The first summer show season since the COVID-19 pandemic finished up in NI last week with Plum Show taking place in Co Tyrone on Saturday.

“The shows had a good year. People came out to support them. Castlewellan broke all records and there were good crowds at the likes of Clogher and Fermanagh,” said Jim Harrison from the Irish Shows Association.

Most summer show committees usually start preparations from mid-winter onwards but, with COVID-19 restrictions not lifting until the early spring, organisers started later this year.

“The committees have to be congratulated. They pulled together the shows with a tight turnaround,” Harrison said.

The two-year interruption affected local shows financially, although a £200,000 aid package from DAERA, which allows each show in NI to claim up to £10,000, has been well received.

The pandemic also influenced the cattle in livestock rings this year, with Harrison noting that young calves and older cows made up a greater proportion of entries.

“There were fewer calves halter trained in 2020 and 2021 when no shows were running, so a lot of exhibitors left cattle those cattle at home when the shows got going this summer,” he said.

An independent review into agricultural shows is currently underway and is due to be completed by late summer. The exercise was commissioned by DAERA and is being conducted by Aled Rhys Jones, chief executive of the Royal Welsh Show.

“It will be interesting to see what comes out of the report, especially any recommendations about funding and future support,” Harrison said.