Shows mean a lot to me and my family.
It’s hard to explain it. I guess it’s a hobby of ours, as opposed to golf or some other activity. I remember as a 10-year-old showing a commercial calf for a cousin and that was me hooked. That progressed to the purchase of my first animal in 1998, a pedigree Charolais heifer. Washing, training, showing, winning, losing, looking on at good stock, making new friends, the show scene is a unique one.
On a weekend we would think nothing of getting up at 5am to get animals ready, drive two hours to a show, spend the day pulling out of cattle and then home again.
It’s tough work, but there’s nothing to match bringing out an animal to be their very best and getting rewarded for it.
There’s a sense of pride, too, in what you do.
Breeding is such a lottery sometimes and people spend their life hoping to get that one animal to hit the big time with.
Some people are lucky and get a cow to click with a bull and they’re sorted. Others spend their life trying and never get there, but having lots of fun along the way.
It’s a unique thing and it seems to run through generations, with several famous “showing families” around the country. It’s not for the money and it’s not about the glory either, it’s just a great hobby to be involved in.
I’ve attended shows in the UK, France and New Zealand but there’s nothing comes anywhere near the atmosphere at a rural show in Ireland.
It doesn’t have to be a big show, some of my best memories are from the smaller ones.
Coming home with the champion Charolais cup from Cloone show in 1999, hanging the cup out the sunroof of the car, and shouting as we went through the local village will stay with me forever.
Town meets country
It represents everything that is good about rural Ireland.
Homemade jams, brown bread, turf, eggs, dahlias, onions, apple tarts, Victoria sponges, best pair of butchers lambs, best breeding heifer, you name it and there is a class for it at most shows.
On many occasions it’s where the town meets the country for a day and, with many shows taking place around local town festivals, it meant friends and family travelled for the occasion.
It was also a massive community effort, with towns, villages and rural dwellers all pulling and working together to have a successful show day. Our show season would start out in June in Fingal or Athlone and go right the way through until Strokestown in September, with a show on most weekends in between.
A few valuable life lessons are learnt on taking beatings in the show ring
It’s a family affair, with a couple of the lads at home bringing their own calves. It fosters a love for animals and work ethic in general.
The show ring can be a cruel place at times and a few valuable life lessons are learnt on taking beatings with humility, respecting competitors and show ring decorum.
There are lots of wet days where you are standing at the wrong end of a long row of cattle, but you tend to forget these and you always seem to remember the good times.
The sunny days, the red rosettes, the smell of saddle soap, the scent of shampoo, the buzz of a hair dryer or clipper, the crack, the rivalry and the company.
It’s a tradition that keeps on going in many families and it’s got a lot of young people involved, especially in the commercial scene.
There’s a certain sense of pride attached to bringing an animal all the way through to be able to show and compete at the top.
It’s also a shop window for your herd and there has been many a sale made on the back of a successful summer’s showing
Like everybody else, we thought we had some of the best animals that we ever had for this year’s show season but everybody will be staying at home this year.
It’s going to be a massive void in our life but I guess there are bigger things at play and once the stock are there, 2021 is another year. Here’s hoping shows will be back stronger than ever.