The Midland & Western Livestock Improvement Society was established in 1926 by local farmers with the foundation stones laid by the agricultural inspectors in the region. The Department of Agriculture inspectors felt that encouraging farmers to breed pedigree cattle would not only provide them with an income, but, more importantly, would improve the quality of livestock in the western region

The first sale of pedigree bulls was held at the rear of St Patrick’s hospital in Carrick-on-Shannon in 1926 and, to this day, even though the society draws its members from all over the northwest, the event is more commonly known as the Carrick bull sales.

Sales were also held in the Shambles yard, now called the market yard in Carrick-on-Shannon, before the society took up permanent residence at the showgrounds on the Boyle road in 1937, where a top price of £11 was recorded for an Aberdeen Angus bull.

The Department of Agriculture supported the society in its aim to improve the standard and quality of livestock in the region by purchasing special term bulls, which were leased out to farmers at a reduced rate and that animal became the farmer’s property after two years.

The convenience of the local railway station to the society’s new grounds was at that time a key factor in Carrick-on-Shannon becoming the main venue for the sale and purchase of pedigree bulls in the west.

When committees of agriculture existed, there were always representatives from the Cavan, Sligo, Leitrim, Roscommon, Mayo and Longford committees on the executive which allocated premium bulls to nearly every area or parish at a subsidised rate.

Breed societies

The establishment of various breed societies and AI stations brought the Carrick-on-Shannon sales into further prominence with the farming population as these groups promoted their breed and activities through their strong presence in Carrick-on-Shannon.

Sales were held only once a year in the early years and gradually developed to the stage the society is at today with sales in October, February, March, April, May and June on two consecutive Saturdays in most months.

Two past presidents of the Irish Charolais Cattle Society and the Midland & Western Livestock Improvement Society Joe Gilfillan (RIP) and Martin O'Connor.

In 2005, the society hosted its first Christmas fatstock show and sale and this event has gone from strength to strength since then.

Given its close proximity to Northern Ireland, Carrick-on-Shannon attracts Northern Ireland buyers to all events held there and each year the spring sales attract a number of English and international buyers, giving exhibitors a broader customer base.

Building project

In 1996, the society commenced a building project that saw the construction of an exhibition shed that can now stall over 240 animals at sales.

The Irish Angus Cattle Society Ltd uses the premises for its annual elite show and sale of Irish Angus bulls and heifers each December, with the top Irish Angus cattle in the country heading to this sale.

In 1999, the society purchased the showgrounds and developed the facilities by building a new judging arena and other facilities, so as to create a safer and more modern facility for exhibitors and purchasers but, more importantly, to improve the health status of all animals being exhibited and sold in Carrick-on-Shannon.

The Midland & Western Livestock Improvement Society committee deserves huge credit for the vision and foresight which it has shown over the last almost 100 years of breeding cattle in the west of Ireland.