Cows are treated as show queens, but behind the scenes there's a serious competition
The Baileys Champion Dairy Cow competition has come a long way from the days when competing dairy farmers used to "pull up beside the ditches" near the Virginia Showgrounds in Co Cavan and hope for the best as they led their prize-seeking pedigree livestock up to the judges.
With the new €1.5m Virginia event centre up and running, the "show cows" have much more salubrious billets for the day and face sterner judging in terms of their performance.
It is the crème de la crème of dairy cows with tomorrow's winner needing to produce at least 1,500 to 1,600 litres of milk annually or 500kg of milk solids and butterfat.
For the qualifying 25 cows and their handlers, the grooming and pristine attention to the appearance of the cows are only part of the spectacle.
"The way the cows are treated as show queens always fascinates the public, but behind all the care and attention comes serious competition among the best pedigree cow breeders in Ireland," the Diageo Baileys cow competition chief Brendan Smyth said this week.
The Diageo Baileys Champion Dairy Cow competition takes place today and carries a prize fund of over €10,000.
"Paul Mitten from Britain is this year's judge and while he will make the final decision on the Diageo Baileys champion, there will be another 250 judges around the ring who will agree to differ about whoever he taps forward," added Brendan. Brendan, a retired Glanbia dairy adviser, has been associated with the competition for 34 years, going back to the days when the competition was sponsored by the then Virginia Milk Products.
"Two of the Virginia show's organisers - Ned Duffy and Lesley Rothwell - came into the office at Virginia Milk one day and suggested that we sponsor what is now the Baileys Champion competition.