Chris Meehan rents 25 acres just outside of Charlestown and farms with his wife, Niamh, and children, Willow and Daithí.
Chris tells the Irish Farmers Journal: “I always would have helped around the farm, but my interest would have grown more so in my early twenties. I was working away from home in Dublin for a number of years and my interest was sparked when I moved home.
“We do a small amount of embryo work and flushed first back in 2019 after we sold our EPI heifer in Carrick. We aim to calve down four or five recipients each year and we only have four cows in total – two of which would have been flushed. We aim to calve them down naturally each year.”
Chris first started showing in 2011, alongside his father, Tom, and started off showing pedigree Simmentals.
“We had a super Simmental bull, and we decided that we would show him. Thankfully, that resulted in a very successful year – he was part of the national pairs champion at Tullamore Show, he was reserve bull champion at the National Ploughing Championships, as well as the Connacht Simmental calf champion,” Chris recalls fondly.
After watching on at the ringside for many years, Chris and his father took a Simmental-cross calf to the Carrick Winter Fair in November 2011. Little did Chris know it would be his first of many Winter Fairs in Carrick-on-Shannon. He also met Mayo native Niamh Oliver that weekend and little did he know that 12 years later they would be married, raising a family and showing a variety of cattle and sheep all over Ireland.
“I would have first exhibited with my father in 2011 showing Simmental-cross females,” Chris says.
“Saying that, I would have been going as a spectator for years. It was really from 2015 onwards that I started exhibiting my own stock in Carrick.” Chris adds: “The Winter Fair is the highlight of the year for the Commercial cattle exhibitors in my opinion. Over the years the quality of cattle has dramatically improved, which is reflected in the prices being demanded for these top-quality lots.
“There is an animal to suit everyone at the Carrick Winter Fair. Whether you’re on the hunt for a foundation female, ranging from a native breed to a flashy Belgian Blue and for the show men there was many a show champion for the following year purchased in Carrick. The sheer number of cattle to choose from draws a magnificent crowd each year and the atmosphere is just electric.”
“2019 was just an extraordinary night for myself and Niamh, as we had just become first-time parents to Willow – who was nine weeks old.
“We topped the sale that night with a record price at the time of €10,000. She (the calf) was a natural born EPI heifer calf. That night, we also sold the third highest-priced bull weanling.”
“Last year, for a second time, we topped the sale with a BYU embryo calf at a top price of €14,500. We just had our son, Dáithí, seven weeks previous and our dreams came true for the second time that night.”
“In 2019, we had a black EPI heifer calf and from one week old, I just thought there was something special about the calf. She was naturally born and reared by her mother.
“As the weeks progressed, she just kept thriving and moving in the direction you would like. As time grew closer to Carrick, I was confident that she would go a long way in competing in a class and, as it worked out, she won her under-350kg class and was awarded junior Blue champion on the night. She was purchased the following night by the judge Blair Duffton.
“In 2022, we had another BYU heifer calf and she was another one of those calves that was special from day one. She also went on to win the under-350kg Belgian Blue heifer calf class before being tapped out as the junior Blue champion,” says Meehan.
Is there more enjoyment for you and your family going to the Winter Fair in Carrick than selling at home?
“Going to Carrick, you are going into the unknown, as there are calves there like our own, who have not been to a show all year and, out of those, there are always a couple of special calves that demand these top-end prices. This adds to the atmosphere and the buzz of the whole weekend and that buzz and thrill of Carrick can’t be replicated at home.”
What advice would you give to someone going to Carrick who never exhibited before?
“To prepare your animal as well as you can for the hustle and bustle of the crowd is one of the main focuses, as some of these animals have never been to a show before and you do not know how they will react.”