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Balmoral is back with ‘world’s cutest sheep’, Masseys galore and famous farming YouTubers

The sheep are ready to be sheared, the Masseys are well polished and the food is in abundance: the 153rd Balmoral Show has officially kicked off.

Taking place until Saturday at Balmoral Park just outside Lisburn, it has been nine years since the biggest date in the local agricultural calendar moved to the historic former Maze prison site from its traditional King’s Hall setting in Belfast.

John McLenaghan, the new deputy president of the Ulster Farmers’ Union, believes that “since it’s come here, with the extra room and extra facilities that the space provides, the show keeps going from strength to strength”.

Organised by the Royal Ulster Agricultural Society (RUAS), the group anticipates that 100,000 visitors will attend the show over the four days.

Balmoral Show 2022: Day one - In Pictures Close

Ten-year-old Hollie from Carneyhill Herefords. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

Ten-year-old Hollie from Carneyhill Herefords. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 11th May 2022

Day one of the Balmoral Show in partnership with Ulster Bank:  The show takes place over four days between 11th and 14th May at Balmoral Park near Lisburn. This year is the 153rd Balmoral Show and thousands of people are expected to attend.


Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 11th May 2022 Day one of the Balmoral Show in partnership with Ulster Bank: The show takes place over four days between 11th and 14th May at Balmoral Park near Lisburn. This year is the 153rd Balmoral Show and thousands of people are expected to attend. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 11th May 2022

Day one of the Balmoral Show in partnership with Ulster Bank:  The show takes place over four days between 11th and 14th May at Balmoral Park near Lisburn. This year is the 153rd Balmoral Show and thousands of people are expected to attend.


Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 11th May 2022 Day one of the Balmoral Show in partnership with Ulster Bank: The show takes place over four days between 11th and 14th May at Balmoral Park near Lisburn. This year is the 153rd Balmoral Show and thousands of people are expected to attend. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 11th May 2022

Day one of the Balmoral Show in partnership with Ulster Bank:  The show takes place over four days between 11th and 14th May at Balmoral Park near Lisburn. This year is the 153rd Balmoral Show and thousands of people are expected to attend.

Four-year-old David Jameson pets Daffeny, a French Lop doe.


Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 11th May 2022 Day one of the Balmoral Show in partnership with Ulster Bank: The show takes place over four days between 11th and 14th May at Balmoral Park near Lisburn. This year is the 153rd Balmoral Show and thousands of people are expected to attend. Four-year-old David Jameson pets Daffeny, a French Lop doe. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 11th May 2022

Day one of the Balmoral Show in partnership with Ulster Bank:  The show takes place over four days between 11th and 14th May at Balmoral Park near Lisburn. This year is the 153rd Balmoral Show and thousands of people are expected to attend.




Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 11th May 2022 Day one of the Balmoral Show in partnership with Ulster Bank: The show takes place over four days between 11th and 14th May at Balmoral Park near Lisburn. This year is the 153rd Balmoral Show and thousands of people are expected to attend. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 11th May 2022

Day one of the Balmoral Show in partnership with Ulster Bank:  The show takes place over four days between 11th and 14th May at Balmoral Park near Lisburn. This year is the 153rd Balmoral Show and thousands of people are expected to attend.


Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 11th May 2022 Day one of the Balmoral Show in partnership with Ulster Bank: The show takes place over four days between 11th and 14th May at Balmoral Park near Lisburn. This year is the 153rd Balmoral Show and thousands of people are expected to attend. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 11th May 2022

Day one of the Balmoral Show in partnership with Ulster Bank:  The show takes place over four days between 11th and 14th May at Balmoral Park near Lisburn. This year is the 153rd Balmoral Show and thousands of people are expected to attend.


Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 11th May 2022 Day one of the Balmoral Show in partnership with Ulster Bank: The show takes place over four days between 11th and 14th May at Balmoral Park near Lisburn. This year is the 153rd Balmoral Show and thousands of people are expected to attend. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 11th May 2022

Day one of the Balmoral Show in partnership with Ulster Bank:  The show takes place over four days between 11th and 14th May at Balmoral Park near Lisburn. This year is the 153rd Balmoral Show and thousands of people are expected to attend.


Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 11th May 2022 Day one of the Balmoral Show in partnership with Ulster Bank: The show takes place over four days between 11th and 14th May at Balmoral Park near Lisburn. This year is the 153rd Balmoral Show and thousands of people are expected to attend. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 11th May 2022

Day one of the Balmoral Show in partnership with Ulster Bank:  The show takes place over four days between 11th and 14th May at Balmoral Park near Lisburn. This year is the 153rd Balmoral Show and thousands of people are expected to attend.


Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 11th May 2022 Day one of the Balmoral Show in partnership with Ulster Bank: The show takes place over four days between 11th and 14th May at Balmoral Park near Lisburn. This year is the 153rd Balmoral Show and thousands of people are expected to attend. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

PressEye-Northern Ireland- 11th May  2022
Picture by Brian Little/PressEye

Day one of the Balmoral Show in partnership with Ulster Bank:  The show takes place over four days between 11th and 14th May at Balmoral Park near Lisburn. This year is the 153rd Balmoral Show and thousands of people are expected to attend.

Cattle Lawn Judging.

Picture by Brian Little/PressEye

PressEye-Northern Ireland- 11th May 2022 Picture by Brian Little/PressEye Day one of the Balmoral Show in partnership with Ulster Bank: The show takes place over four days between 11th and 14th May at Balmoral Park near Lisburn. This year is the 153rd Balmoral Show and thousands of people are expected to attend. Cattle Lawn Judging. Picture by Brian Little/PressEye

PressEye-Northern Ireland- 11th May  2022
Picture by Brian Little/PressEye

Day one of the Balmoral Show in partnership with Ulster Bank:  The show takes place over four days between 11th and 14th May at Balmoral Park near Lisburn. This year is the 153rd Balmoral Show and thousands of people are expected to attend.


Showjumping competition  the main arena.
Picture by Brian Little/PressEye

PressEye-Northern Ireland- 11th May 2022 Picture by Brian Little/PressEye Day one of the Balmoral Show in partnership with Ulster Bank: The show takes place over four days between 11th and 14th May at Balmoral Park near Lisburn. This year is the 153rd Balmoral Show and thousands of people are expected to attend. Showjumping competition the main arena. Picture by Brian Little/PressEye

PACEMAKER BELFAST  11/05/2022
Balmoral Show Day 1: With the Return of the Balmoral Show CrowdÕs Flocked to the Eikon Exhibition Centre on a Sunny Wednesday Morning for the opening day of the Show - Credit Conor Kinahan:PACEMAKER PRESS

PACEMAKER BELFAST 11/05/2022 Balmoral Show Day 1: With the Return of the Balmoral Show CrowdÕs Flocked to the Eikon Exhibition Centre on a Sunny Wednesday Morning for the opening day of the Show - Credit Conor Kinahan:PACEMAKER PRESS

PACEMAKER BELFAST  11/05/2022Balmoral Show Day 1: With the Return of the Balmoral Show CrowdÕs Flocked to the Eikon Exhibition Centre on a Sunny Wednesday Morning for the opening day of the Show - Credit Conor Kinahan:PACEMAKER PRESS

PACEMAKER BELFAST 11/05/2022Balmoral Show Day 1: With the Return of the Balmoral Show CrowdÕs Flocked to the Eikon Exhibition Centre on a Sunny Wednesday Morning for the opening day of the Show - Credit Conor Kinahan:PACEMAKER PRESS

PACEMAKER BELFAST  11/05/2022Aspiring Future Pilots Finn and Aria OÕNeill take the Joystick in a Tornado GR4 Jet on Day one of the Balmoral Show - Credit Conor Kinahan PACEMAKER PRESS

PACEMAKER BELFAST 11/05/2022Aspiring Future Pilots Finn and Aria OÕNeill take the Joystick in a Tornado GR4 Jet on Day one of the Balmoral Show - Credit Conor Kinahan PACEMAKER PRESS

PACEMAKER BELFAST  11/05/2022Balmoral Show Day 1: With the Return of the Balmoral Show CrowdÕs Flocked to the Eikon Exhibition Centre on a Sunny Wednesday Morning for the opening day of the Show - Credit Conor Kinahan:PACEMAKER PRESS

PACEMAKER BELFAST 11/05/2022Balmoral Show Day 1: With the Return of the Balmoral Show CrowdÕs Flocked to the Eikon Exhibition Centre on a Sunny Wednesday Morning for the opening day of the Show - Credit Conor Kinahan:PACEMAKER PRESS

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Ten-year-old Hollie from Carneyhill Herefords. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

While 2020’s event was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic, last year’s show was postponed until September, but many attendees on Wednesday felt like the agricultural exhibition is only getting back to normality now.

“Balmoral is a really great place to meet people and have a good chat,” said Fermanagh-South Tyrone DUP MLA Deborah Erskine.

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“You see people at the Balmoral Show from year to year and I’m just glad that we’re back again. I know it was on in September, but it just didn't feel the same. So it’s nice that we’re back again and the atmosphere is back.”

There are more than 3,000 livestock entries at this year’s event, with sheep classes making a return for the first time in three years, after missing out in September’s show.

