Handled with care: A new generation of stock handlers are making their mark
The passing on of the grá for farm animals and the skills required for handling and identifying the key traits in breeding qualities is shinning brightly in the next generation of pedigree breeders.
The young handler competitors often show a level of expertise in the showing of their animals that is on par with the most senior of their peers.
The majority are chips from the old block, the sons and daughters of household names in the world of pedigree breeding in all livestock breeds, who are now on the circuit at a much younger age than their predecessors were. But, as ever, there are exceptions to the rule.
Fifteen-year-old secondary school student Conor Craig has become an experienced livestock showman as he now enters his third season in the livestock rings at the agricultural shows around the midlands. Indeed, his professionalism is such that it is the envy of many exhibitors who have been parading the rings for many decades more than the young Longford native.
Son of Martina and Derek Craig from Coolarty, Edgeworthstown, he began exhibiting and winning awards for poultry at shows from the age of 12 years, before graduating to exhibiting of livestock, which he has been doing very successfully for the past two seasons.
He has already amassed a collection of coveted awards for livestock and is now showing and winning with his own pedigree Angus animals, collecting rosettes right up to championship level.
Another young handler wowing both judges and ringside audiences is six-year-old Julie Barrett. She was the newly crowned champ at the Munster Agricultural Society Show at Cork in June, and is the daughter of well-known Holstein-Friesian breeder and exhibitor Rickey Barrett from Adamstown, Ballinhassig.
Along with beef breed young handler champion Daniel Moloney from Ardnacrusha, Co Clare, the pair have been sweeping the boards all through the season. Moloney comes from another well-known breeding establishment, specialising in Limousins, which is run by his dad Donal.