Father and son, David and Neil Henderson, who run a 90-cow suckler herd outside Lisbellaw in Co Fermanagh, were the winners of a new ‘Suckler Cow Classic’ competition organised as part of the Fermanagh Show.
The competition came with a £1,250 prize fund offered by the Vaughan Trust, as well as a £500 bonus where the winner was from the county, offered by Fermanagh Farming Society. That meant, in total, David and Neil received £1,000 for their win.
The aim of the new competition was to showcase the best in commercial suckler cow management.
During the on-farm judging process, suckler herds were assessed against their ability to deliver consistent quality calves off grass. Cows needed to have milk and produce a calf every year in a relatively tight calving pattern.
The competition was not about finding the best conformed calf that might have been suited to a fatstock show.
In total, five leading herds out of the 11 that entered the competition were asked to bring along a cow and calf unit to the Fermanagh Show that was typical of what they keep on-farm.
A close second in the competition, and receiving a prize of £300, was the Egerton family from Rosslea. John, along with his wife Elizabeth and sons William, Samuel and Robert have 90 suckler cows split into distinct spring and autumn-calving blocks. The herd is bred exclusively to AI, and along with David and Neil Henderson, is comparable to any of the top suckler herds in the UK and Ireland.
The remaining three herds all produce top-quality, consistent suckler calves and received special commendation awards along with a prize of £150.
David Wilson runs a herd of commercial cows alongside his pedigree Herefords at Magheraveely.
Father and son, Gerry and James Law, produce mainly Charolais cross calves on their farm outside Kesh, while Irvinestown farmers Kevin and James Leonard work with a range of continental and traditional breeds.
A roan heifer owned by Irvinestown farmer Kevin Leonard and shown by his brother James, took first prize at a breeding heifer derby, also taking place at the Fermanagh Show.
Sponsored by Lakeland Veterinary Services and with a £500 prize fund that included £250 to the first placed heifer, a total of nine heifers were entered in the competition, which was judged on the day of the show.
The aim was to identify heifers that would make good commercial medium-sized sucklers, able to consistently rear a quality calf. Animals had to have good temperament, be born after 1 January 202, and be at a size and weight for their age which makes them suited to calving at around 24 months.
Behind the Leonards, second place went to Robbie Wilson from Magheraveely with a Salers-bred animal. Third was a roan heifer from Paul Hackett, Newtownbutler.