'Something for everyone' as Balmoral Show returns

time:2023-06-02 14:03:41 source:CNN (Cable News Network)

"They come every year, they meet their friends and family - maybe they haven't seen some people since this time last year."

As the Balmoral Show 2023 opens its gates, organiser Rhonda Geary is a firm believer that it is about a lot more than farming and food.

"We've more than 600 trade stands for people to enjoy, a fantastic horticultural area," she says.

"There is something for everybody here.

"Last year we'd more than 120,000. We hope to hit that again and perhaps exceed it."

The show is a highlight of the agricultural calendar and the potential prize-winning animals will have been prepped and pampered for months in hopes of achieving a rosette.

"Our livestock entries have exceeded our expectations and we're delighted to have so many here," says Rhonda.

This is the 154th Balmoral Show and the third since it was cancelled in spring 2020 and 2021 because of the Covid-19 pandemic. A smaller event was held in September 2021.

There are more than 3,000 livestock entries across all classes and a new Makers' Market for crafters and artisan traders.

One category missing from the show once again this year is poultry because of bird flu restrictions.

A housing order that was in place was lifted too late for arrangements to be made for the classes to be included.

There will be just one flock from a single breeder on display.

"It's disappointing for the exhibitors but unfortunately the restrictions on the housing were still in place when our entries opened for this year's Balmoral Show," says Rhonda.

"But we have a fantastic display of poultry - we've more than 100 birds in our poultry marquee.

"And we've our egg classes and our rabbits and cavies [guinea pigs] all over in that area so still a really busy area and a lovely display."

Poultry breeder Robert McKibbin is providing birds for the display and he is looking forward to getting back to some form of showing.

"There's a social end to the whole thing, there's a lot of friends that we have met over the years and we don't actually see them from show to show," he says.

"You always had a bit of craic with them and now you don't see them at all or very rarely.

"When you're breeding lovely birds and you think: 'This bird could do very well in a show' but then there is no show, then that bird passes its best and you have to start all over again for the next year and hope for the best.

"You have to live in hope."

The show is taking place against a backdrop of increasing bovine tuberculosis (bTB) numbers.

Rates are at their highest in more than 20 years.

Former Ulster Farmers' Union president Victor Chestnutt said it had become the scourge of every livestock farmer in Northern Ireland.

Six years ago he lost his prize Belgian Blue cattle to the disease.

"We lost the best genetics in one fell swoop," he said.

Clougher Wilma and her sister Clougher Wendy went to slaughter, along with another cow.

Victor's main breeds on his north coast farm now are Charolais and Aberdeen Angus.

A Bovine TB strategy was announced in March 2022, including what then-minister Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots called a "limited" cull of badgers as a wildlife source of the disease.

A legal challenge to the plan has been launched.

The Balmoral Show runs from Wednesday 10 May to Saturday 13 May at the Eikon Centre near Lisburn.

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