Stewart Baxter runs a pedigree herd of Ayrshire cows with his wife, Nyree, under the Erne prefix with the herd founded some 35 years ago, from a milking herd of commercial cows in Kesh, Co Fermanagh.
How long have you been showing cattle?
“I started showing cattle at local shows back in the 1980s, when I was still at school. Shortly afterwards, I began helping the late Jack Liggett from Tullyhue Ayrshires, Tandragee and the Suffern family, Ballyclan, and Ravenhill Ayrshires, Crumlin, at Balmoral.
I have tried, whenever possible, to support both shows with our own animals
“During these years, I competed in young Ayrshire breeder competitions at the show, moving on to exhibiting a few of our own cattle at both Balmoral and the Winter Fair in the early 1990s. I have tried, whenever possible, to support both shows with our own animals.”
What were the standout moments?
“The Winter Fair has given us more memorable moments than Balmoral with Erne Calimero Joy Vg87 winning the heifer in milk and junior championship in 2011, then going on to win her cow in-calf class at the show for the following two years as well.
“As for Balmoral itself, Erne Magenta Ex 92, an animal owned in partnership with our good friend, John Suffern, won the heifer in milk class.”
What is your show team for Balmoral 2021?
“The entire team this year are granddaughters, or great-granddaughters from embryos we invested in a number of years ago.
This year, we have seven animals entered for the show
“Donor selection at the time was based on type, high production as well as components.
“This year, we have seven animals entered for the show and plan to actually show five or six of these animals, depending on how one or two ‘hopefuls’ settle to their milk having just calved in the past few days.”
What do you look for in show cattle?
“We look for several things when selecting our show team. Firstly, we look for type – cattle, regardless of age that have plenty of body capacity, sweep of rib, locomotion and for those in milk, the all-important quality mammary system.
“Secondly, we try to dovetail animals in terms of ages and stages of lactation to best meet the requirements of the class in question.”
What is the preparation routine for showing animals?
“Our cows receive little or no special treatment ahead of the show in terms of housing or diet. They live in cubicles and either graze, or are on TMR, depending on the time of year.
“Our young stock do go on to a separate ration and regime from their comrades for one month prior to the show. They get high dry matter fibrous forages to encourage body depth and rib development, plus this helps them get acclimatised to the diet during show week.”
Are you glad to get back to showing cattle?
“Yes, it’s a bit of normality. I have always enjoyed showing cattle, it’s just something I like doing.
I have made plenty of friends over the years attending various shows
“We have invested a lot of time and money in sourcing new bloodlines and embryo work.
“Showing cattle is a great way to get exposure for the herd.
“I have made plenty of friends over the years attending various shows and it will be good to hopefully see some familiar faces in person again.”
What have been the challenges with preparing animals for the show?
“Since the first lockdown last year, there has only been one event to show animals, which was the calf show earlier this year.
this means trying to train older animals to walk, which takes more effort and patience
“With Balmoral being the only event in the calendar for showing cows and heifers, it has been hard to keep motivated and disciplined with show training for a single event.
“Also, with Balmoral being held in September, rather than May, halter training heifers started a lot later than it normally would have.
“This means trying to train older animals to walk, which takes more effort and patience.
“Again, there would have been animals in the herd which were ideal for showing back in May, but have lost that shine over the summer and therefore are not being entered next week.”