Beauties -- and beasts -- flock to farm fair
Cakes, cattle and chat at annual rural show, writes Aideen Sheehan
FROM bullocks to black forest gateau, competition was intense at the Tullamore Show yesterday.
A record crowd of almost 60,000 flocked to the event to peruse the choicest fruits of the Irish earth.
That included over 1,800 cattle, 500 sheep and 1,000 horses along with hundreds of hens, sheepdogs, goats, alpacas and even a few ferrets.
Pedigree cattle were one of the biggest draws, with Blondes of Acquitaine, Charolais, Angus and Limousins among those seeking a prestigious AIB National Livestock title.
The impressive beasts were polished, primped and preened till they gleamed, and then paraded around the showing rings under the intense scrutiny of judges and viewers alike.
But it wasn't only the bovine champions that were sporting their sashes with pride -- in sky-high heels, tiara and mini-dress, Macra na Feirme's 'Queen of the Land' Sherine Prendergast said she wanted to bring a bit of style and glamour to farming.
"I want to show we're not all old and in aprons. The ICA bootcamp on RTE gives a bit of an old-fashioned image, so I want to show there's another side," said Sherine from Cashel in Co Tipperary, a schoolteacher of farming stock.
However older stalwarts proved among the keenest competitors, with Myra Kingston from Dunmanway in Co Cork once again taking the prize for the most entries in the cookery classes, and finishing third in the All-Ireland competition.
Having spent two weeks preparing jams, pickles, cakes and breads for the show Mrs Kingston said she would leave empty-handed.
"There's no end of takers once the competition finishes up, every last thing will just disappear and I won't have a thing left," she said.
Political animals were thick on the ground yesterday as all four declared presidential hopefuls took the opportunity to meet and greet rural voters.
Former Taoiseach Brian Cowen who never misses the event in his own backyard was present but Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney was a conspicuous absentee from the country's biggest one-day farm show.
The organisers said Mr Coveney had been invited, and had initially accepted but had changed his plans three weeks ago, sending Junior Minister Shane McEntee instead to perform the opening honours.
Mr McEntee urged parents to encourage their children into farming and the agricultural industry because of its huge potential for job creation.
"At a time when we need a buzz in this country, agriculture is the buzz word," he declared.
Now was the time "to take the shackles off agriculture" and boost production as the Food Harvest 2020 targets of massively increasing food production here were highly achievable, he said.
However the Irish Farmers Association (IFA) disagreed saying there would be massive losses to the Irish agri-food sector if the EU went ahead with leaked proposals on reform of the Common Agricultural Policy.
Introducing identical payments per hectare to all farmers in Europe would lead to a collapse in economic output of €1.25bn a year and the loss of thousands of jobs here, said IFA President John Bryan.
"Under the proposals some farmers would be facing Single Farm Payment cuts ranging from 20pc to 30pc in 2015, rising to over 50pc in 2019. This would decimate the most productive farmers, severely hitting their incomes," he said.
The inevitable downsizing of many farms would have a hugely negative knock-on effect on the food industry, the rural economy and in particular on export earnings, he said.
Sunshine and only a few light showers ensured that traffic in and out of the show moved easily yesterday.
One horse and carriage driver suffered a narrow escape when his horse bolted just before his competition, causing the carriage to overturn on him. However, the driver escaped with minor bruising, organisers said.
Tullamore: Selected results
AIB National Livestock Show Registered Pedigree Jersey Champion
1st: Patrick Aherne, Rylane, Co Cork
2nd: Richard & Avril Helen, Clonakilty, Co Cork
CLASS 110 AIB National Livestock Show Charolais Champion
1st: Ryan Family
Thurles, Co Tipperary
2nd: Jim Geoghagan,
Mullingar, Co Westmeath
AIB National Livestock Show
1st: Dan Tynan,
Mountrath, Co Laois
2nd: Edward Tynan,
Mountrath, Co Laois
AIB National Livestock Show
1st: O and A McFadden,
Navan, Co Meath
2nd: Pat Meehan, Co Limerick
CLASS 229 AIB National Livestock Show Blonde D'Aquitaine
1st: John Barry Moran,
Athlone, Co Westmeath
2nd: John O Halloran,
Mullinahone, Co Tipperary
AIB National Livestock Show Parthenaise Champion
1st: Liam Fitzgerald,
Mallow, Co Cork
2nd: Des Henry,
Tullamore, Co Offaly