Balmoral Show: Echo the heifer becomes unlikely moo-vie star on Facebook
A Co Down heifer has become an unlikely social media star as her owners count down to the Balmoral Show this week.
Echo has racked up more than 30,000 views on Facebook after she starred in a series of online videos documenting her preparations for Ireland's biggest agricultural show, which kicks off on Wednesday.
This is the first year that the Balmoral Show launches as a four-day event, with organisers hoping to attract more visitors with a Saturday airing that caters to those tied up in school or work during the week.
Echo is owned by Libby Clarke, who farms pedigree beef shorthorn and pedigree Charolais cattle at her family farm in Magheralin near Moira.
The heifer has become an online star after she featured in a series of videos published by agri-insurer Autoline, which is sponsoring this year's beef shorthorn category.
"She's definitely hit the big time with the amount of hits we got," Libby said. "The kids are delighted, because Echo is so quiet and they work with her and get so much fun with her."
Libby said she first saw Echo at a show in Carlisle in October and bought her on Boxing Day.
The heifer comes from Kelso on the Scottish borders and brings a new bloodline into the pedigree herd.
The four Autoline videos document Echo's preparations for the big competition.
"Everything gets a wee bit left to the last minute - she was only clipped in the last couple of days, but the feeding and preparation has been going on since January," said Libby.
"She's been on a nice ration that helps her to put on a bit of flesh and we're beginning haylage with that. But with beef shorthorns, it takes very little to have them in show condition.
"Since the show has moved to the new showgrounds, they have introduced breeds that have declined. So they were able to bring the shorthorns in and they're now one of the strongest sections.
"Shorthorns are a great breed to work with and I love competing at Balmoral, which is a flagship for Northern Ireland agriculture. It's always a wonderful day for the family, particularly with my daughters Lucy and Kate, who help out with the preparations."
Libby said she enjoyed getting the girls involved. "The video shows them grooming her and feeding her silage. They're quite hands-on - you can tell from the video that they are very at ease with the cattle," she said.
Libby runs the 100-acre plus family farm Springfield near Magheralin. Her father Tom has been involved with breeding pedigree cattle for decades, and the family have previously exhibited at Balmoral, Highland and local shows throughout Northern Ireland. This year they're entering two beef shorthorns and a commercial heifer.
Richard Henderson, Auto Line's head of Agri-Insurance, said: "This will be the fourth year Autoline has exhibited at Balmoral and the second year we've sponsored the beef shorthorn category. It's been a delight following Libby and her family as they prepare for the show.
"Echo has even become part of the most successful Facebook campaign we've ever run."
Balmoral Show in partnership with Ulster Bank takes place at Balmoral Park, Lisburn, from Wednesday to Saturday.
- To keep up to date, visit the website www.balmoralshow.co.uk.