Three new breeds have also been introduced, with the Six Nations Sheep Shearing Championship taking place on Saturday.

One new breed is the Valais Blacknose, which hails from Switzerland and is widely deemed online as “the world’s cutest sheep”.

Emma Conway from Co Tyrone is relatively new to the sheep farming business and she definitely agrees with the cute title for her two Valais Blacknoses.

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Balmoral Show day one. Credit: Conor Kinahan/PACEMAKER PRESS

Balmoral Show day one. Credit: Conor Kinahan/PACEMAKER PRESS

Balmoral Show day one. Credit: Conor Kinahan/PACEMAKER PRESS

“It’s the first class that the Balmoral Show has ever held for the Valais Blacknose, and the breed has grown massively. It’s really positive for the club as well,” she said.

“We got into farming at the start of the first lockdown, purely because my husband’s father said, ‘What are you going to do with your land?’ So my husband [Ryan] got into Suffolk sheep and I got into Valais.

“I chose these for the cute factor obviously,” added Emma as her son Ronan cuddled up with one of their fluffy pets in the pen nearby.

“It’s been such a nice hobby for us to do as well, through Covid and everything. It’s been amazing to come out and show what we’ve done behind the scenes. This is a good result of what happened during Covid.

“It's always been a dream to have your own sheep at the Balmoral Show,” she continued.

“We’re big into animals at our house, but we never thought we’d own them. Trying to keep them clean is probably the hardest part! We normally go out and show them off to the best of our ability, hope they behave themselves and that nobody falls.

“Before actually coming to the show, you have to wash them, prep them and brush out their wool [which Emma has dubbed the “cashmere of the sheep world”].

“They have such a great temperament. They’re called the cutest sheep in the world and they definitely live up to their name,” said the Strabane woman, laughing.

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Cattle lawn judging. Picture by Brian Little/PressEye

Cattle lawn judging. Picture by Brian Little/PressEye

Cattle lawn judging. Picture by Brian Little/PressEye

Another big pull for this year’s younger generation has been the Grassmen exhibition. To those unfamiliar with the internet phenomenon, the Grassmen is a small company located in the outskirts of Ballymena, established in 2009 by current director Gareth Gault, who is known to his fans as ‘Donkey’.

Gareth began uploading his farming, lifestyle and machinery content to social media and in the last decade the brand has cultivated a huge following of nearly 200,000 YouTube fans, mostly made up of teenagers and younger kids, who couldn’t wait to get their hands on some of the Grassmen merchandise at the 2022 Balmoral Show.

Of course, the event is for people of all ages — and not even those necessarily from an agricultural background.

Mum Sarah-Jane McElnea, from just outside Armagh, is married to a dairy farmer, but loves the family aspect of the event.

“It’s a good excuse to bring the kids out and just see what the Northern Ireland agriculture industry is offering,” she told the Belfast Telegraph.

“I love the whole cattle show and the judging end. I’ve a big interest in food and new trends, so I love walking around the food pavilion. We wouldn’t miss the show, rain, hail or snow.”

John McCaffrey, from Drumquin, was keen to survey the Massey Ferguson tractors on display, sharing: “We’ve a few wee Masseys — 35, 65 and 390T, and one of the 4255. I’ve got about four Fords, ten Fiats — they’re all working.”

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Former DAERA minister and South Belfast MLA Edwin Poots helping exhibit Moy Park

Former DAERA minister and South Belfast MLA Edwin Poots helping exhibit Moy Park

Former DAERA minister and South Belfast MLA Edwin Poots helping exhibit Moy Park

John also revealed a passion for vintage machinery and has hopes that threshers might make an appearance at next year’s Balmoral Show.

He had helped create the Drumquin World Record Threshing and Fun Day in August 2004, which then broke the world record for the largest number of threshers in one field.

John joked that he couldn’t hold a similar day now, as “the younger generation doesn’t want to know”, but hopes threshing may make its farming comeback soon.

“I’d be into machinery, just dandering about and looking at it all,” added the Co Tyrone native.

“The livestock is great too. I was over looking at the sheep there. My wife is mad to get up every year to see the horses.”

There were even some students from University College Dublin raffling off a vintage 1961 Fordson Dexta tractor for charity (or ‘Dixie’, as they have named her).

“There are people from all over here. We’ve met people from Kerry, Waterford, Donegal and all corners,” said Dathal Kent from the university’s agriculture society.

Typically, many of the farmers that got chatting to this newspaper shared that they either had to get home early to continue their farm work or get up at the crack of dawn to tend to it.

Luckily, though, they have until Saturday to attend the show and see or do everything they wish to.


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