Belfast Telegraph

Rain can't cast cloud on crowds at Ballymoney Show

By Richard Halleron

Showers did not stop large crowds from enjoying this year's celebration of farming and food at the Ballymoney Show.

The north Antrim show saw the McLean family, from Bushmills, win the Supreme Cattle Championship with the outstanding Holstein cow Priestland PS James Rose. The fourth calver also won the Dairy Inter-Breed title earlier in the day.

But judging the Supreme Championship class was a close run thing, with the Holstein cow up for the top prize against the Beef Inter-Breed Champion, a cross-bred heifer exhibited by Moneymore man Robert Miller.

Initially, the two judges - Mark Logan from Clandeboye Estate and Alan Burleigh from Lisnaskea - had called it a 'dead heat' between the two animals.

At that stage, a third judge, John Henning, was asked for his assessment. His casting vote went to the Holstein cow.

It marked her second successive Dairy Inter-Breed title at Ballymoney. She is currently giving 58 litres of milk per day.

"We have had a great start to the showing year," said Iain McLean. "All of our stock performed extremely well at Ballymena last week and we have followed this up with an equally good performance at Ballymoney, which is our home show."

Meanwhile, there is concern in the sector that farmers seeking to increase their borrowings in the run-up to Brexit may find themselves having to undergo a new proofing process by banks.

This will mean number crunching projected profit margins that are based on a proportion of the Basic Payments currently available from Brussels.

The Basic Payment is the main support mechanism that is available to EU farmers at present.

In most years, it represents almost the total of the profit generated by Northern Ireland's 20,000 plus cattle and sheep farmers.

"Total uncertainty surrounds the outcome of the Brexit negotiations," said Danske Bank's senior agribusiness manager Seamus McCormick at the show.

"But there seems to be an expectation that London will reduce the level of direct payments on-offer to farmers, once Brexit becomes a reality.

"And, as a bank, we have to take this factor into account when dealing with farmers' future borrowing requirements.

"We would also be keen to have future support arrangements made to those farmers who are actually producing food.

"The current Basic Payment Scheme restricts eligibility to so-called active farmers. But this term is not fully synonymous with those producers who are working full time to develop their farming businesses. Once we are under the auspices of a UK agricultural policy, we would like to see support systems tied to those who are fully committed to developing sustainable farming businesses."

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