As the annual agricultural show season gets under way for another year, one man convinced that commercial cattle classes are on the way to becoming the largest sector at the rural events is breeder and exhibitor George Hagarty.
Known the length and breadth of the country as a "true cattle enthusiast", according to his close friends, he has exhibited cattle from his 50 cow commercial suckler herd in every corner of the four provinces of Ireland.
He is now flushing the best of the dams to breed the best of the best to compete at the top level on the show circuit where he has enjoyed a lot of success.
George admits that it has often been a long journey from his base close to Longford town to some of the rural show locations, but he oozes with such interest in showing that he leaves no doubt that he is enjoying every moment of it, from trying to breed the best to showing the best in the bovine world.
"The commercial showing of cattle is the fastest growing sector, and we have some of the largest entries in show classes with up to 30 animals competing in some of the younger age classes," he says.
"They are putting in the same preparation as the pedigree breeders, maybe more, maybe an awful lot more, washing and clipping of the commercial cattle for the shows, because they want them to look their best," he adds.
"I have shown Charolais, Limousin, Belgian Blues... and won prizes with them all... they are all cross bred commercials and I have used embryos over the years to breed better quality," says George, who has a large collection of awards to his credit.
He has won the Irish Charolais Cattle Society Commercial Male Championship, Meadow Meats Super Beef Bullock Championship, All Ireland Beef Bullock Championship at Strokestown Show, Championship and AIB Exhibitor Bred Baby Beef Championship at Athlone Show to name a few of the accolades in his collection.
The latest addition to his array of prizes is the Commercial Cattle Exhibitors Society, National Hall of Fame Award in recognition of his contribution to the society and the development of commercial showing of cattle.
His citation reads: "For his honesty, integrity and long-time commitment, the Commercial Cattle Exhibitors Society has no hesitation in nominating our friend George for the National Hall of Fame Award 2017."
He is a long-standing sponsor of the Young Stockperson classes at the Winter Fair, and has given leadership within the society to charity fundraising for Irish Guide Dogs, Temple Street Hospital, Join Our Boys and Cancer Research Ireland over the years.
As vice-chairman of the society in its 'coming of age' year, he is currently involved in finalising arrangements for the society's two-day Winter Fair, one of the largest annual exhibitions of commercial cattle, awards, and sale.
It will be held at Ennis Mart on Sunday and Monday, October 22-23, the first time it will be staged at a Munster venue - having previously been held at Kilkenny, Donegal and Roscommon.
There is a prize fund of €20,000 for the 21st Winter Fair, and classes for all types of stock, classified by both breed and weight - including some unhaltered, take place in a large marquee on Sunday, with stock sold the following day.
"It has become a major livestock event over the past 20 years. Breeders travel from all parts of the country. Many of them make a weekend of it; the show on Sunday, society dinner that night and the sale on Monday," he says looking forward to the first visit to Munster in October.