Balmoral Show is synonymous with livestock competitions and for many visitors, the cattle lawn always showcases the best genetics from pedigree herds across Northern Ireland.

Competing in the British Blue cattle classes is the Knockagh herd, owned by the father and daughter team of Jim and Laura Ervine from Newtownabbey.

The Ervine family are renowned for breeding top class stock and are regular exhibitors at Balmoral, as well as the summer show circuit across the province.

The Irish Farmers Journal caught up with Laura to hear about preparations and hopes for this year’s show.

What is the background to the Knockagh British Blue herd?

The herd was established in 1998 with the purchase of two maiden heifers in Carlisle. Once the heifers arrived home, we started a flushing programme.

We took embryos from both animals, and built up numbers from there.

Our focus is on having a smaller number of proven bloodlines that will consistently produce top quality breeding stock and show cattle for sale.

We have six pedigree Blue cows that are regularly flushed. Embryos are implanted in Angus and Hereford cross heifers which are bought in specifically to be recipients. We also run a suckler herd of 50 cows separately from the pedigree cattle.

Over the years, we have built up a good base of customers, selling bulls to suckler and dairy herds, breeding heifers to commercial, pedigree and show herds, as well as embryos to other breeders.

How long have you been showing cattle?

We have been showing cattle for 22 years and have attended Balmoral Show almost every year. Outside of Balmoral, we support most shows held across Northern Ireland.

Showing cattle is something we enjoy doing and you have to like it to keep going. It takes a lot of work, but there is great satisfaction seeing your animals on show and getting recognition.

We have made a lot of friends from showing cattle, and it is a great way to get away from the farm for a day and socialise. Showing cattle is also about getting your name out there and letting buyers see what cattle you have for sale. We get a lot of enquiries that turn into sales, which makes it worthwhile.

What is your show team for Balmoral 2024?

This year, we have two British Blue bulls entered with one in the junior classes and the other in the senior class.

There is also one heifer entered in the junior classes.

All three animals are homebred.

As well as showing pedigree animals, we produce commercial show cattle and have two animals entered for Balmoral.

We normally select show animals when they are young.

You get a good idea of show potential when cattle are still calves.

Preparations started back in January with halter training and feeding. Bulls get used to washing and clipping closer to the show.

Who is involved on show day?

It is a team effort to get animals ready for Balmoral between dad, my partner Stephen and myself. Stephen does a lot of the clipping and dressing animals with Dad and myself usually leading cattle in the show ring.

Have you any stand out moments from showing cattle?

Yes, there have been plenty of high points going back to 2004 when we won our first supreme champion British Blue title at Balmoral.

More recently in 2022, Knockagh Rihanna was junior champion at Balmoral and went on to win supreme champion at Antrim Show as well as the heifer derby.

Another highlight came in autumn 2022 when Knockagh Perky won supreme champion at the UK premier British Blue show and sale in Carlisle.

We also won British Blue show herd in the same year.

What advice would give someone starting to show cattle?

First thing is to be patient. Don’t give up just because you are not winning prizes on your first few outings. Keep going and you’ll get there.

Also, you have to enjoy showing cattle as it takes a lot of time and effort to get animals looking their best.

Look for show potential in animals as calves. The earlier you can select show animals, the better.

Finally, ask other breeders for advice when starting out.

Ask for tips on clipping or leading animals.

I have always found that breeders will always give help to others, especially to people starting out.

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