Farm Ireland

Monday 11 December 2017

Handled with care: A new generation of stock handlers are making their mark

Julie Barrett (6) from Ballinhassig, Co Cork was the champion young handler at the Munster Agricultural Society Show
Julie Barrett (6) from Ballinhassig, Co Cork was the champion young handler at the Munster Agricultural Society Show

Martin Ryan

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.

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Stock-judging is another skill being honed in the breeders of tomorrow, with young members required to place a selection of dairy animals in order under the watchful eye of a master judge at the recent Irish Holstein Friesian Association Junior Inter-club Stock Judging competition in Galway.

Each of the finalists had to compete within their own region to qualify to represent their club in the finals at the Windfield farm near Menlough. Leading the competitors from the four corners of the country, the young female stock judges among the participants dominated in all sections of the competition.

Top of the class were three young stock judges from the mid-west region who showed that they are continuing family skills and traditions into a third generation of their families.

In addition to taking the overall team award, Jane and Clare Hannon and Louis McCormack of the Limerick-Clare IHFA Club added the Fr Collins Trophy for the top individual stock judge with Louis taking the honour.


Jane and Clare Hannon are granddaughters of Jimmy Hannon, founder of the Lisnalty herd at Crecora, Co Limerick, while Louis's late grandfather, Seamus McCormack, founded the Cappavilla herd at Clonlara, Co Clare.

A delighted Paul Hannon, dad of Jane and Claire, modestly quipped: "I don't know where they got it - but they are sharp and know their stuff".

Paul's father, Jimmy Hannon, founded the Lisnalty herd in the late 1960s after he left the business world in Limerick city to purchase the 22ac farm at Friarstown, Crecora, in the shadow of the famed hurling village of Patrickswell for £2,200.

Today sons Paul and John farm 700ac in dairy and beef enterprises. The multi-award-winning dairy herd of 110 cows supplies over 1.2m litres of milk to Kerry Co-op. The herd average yield is 12,500kg at 3.7pc butterfat and 3.2pc protein.

In second place at the IHFA stock judging were the Tipperary-Waterford team of Niamh Barry, Aisling Power and Christopher Walsh, while the third place award went to Eimer Lehane, Conor Lehane and Stephen Shannon of the Cork team.

In the 18-26 years section, the overall individual award went to Doireann Mulhall of Carlow-Kilkenny.

The section winners were West Midland Club, Graeme Taylor, Emer Kelly and Sean Kelly. In second place were Leslie Draper, Diarmiud Murphy and Rachel White of the Cork Club, and in third place were Doireann Mulhall, Aoife O'Shea and Liam O'Shea of Carlow-Kilkenny Club.

Overall winner in the senior section was Oliver Neville of Laois-Offaly Club. The Tipperary-Waterford Club team of Noel Hennessy, Eamon McLoughney and Sean Kelly took the team award. Second were Kevin Walsh, Anthony Kealy and Trevor Hanley of Kildare Club and in third place were Peter Ging, Tommy Finlay, and Oliver Neville of Laois-Offaly Club.

Indo Farming