The show must go on: Farmers flock to Tullamore despite beef dispute
Despite being caught up in a bitter dispute with processors over prices, hundreds of beef farmers from around the country were determined to keep the atmosphere of the Tullamore Show in Co Offaly alive.
More than 60,000 urban and rural dwellers flocked to the 250-acre Butterfield Estate yesterday, which was filled with the sound of cows mooing over the backdrop of live music and excited chatter.
While talk about the ongoing conflict was everywhere, the show went on regardless.
In fact, commercial cattle entries were up 20pc this year as hundreds of animals of all breeds were showcased by their owners.
"We're all struggling, but livestock shows like these are extremely important to cattle farmers like myself," said beef farmer Padraig Donoghue, from Kells, Co Meath.
"The atmosphere is fantastic, which really helps to keep your spirits up. The future of the Irish beef industry is very uncertain at the moment, but I'm sure we'll never lose this annual tradition."
Along with 700 exhibition stands, young breeders had the opportunity to compete in six showmanship classes. The pedigree cattle section will have 200 classes across 13 breeds.
Paula Melvin and her family of cattle farmers from Hollystown, Dublin, were justifiably proud after five of their French Salers claimed first prize ribbons. "We're one of the few cattle farmers left in Hollystown and are absolutely thrilled with how well we did this year," said Ms Melvin.
"Our cow Ashbury Lynx won the overall top Saler and our smaller one named Smooch was named as the reserve champion.
"Salers are one of the best breeds of cattle in the world, in my opinion. They're from the Massif Central highlands in France, which is the reason why they're so hardy. Most of these aren't really sold for beef, but they win competitions left, right and centre."
The young farmer said their original Salers from 2005 became famous after appearing in several movies and TV shows, such as 'The Wind That Shakes The Barley' and 'Penny Dreadful'.
It was a family affair for Frank Milligan and his two children Nichola (12) and Gary (10) from Creggs, Co Galway.
Sitting alongside their pampered heifer who had just won a third prize ribbon, Mr Milligan deemed the day a "fantastic success". "It's our first time here and we're really delighted at how well we did," he said.
"Last year she won reserve champion at the Carrick-on-Shannon Winter Fair and so many people wanted to buy her, but we wouldn't give her up."
Because of the difficulties turning a profit in the beef industry, the father of two said he was considering giving up cattle farming altogether.
"We're investing in lambs now instead of bulls because the beef sector isn't that great at all any more.
"We hope the talks will lead to something possible, but at the end of the day the meat industry will do whatever they want," he said.
The Tullamore Show has grown from humble beginnings to an annual institution primarily on the back of the hard work of 650 volunteers.
Agriculture was originally the show's main focus but this has broadened considerably over the years to adapt to Ireland's changing culture.
However, the event still promotes an enhanced awareness and appreciation of Irish heritage, traditions and way of life.
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