The sheep inter-breed championship at last weekend’s Castlewellan Show was won by Orla and Patrick Grant, from Kilcoo in Co. Down with a hogget ewe.

Archie McGregor, from Stirling in Scotland, judged the sheep classes at Castlewellan.

He described his champion as an excellent example of what is still a relatively new breed to Ireland.

McGregor also confirmed the elite quality of the sheep entered for Castlewellan 2023, across the board.

As the name suggests, Dutch Spotted sheep hail from the Netherlands. They are a naturally polled (hornless) breed and consistently colour-mark their progeny, even in crossbreeding scenarios.  

Dutch Spotted sheep are multi-purpose animals, being of equal value in both hill and lowland situations.

When used with a terminal sire, they produce lambs with an exceptionally high kill-out percentage. The quality of the meat is also excellent.  

Castlewellan Show
Castlewellan Show 2023. Image: Lee Maginnis

Castlewellan Show

As is traditional at the Co. Down venue, Castlewellan was marked by a tremendous turnout of top-quality livestock.

The supreme beef inter-breed championship was won by the Rodgers family, from Dromara, with an elite five-year-old Blonde d’Aquitaine cow with a seven-month-old calf at foot.

Former Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) president and pedigree livestock breeder, Victor Chestnutt, judged the beef inter-breed classes at Castlewellan.

Castlewellan Show 2023. Image: Lee Maginnis

The north Antrim man confirmed that he had selected his champion as soon as she entered the ring.

“She is an excellent animal example of the breed – fantastic conformation and great locomotion. But the presence of the calf also confirmed that she is a working cow. And this is what cattle breeding is all about,” he said.

The Rodgers family has been breeding Blonde d’Aquitaine cattle for the past 30 years.

The beef inter-breed champion at Castlewellan Show 2023

Chestnutt used his presence at Castlewellan to highlight the importance of agriculture to the wider economy.

“Northern Ireland is home to 1.8 million people, yet our farming and food sectors are feeding the equivalent of 10 million people around the world on a daily basis,” he said.

“This represents a tremendous level of performance, which we can build on for the future. There is nothing to stop our farmers from producing more food while still meeting their climate change obligations.”

Turning specifically to beef, Chestnutt highlighted the role that local restaurants can play in supporting Northern Ireland’s livestock sector.

“I know that most of our catering outlets work with processers based here in Northern Ireland,” he added.

“But they should go that extra mile and ensure that the beef they actually procure comes from local farms.”