Egg-eating calf and huge carrots vie for attention at Virginia Show

What should a prize cow have? ‘A big square rump, stylish legs and good udders’

Sisters Ruby (3) and Hannah Corcoran (6) with a one year-old goat at the Virginia Show, in Co Cavan. Photographer: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Sisters Ruby (3) and Hannah Corcoran (6) with a one year-old goat at the Virginia Show, in Co Cavan. Photographer: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times


When beauty queens are crowned they often get hysterical with the excitement but Ambrosia kept her cool when she was crowned the Diageo Baileys Irish Champion Cow at Virginia Show today.

But there were whispers that she refused to rise from her rest earlier to walk to the show ring. Like a true supermodel she stared disdainfully at the photographers as their whistled and cooed to get her to lift her ears.

Her owner Neal Pepper from Co Down bought her in England for £5,100. How much would she be worth after the win? “She’s priceless to me,” he said, patting her cheek. Ambrosia scooped it from under the noses of last year’s winner Ridgefield Dundee Portea and runner up Lulu who were placed second and third.

Lulu’s owner Seán Murphy was among the people who had appeared in the cows’ tent at 5am to wash their charges. The hairdryers were humming all morning and the smell of shampoo and tea tree oil hung in the air.

Men showed a flair for backcombing that would give Vidal Sassoon sleepless nights. “Between the grooming and the hairspray, this is like a Saturday night out for the cows,” said Mr Murphy. Although the cows stood to gain a lot more than any Saturday night reveller with a €10,000 prize fund up for grabs.

The decision rested on the broad shoulders of Canadian judge Lynden Bustard. What was he looking for? He rattled off about 20 specifications, many of which went over the head of the The Irish Times. But we did hear him mention a big square rump, stylish legs and good udders.

“We’re dealing with the beauty queens here,” he said. And where does he stand on the cosmetic touches such as the tail pieces? “It is nice to people making an effort, but you’d like to think you could see through things that have been touched up a bit.”

Beside the cows’ tent, a variety of hens, geese and ducks were squawking noisily. People peered through a gap in the closed tent as poultry judge Derek Pullein worked his way around the cages, awarding rosettes.

Ornamental hens, geese, ducks, laying pullets and bantam cocks vied to be the top bird but he singled out a barred wyandotte cockerel as the champion bird of the show. “He’s beautifully-shaped,” he said. “He’s well marked and well prepared and washed.”

Then the tent was opened and a stampede of poultry fanciers rushed in to see who won. People also queued at the home industries’ section while the judges prodded sponge cakes and tested jam for sugar content. The length of the carrots in the longest carrot class continued to astound. Show steward Kaye Duffy said she’d never seen the like of it. “They’re this size,” she said, throwing her arms wide. “It’s unnatural.”

And of course no show would be complete without an egg-eating calf. Pajo has become a YouTube sensation because of his talent for eating boiled eggs and apparently the BBC is interested in him.

The Simmental calf was decked out in a Monaghan jersey and hopes were high that he would be introduced to the other guest of honour - Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney - when he arrived to crown the winning cow.

The show attracted close to 15,000 people including 70 farmers from the UK and Holland who arrived as part of the Gathering. John Owen from Wales declared it an “excellent show”, on a par with Pembrokeshire or Anglesea. But of course they don’t have the egg-eating calf. “No,” he conceded. “We can’t match that.”

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