Woolly pigs and Northern Ireland’s happiest dogs were among the thousands of people and animals converging on Ballymena over the weekend to celebrate the 110th County Antrim Agricultural Association’s annual show.
Lorries, trailers and cars carrying livestock, poultry, horses, trade exhibitors and spectators packed the roads leading to the venue on Saturday after coming from, according to the show’s chief steward Randal Hayes, the length and breadth of Northern Ireland
Despite the miserable wet weather, Mr Hayes reported a significant increase in livestock entries and one of its biggest and best displays of farm machinery seen at an agricultural show.
The Ballymena Show is billed as one of the biggest agricultural events outside of the Balmoral Show. As well as farming attractions, there was also a large selection of trade stands including floral art, photography, home baking, needlework and crafts, school art and poetry.
Among those who braved the rain were North Antrim MP Ian Paisley Jnr and Ulster Farmers’ Union president John Thomson
They enjoyed many of the new attractions at this year’s event including Friesian horses, woolly pigs, and a pet show with classes for the most adorable puppy, the happiest wagging tail dog, the cuddliest pet rabbit, and the best fancy dressed and best groomed pets.
The competition for the best dressed man went to Jimmy Hayburn from Ahoghill while the award for the most appropriately dressed woman went to Marianne Simpson.
Multi-franchise car and machinery dealer, Wilson’s of Rathkenny, won the prize for the best large trade stand while the best small trade stand award was won by Willow Tree, a company specialising the manufacture of wooden chicken coups. The prize for the best indoor trade stand was awarded to Specsavers and Hearcare. The cream of the province’s livestock were on parade, many of which were fresh from their recent successes at Balmoral Show a few weeks ago. Interbreed cattle judge, David Lowry from Lanark in Scotland, said it was a tremendous show of livestock.
Mr Lowry presented the supreme champion of champions award in the cattle section to the interbreed beef leader and Hereford champion, Solpoll 1 Dynamite. This senior bull was bred and exhibited by the father and son team of John and William McMordie from Ballygowan, Co Down.
“This is an outstanding example of the Hereford breed, and is certainly one of the best Hereford bulls I have ever seen,” said the judge.
Scooping the reserve overall cattle championship and the runner-up ribbons in the interbreed beef section was the supreme Charolais leader, Coolnaslee Diane, owned by Gilbert Crawford from Maghera, Co Londonderry. Mr Lowry said the animal was “a very good heifer and displays femininity, power and scale”.
Claiming the plaudits in the dairy section was the supreme Holstein winner, Ballyginniff Japser Whiterose, a third calver bred and exhibited by Holstein NI Club chairman, John Patterson, and sons, James and Andrew, from Crumlin, Co Antrim.
Interbreed dairy judge, John Gribben from Lancashire said: “This is a superb show of dairy cows. The overall champion has all the attributes I like in a Holstein cow. She has tremendous power in the front end, a great top line and a fantastic udder.”
Standing in reserve place was the Ayrshire champion, Ravenhill Ethel 395, bred and exhibited by John Suffern, Crumlin, Co Antrim.
The overall championship in the equine section went to Country Times, a hunter brood mare shown by Desmond Gibson from Dromara, Co Down. The pony championship was won by Clemenstone Rumba, a gelding shown by Alfie Hanna, Antrim. He was the winner of the 143cms show hunter pony class.
A Charolais ewe exhibited by Diane Christie, Comber, Co Down, won the supreme sheep championship at Ballymena Show. Taking the reserve honours was the Greyface champion, a ewe shown by James Blair Adams. Second reserve position went to a Suffolk ram lamb brought out by Mark Priestley from Seaforde, Co Down.