One of the standout attractions for farmers making the annual pilgrimage to Balmoral Show is a visit to the cattle lawns and viewing the judging competitions for dairy and beef animals.

Balmoral Show always attracts some of the premier pedigree herds every year, showcasing to the thousands of patrons the top cattle genetics Northern Ireland has to offer.

Over the past three decades, Drumcorn Angus, owned by John and Ann Henning, has been one of the most prominent herds exhibiting the best of Angus breeding within the province.

Ahead of next week’s show, outlined is a background to the origins of the herd and preparations for this year’s event.

Herd background

John and Ann established the Drumcorn herd of pedigree Angus cattle in 1992. Now based at Maghaberry, near Craigavon, Co Armagh, the herd is currently celebrating its 30th year of breeding and showing top-quality cattle.

To mark this landmark, six breeding heifers have joined the herd this year, bringing the number of breeding cows to 15 head.

Over the lifetime of the herd, there have been a couple of dominant family bloodlines producing award-winning stock.

One of the most notable animals is Elcara of Drumlister, a 1992-born animal bred by Ann’s late father, Robert Campbell.

As the foundation female for the Drumcorn herd, Elcara not only produced multiple daughters for expanding cow numbers, she enjoyed a highly successful show career in her own right.

In more recent years, the Ergessa and Lady Ida bloodlines have dominated within the breeding herd.

Ergessa was sourced from the noted Blelack Herd, owned by the Massie family in Aberdeenshire, while Lady Ida originated in the Fern herd, via the Drumlister herd.

The latest family to be established is the Cherry Blossom line with bloodlines going back to the Hayrish and Clover herds.


Since establishing the herd, John and Ann have relied heavily on artificial insemination (AI) to mate cows.

This has widened the choice of sires and prevented inbreeding within the smaller breeding base.

Sires such as Blelack Prince J165, Blelack Duke J262 and Weeton Panther S498 have featured heavily over the years.

However, in 2021, a major investment was made with the purchase of a new stock bull, Solitude Elite V777.

Sired by Netherallan Peter Pershore E052, the new herd sire rates extremely high on terminal and maternal traits.

Previous stock bulls included Ballamanaugh Estefan, a male and reserve supreme champion at the Royal Highland Show in 2000.

Managing show cattle

Both John and Ann look after the day-to-day operations of herd management with contractors brought in to carry out field work.

But when it comes to showing cattle, preparing, training and attending events is time-consuming.

Thankfully, the couple have been fortunate to receive additional help from family and friends over the years.

Most notable have been Andrew Hamill and Jeremy Paynter, while in the past two years, Izzy O’Dowd has been invaluable in halter training calves.


While the Drumcorn Herd features heavily on the show circuit, it is still a farm business that produces working cattle for sale. Breeding stock are normally sold from home, but there are some animals entered to society sales.

A sizeable number of repeat customers account for the majority of sales, coming from across Ireland, north and south, as well as further afield.

Customers are an even mix between dairy and suckler clients. As such, these markets have a bearing in the breeding decisions made each year.

Balmoral Show

This year will see Drumcorn Angus making its 28th consecutive appearance at Balmoral Show. John and Ann first entered cattle for Balmoral back in 1993 with the then heifer, Elcara of Drumlister, which won her class.

The show team for 2022 will hopefully consist of two senior cows, one junior cow, one yearling heifer and a senior bull.

Selecting a show team starts just before Christmas

For the Hennings, planning for Balmoral Show is an ongoing process and is factored in to breeding decisions.

Selecting a show team starts just before Christmas, although individual preparation does not commence until close to the actual event.

Final show preparations are a joint effort, although the bulk of the halter training and clipping is carried out by John.

Show success

With such a long-standing attendance at the show, it is unsurprising the herd has accumulated multiple prizes including five reserve breed championships with five different animals.

The herd’s foundation female, Elcara of Drumlister was exhibited on 13 occasions at Balmoral, winning four classes, finishing second no less than seven times and taking the reserve breed championship in 1994 as a two-year-old.

Outside of Balmoral, John and Ann have attended all local shows across Northern Ireland with their cattle scooping up more prizes

Last autumn, the herd won the interbreed exhibitor bred pairs championship.

Outside of Balmoral, John and Ann have attended all local shows across Northern Ireland with their cattle scooping up more prizes.

Success has also come at the Royal Highland Show and the All-Ireland Aberdeen Angus Championship at Virginia Show.

While Balmoral will be the focus for 2022, they will also attend a couple of local shows this summer.

Advice on showing cattle

With plenty of show ring experience, John has always been keen to pass on advice and tips to other farmers looking to establish a pedigree herd and start showing animals.

Nothing beats having quality stock and this is the first point John would stress.

Buying the best genetics that can be afforded, then getting started as soon as possible is the best way to learn.

Additional show teams

Although John is primarily associated with Drumcorn Angus, his interests in show cattle extend beyond the herd. He also owns a part stake in several dairy cattle alongside Ashley Fleming, Seaforde.

Again, these animals have commanded several notable show wins including the Dairy Shorthorn Championship at Balmoral Show.

RUAS involvement

Both John and Ann joined the RUAS about 40 years ago before becoming life members. John was then elected onto the Society’s Council in 1995.

Over the years, they have both served on multiple society committees and when not showing cattle at Balmoral, they are commonly seen in stewarding roles.

John’s contribution to the society continues to grow, with his recent election to RUAS deputy president in 2022 for a two-year period ending 2024.

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