The sun came out, the exhibitors came out and, most importantly, the crowds thronged the ringsides in Balmoral last week after a three-year wait to get back to shows again.
On Wednesday morning, the Logan Hall, where all the cattle took up accommodation for the four day-event, was buzzing with hairdryers, clippers and people enjoying themselves.
You could almost feel the positivity in the air as the first cattle stepped out on to the cattle lawns at 9.30am.
Everything ran like clockwork, with various stewards giving a great running commentary on what was happening in the cattle rings and show judges giving reasons to the onlookers as to why they made their placings in the way they did.
It was a show to remember for Tyrone man Jack Smyth. He claimed his first ever interbreed title with the homebred Bessiebell Nana and her twin calves at foot. Nana is by Derryharney Jumbo, with her calves sired by Corrie Alan.
Well-known Charolais and Simmental breeder Michael Durno had the tough job of tapping out the interbreed champion.
Commenting on his selection, Durno said: “She’s a great example of the breed and rearing two calves as well. She’s working hard and doing a good job.”
Speaking to the Irish Farmers Journal on his win, Jack Smyth said: “I’m over the moon.
“It really is a dream come through. You always want to win the interbreed in Balmoral and to do it with a homebred animal is extra special.”
Standing in the reserve position was Pat Kelly’s September 2020-born Simmental heifer. She is by Saltire Impressive.
“Taking up the second reserve spot was James Alexander’s Jalex Riri. This May 2020-born heifer is by the herd’s stock bull Trueman Natkingcole.
Scottish native Brian Clarke, who runs the Duncanziemere Herd, had the tough job of tapping out the prizewinners in the Aberdeen Angus classes.
Taking the Aberdeen Angus championship was the Armour family from Ballynahinch with their March 2021-born heifer Woodvale Delia X867.
She was sired by Oak Moor Lord Ivanho. In reserve was John and Ann Hennings’ April 2018-born cow Drumcorn Lady Ida. She was sired by Blelack Duke.
In the Hereford section, it was the job of the world-renowned judge PJ Budler. Budler hails from a farming family in South Africa and now farms in Texas, US. He selected the Haire family’s February 2021-born Dorepoll 1 Sally 679 (P) as his champion, with James Graham’s September 2019-born bull sired by Mawarra Mustang taking the title of reserve champion.
Bobby Landers from Wigtownshire had the job of selecting the winners in the Shorthorn classes.
It’s a big year for Shorthorn cattle as the Beef Shorthorn Society celebrates 200 years of the breed.
Young heifer Aghalee Rhona, shown by Duncan Graham, caught his eye and he tapped her out as his champion with Galway breeder Tommy Staunton taking the reserve rosette with his May 2018-born stock bull Westmoor Merlin (H) (NT419).
Staunton also claimed the reserve female championship with his cow, Caramba Hottie Nottie Noo ET.
In the Salers section, Carnwath man Iain Livesey selected the 2020-born heifer Lisnamaul Princess as his champion, with the Elliot family taking the reserve title with their 2017-born cow Drumlegga Monique.
Artlone livestock took the champion title in the British Blue classes with their March 2019-born cow Solway View Oki Doki. Standing in reserve was Enniscorthy man Melvin Masterson’s 2017-born cow Boroside Lemon.
In the British Blonde section, it was Armagh woman Molly Bradley who took home the champion sash with her January 2021-born heifer, Dernasigh Sally.
The November 2019-born bull, Nigransha Paddy Power, from the McElroy family took the reserve spot.
The Dexter breed had some of the largest classes on the Balmoral cattle lawns and it was Dungannon man Matthew Bloomer who took home the champion title with his December 2012-born bull Northbrook Atlas.
Standing in reserve was James McUllagh’s June 2016-born cow Ballydavey Blossom.
In the Irish Moiled section, Nigel Edwards and Michelle McCauley took the champion rosette with their January 2021-born heifer Curraghnakeely Sylvia. Brian O’Kane took the reserve rosette with his February 2020-born heifer Ravelglen Josie.
It was the turn of the Commercial cattle on the cattle lawns in Balmoral on Thursday, with a big entry of both commercial bullocks and heifers.
A number of cattle made the trip north from the south as well, which made things very interesting for the travelling visitors. Cattle bred in the Republic of Ireland featured strongly in the rosettes, with one class having a full lineup of southern Irish-bred cattle.
All cattle were weighed on Tuesday evening on the showgrounds and allocated to classes based on their weight during Thursday’s judging.
All eyes were on the February 2021-born heifer that was sold at the Carrick-on-Shannon winter fair last November for €18,000 in a three-way split to the Dufton, Small and Wilkinson partnership. She was bred by Laois man Sean Ramsbottom.
She was pulled in first in the class and all was going according to plan until Welsh judge Dafydd Lewis asked to walk both the first- and second-placed heifers again.
After a period of reflection, he changed his mind and pulled in a black March 2021-born Limousin heifer from the NI-based JCB Commercials.
She was sired by Mereside Lorenzo, going back to a a Belgian Blue x Limousin cow and was also purchased at last year’s winter fair in Carrick.
She was bred by Cork farmer Noel McSweeney.
The Welsh man really liked the heifer and she went on to take the overall commercial championship, with the second-placed Laois-bred heifer taking the overall reserve championship.
Taking up the champion steer prize was Fergal Gormley with his May 2021-born Limousin steer which incidentally was also bred in the Republic of Ireland.