After a year’s absence, the excitement was palpable around Carrick-on-Shannon at the weekend for the Midland and Western Livestock Improvement Society Winter Fair show and sale of commercial livestock.
Over the years, it has become the number one shop window and sales venue for commercial show stock.
It has grown to be a huge event, with over 450 entries entered in this year’s show on Sunday.
Most of these then headed to the sale ring on Monday, where auctioneers Francis McGowan, PJ Reynolds, Tom Cox and Eamon Gaffney put in a mammoth 13-hour shift, selling late into the night.
Laois farmer Sean Ramsbottom stole the show with his February 2021-born Limousin heifer.
She attracted a lot of interest in the pre-sale show and was tapped out first in the Limousin heifer calf class by well-known fatstock producer James Alexander from Randalstown, Co Antrim. She then went on to win the overall Limousin junior champion title on Sunday evening.
Sired by the Limousin bull Ampertaine Elgin and out of a Belgian Blue cow, she weighed 433kg.
She was opened at €10,000 and, after a bidding frenzy, was eventually hammered down at €18,000 to a three-way consortium including Kilkeel, Co Down-based fatstock producer Gareth Small of Strathearn Commercials.
The big money didn’t stop there, with the senior Limousin calf champion from Galway breeder Derek Forde also breaking records, the hammer dropping at €13,200 to another Northern Ireland purchaser.
Derek Forde sold three calves in the sale – for €9,800, €5,400 and €7,800 – totalling €23,000 and averaging €7,666/head.
The McGowan brothers from Leitrim also had a great day’s trading. They took home €9,800 for their junior reserve champion in the Limousin section. They averaged €5,250/head for four calves in the sale.
Mayo breeder Cyril Horan took home €6,900 for his Belgian Blue heifer sired by BB6010.
Clare breeder Martin Kileen took home €6,000 for his CSQ-sired Charolais heifer.
Commenting on the sale, auctioneer Francis McGowan said: “I [have] never seen a trade like it to be honest. It was electric right from the beginning. It’s a great boost to breeders who put a huge amount of work into breeding these types of cattle and it’s great for them to get rewarded for doing that.
“I have been selling animals here since 1996 and that’s the most expensive animal I have ever sold. It was great to be a part of that.”
What’s driving demand?
It’s a serious vote of confidence for Irish breeding to see the prices paid for commercial cattle in Carrick-on-Shannon on Monday.
Another point to note is the age profile of both exhibitors and buyers at the sale, with the majority being young men and women.
There is a renewed confidence across the sector about shows going ahead in 2022 and people want to have the top cattle when summer 2022 comes around.
COVID-19 has changed a lot of things for young generations and no nightlife has meant there is extra money floating around to spend on show cattle. As the saying goes, it’s an ill wind that doesn’t blow some good.