Belfast Telegraph

Omagh hosts Northern Ireland debut of 'world's cuddliest sheep' as entries hit a record at show

By Richard Halleron

This year's Omagh Show hosted the first competitive classes held in Northern Ireland for Valais Blacknose sheep.

Dubbed the "world's cuddliest" sheep, the breed has its origins in Switzerland with the first import arriving in Northern Ireland two years ago.

"They have a very important role to play at a commercial level," explained Co Tyrone breeder Richard Beattie.

"When used for cross-breeding purposes, Valais Blacknose sheep can produce lambs with tremendous growth potential."

A mature Valais Blacknose ram weighs in at around 120kgs. That's twice the size of the breeding stock produced by most other sheep breeds currently found here.

More than 1,000 sheep were entered for Omagh this year.

"This is a record turnout for the event," confirmed show committee chairman Thomas Harkin.

"Yes, we have a number of new classes this year, but numbers were also boosted by the fact that we had so many extra sheep taking part across all of the breeds."

The sheep inter-breed championship was won by the McAllister family with their eye-catching Charollais ewe.

It has been a very successful few weeks for the animal in question. She won the Charollais breed championship at this year's Balmoral Show and then went on to scoop the sheep inter-breed title at Ballymena.

"The ewe is in great condition at the present time," said William McAllister.

"We recently sold her daughter at Worcester for 1,700 guineas. The animal in question was a gimmer, born in 2017.

"Our plan is to have the ewe compete at a number of the shows taking place over the coming weeks."

Inter-breed judge David Lowry described his champion as an excellent example of the Charollais.

"She has great character and should go on to produce champions of the future," Mr Lowry said.

The Devine family from Artigarvan in Co Tyrone carried the day in the cattle rings.

They won both the beef inter-Breed championship and the champion of championship class at the event with their choice two-year-old Charolais heifer Brownhill Mo.

Judge Alistair Fletcher had the job of choosing between the overall beef and dairy champions as the last competition class of the day unfolded. After a lot of deliberation, he gave the thumbs-up to the Charolais.

"My champion has tremendous presence," he said. "She just fills the eye. I was very impressed with her size and the fact that she can move so well is a bonus. The heifer has a great top line. She has tremendous potential as a breeding animal."

According to Ritchie Devine, the heifer may well be in calf.

"She was inseminated shortly after this year's Balmoral Show. Our plan is to breed from her over the coming years," he explained.

The inter-breed dairy championship at Omagh was won by William Hunter from Castlederg with his impressive third calver Lisnacloon Saloon Amy.

Home-bred, the Holstein cow is currently giving 49 litres of milk per day.

The reserve inter-breed title went to the McLean family from Donaghmore.

This made it a Co Tyrone one-two in the dairy championship at Omagh 2018.

Belfast Telegraph

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