The Irish Farmers Journal, the Irish Shows Association (ISA) and FBD hosted the first ever All-Ireland Young Stockperson Competition finals in Tullamore over the weekend.
Entries came from right across Ireland, with a total of 37 young people competing across the three age categories.
These were all put through their paces on a number of different areas to separate the real cattle people from the rest.
This was particularly evident in the senior section, who started the morning being tested on halter making, catching animals and general knowledge.
At the same time, junior and intermediates were tasked with presenting their animal for the show ring, along with being questioned by judges.
While not known to competitors, marks were also being awarded here for having the animal tied correctly with a quick-release knot, settling the animal with feed and bedding, along with having the proper attire on for getting the animal ready.
With the animals presented, the juniors made their way to the show ring under the watchful eyes of master judges Garrett and Lyndsey Behan.
The Behan couple need little introduction. Predominantly known for their Clonagh Simmental herd, the duo also farm pedigree Angus, Limousin and Charolais on their farm in Ballyfin, Co Laois.
The herd secured the record for highest-priced beef animal sold in the country when Clonagh Lucky Explorer sold last October in Roscommon for €52,000.
If that wasn’t enough, the herd has secured hundreds of championships across the country and has bulls standing in most major AI companies. Who better to test the young stockpeople?
As the different categories were brought in front of the Behan outfit throughout the day, the competition got tougher, with further questioning, halters being changed, animals swapped and even animals let loose to be re-caught.
Even with all this, competition was so tight that only a few marks divided the top and bottom.
While this was taking place, myself and pedigree council of Ireland chair Sean Sherman tried to separate the competition, with stock judging and reason giving.
Each stock judging had two groups to place one to four. The first group was of traditional-bred cattle and the other of continental. Here, we were again blown away by the standard of competitors.
While the seniors were being judged by the Behan family, junior and intermediates took in the knowledgeable words of leading Irish stockman Richard O’Beirne.
Having worked across a number of breeds and sold animals in excess of €20,000 last year, Richard was the centre of attention as he took the eager young people through animal management pre-show, along with a clipping demo including the dos and don’ts.
Last but not least, a safety talk on animal handling and carrying animals to the show was presented by health and safety manager with FRS Network Jim Dockery.
Anticipation built as the prize-giving ceremony neared. To give us a chance to tot up the final scores, we first had speeches from a number of key people involved in the event.
These speeches thanked all involved in making the day such a success. I’d like to take this moment to reiterate how thankful we are to everybody who helped in any way.
This competition was not thought up overnight – in fact it’s been on the back-burner for a number of years. With no shows again for 2021, we thought this was the perfect opportunity to get people back out and launch such an event.
To FBD, who stood as title sponsor for the whole event, we are forever grateful for the investment in the sector and ensuring the future is kept as bright as ever.
The entries were taken by the ISA and too many members to name were on hand on both the Friday and Saturday to ensure the smooth running of the event.
However, one person from the ISA who needs special recognition is national secretary Jim Harrison, who has been the background man for the event over the last number of months.
Massive amount of work
A massive amount of work went in both before and during the event by numerous people, including Tullamore Mart manager Antoinette Daly, mart staff, members of Tullamore Show committee and indeed the extended Irish Farmers Journal team.
This gratitude is also passed to the competitors and family members, without whom there would be no event at all.
While we hoped the day was educational for all, it was indeed a finals, so there had to be winners.
That said, all competitors did leave with prizemoney and rosettes. Those who were lucky enough to secure a top placing secured added prizemoney, but, more importantly, the accolade of being the top stock people in the country.
While there was only a select number of overall winners, truth be told all in attendance were winners such was the standard on show.
All competitors should be very proud of the display they put on last Saturday, as there was only minimal scores between all finalists.
With such a great start to the competition, it’s hoped that this can become an annual event.
With shows set to return next year, all going to plan we will have qualifiers for the finals all around the country.
With that in mind, it’s reassuring to know that all but one competitor in this year’s finals will be still in age to enter for next year.
Junior (8-12 years old)
1st: Raymond Dockery, Offaly.
2nd: Tara Drumm, Westmeath.
3rd: Colm Sheahan, Offaly.
Intermediate (13-17 years old)
1st: Adrian Dockery, Offaly.
2nd: Evan Gunn, Roscommon.
3rd: Dylan Dockery, Offaly.
Senior (17-25 years old)
1st: Catherine Smyth, Meath.
2nd: Conor Maher, Tipperary.
3rd: Katie Brady, Cavan.