show this year.
"It's important to get there in good time and relaxed.
"I'd encourage everyone to consider public transport such as the coaches which are running directly to Balmoral Park from all parts of Ireland," Mr McDonald added.
The Balmoral Show, in partnership with Ulster Bank, takes place at Balmoral Park, Lisburn, between May 13 and 15. Opening times at 9.30am to 8.30pm on Wednesday and Thursday and 9.30am to 8pm on Friday. Admission charges range from £2 to £18 with early bird rates available on the website at www.balmoralshow.co.uk. Children under five years are free when accompanied by an adult. To keep up with show news, follow the team on Facebook and Twitter @balmoralshow.