Celebrating Irish livestock at the AIB National Livestock Show in Tullamore

John Barry Moran and family with the winning cow at the AIB National Livestock Show in Tullamore.

ACROSS the country, preparation for the AIB National Livestock Show starts before dawn breaks. With over 60,000 people making the journey to the show’s site in Tullamore, competitors are keen to ensure nothing is left to chance as they seek to acquire the much coveted Gold medal.

In Thurles, County Tipperary, the Ryan family begin work from 2.30 a.m. getting their herd of pedigree Charolais ready to compete in this year’s show at Butterfield Estate. An early start, but it pays off for the dedicated family, as the Ryans take home the top place in the prestigious AIB National Livestock Show Charolais Champion category.

A full-time vet, Marie-Louise Ryan, says of the victory: “It validates all the hard work we put in every year. This is the one to win, so we’re delighted.” Passionate about showing livestock breeds since her childhood, Marie-Louise says success at the show comes after careful preparation.

“The main thing is to get a calf. If you don’t have a calf, you don’t have a show-cow. You have to get them halter-trained and it all goes from there.”Joined by family and friends showing cattle at Sunday’s show, she says breeding award-winners is rewarding.

“There is an understanding you develop with animals when you start training them. At first you develop a bond with them. You understand them and they understand you. We’ve been showing everything since I was a child. We were always trucking around the place. It’s something we do every weekend.”

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Across the show-grounds Blonde d'Aquitaine Breeder, John Barry Moran, is also celebrating. Last year’s winner of the AIB National Livestock Show Blonde d'Aquitaine Champion prize, the Athlone native has returned to the show with 8 pedigree cattle and scoops the Reserve AIB National Livestock Show Blonde d'Aquitaine Champion prize with Broccagh Iris.

John Barry (Main picture with family), who shared his show preparation with AIB ahead of competing, says of the prize: “It’s the second highest place in the blonde categories so it’s a great achievement and we’re delighted. It means your quality is good and you’re breeding fairly consistently.”

With celebrations in order after this year’s show, the Westmeath native has his sights set on next year’s show already.

“We’re thinking about this heifer again for next year. The judge said next year she should do well, she will be a great heifer. Hopefully all going well, we’ll be back next year,” John Barry adds.

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Along with John Barry, Kilkenny native Christy Comerford also shared his preparation for the show with AIB earlier this month. Cheered on by his wife Marguerite and daughters Colette, Cynthia and Christine on Sunday, Christy took home a third place rosette in the Charolais category.

“Anytime you get a rosette in a show it’s nice, and it’s sweeter to get one here. You’re up against the best in the country,” he says of the prize. “This heifer came third and next year I’m hoping she’ll come in first. We’ll do better next year with her, she has to grow out and develop. I brought her to give her a day out at the AIB National Livestock Show and train her and hopefully she’ll do the business next year.”

An annual event, the show features the best of Irish livestock, along with artisan producers, fashion events and craftwork exhibits. Popular with families across the country, the show recorded its highest attendance yet on Sunday.

Anticipated by farmers and spectators alike, Dr Anne Finnegan, Head of Agri Sector at AIB says the show is a showcase for the livestock farmers and wider agri industry: “The AIB National Livestock Show brings together all of what’s good and important about Irish agriculture. What you see on display here today is the crème de la crème of Irish beef.”

“Agriculture is one of our key SME sectors in AIB and one we’ve been involved with over many decades. We’ve a dedicated agri advisor team since the early 1970s to support farmers within the bank.

“We’re the largest lender to Irish agriculture. In AIB, we see our role as getting as close to the Irish agricultural community as we can, to understand their needs, the opportunities and challenges they are facing and to support farmers through the fullness of the cycle. “

To find out more on how AIB is backing farmers visit our dedicated Agri Business page.