Demand from Hereford cattle breeders to exhibit at this year’s Balmoral Show more than exceeded the number of stalls made available to them by the Royal Ulster Agricultural Society (RUAS).

“This reflects the growth in pedigree cattle numbers on the ground in Northern Ireland at the present time,” UK Hereford breed president, David Smyth explained.

He added:

“There are currently 200 pedigree registered herds in Northern Ireland. We are the fastest growing region in the UK, where new registrations are concerned.”

Smyth went on to highlight the quality of Hereford cattle at Balmoral 2023.

Hereford champions at Balmoral

The breed champion and reserve were both exhibited by the McMordie family, from Newtownards in Co. Down. The respective animals were Solpoll 1 Wolf and Shancorpoll 1 Oll1 Uakea.

Smyth has worked closely with Hereford breeders at both a local and national level for many years.

His interest in Hereford cattle straddles two fundamental parameters. The first is an absolute passion for the heritage of the breed.

But more than this, David Smyth believes that Herefords can deliver a real solution for agriculture as the industry faces up to the challenge of climate change and the need to secure higher levels of sustainability.

He has represented Northern Ireland on the council of the Hereford Society for the past 12 years.

The Co. Down man has also been centrally involved with the Northern Ireland Hereford Breeders’ Association over a long period of time.

According to Smyth, the consumer-related benefits of Hereford beef and the need to drive up sustainability levels across agriculture as a whole, are fundamentally related issues.

Given the current climate, which sees farmers buying fertiliser and other inputs at extremely high prices, David Smyth believes strongly that the conditions are right to secure further inroads for Hereford cattle within the beef sector as a whole.

“The facts speak for themselves,” he stressed.

“Hereford cattle require less feed, grazed grass and silages to reach their finishing weights.”

Smyth is also very conscious that cattle prices in Northern Ireland are currently at record levels.

“But this is where they need to be,” he said.

“I would argue that they should be even higher. Fertiliser prices have doubled over the past 24 months. Feed prices have gone up three-fold in the same period while all the other costs incurred by farmers have increased significantly.

“As a result, beef producers need a significant hike in the cattle price, simply to keep their heads above water.”