Vote of confidence for more mature ladies as oldest cow takes top prize at Virginia Show

Show watched on the internet by Cavan emigrants

Brendan Greenan from Monaghan preparing a Holstein Friesian calf for judging at the Virgina Show. Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

Brendan Greenan from Monaghan preparing a Holstein Friesian calf for judging at the Virgina Show. Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times


Sean O’Connell took in all the sights of Virginia Show yesterday. He saw his father stewarding in the horse ring. He watched the cattle breeds being put through their paces. Judges peered into the mouths of sheep and crowds gathered around to see dogs scampering up ramps in the agility class.

The Cavan emigrant did this from the comfort of his home in Adelaide, Australia. The show was streamed live on its website for the first time and was a big hit with Cavan emigrants pining for a taste of home.

And there’s no greater taste of home than Virginia Show where children enter their neatest handwriting, women showcase their best boxty and the humble marrow makes its annual appearance. All this happens as judges select the champion Aberdeen Angus bull and top Simmental heifer.

But the virtual visitors missed out on the sights and smells of the shed where the prima donnas of the bovine world were being primped for the €10,000 Diageo Bailey’s Champion Dairy Cow of the Year contest. The dressing rooms at the Miss World contest wouldn’t compete with the preparations for this contest for the super-elite of the Holstein Friesian breed. Clip-on tail extensions were hanging on a rail, hairdryers were going at full throttle and beauty parlour smells hung in the air.

Grooming products

There are grooming products for cows but John Dowling said he preferred to use the ones aimed at ladies. “When it comes to the conditioners, the shampoos, the hairsprays, we find the human ones are the best ones,” he said. “It’s because they’re worth it.”

The Dubliner was preparing to show his cow Pavime Frisky and was slightly anxious as he had just been handed his class number – 13. His cow was a sprightly five-year-old but he feared the judge might opt for an older cow with many calves to her credit. “Some judges like the more senior cows. It’s the cow that the judge wants to bring home that will win it.”

Meanwhile, a dungaree-clad Denis O’Neill was spraying the hair along the backbone of a cow with a finesse that would put Trevor Sorbie to shame.

She raised her tail slightly and a bucket appeared out of nowhere seconds before she relieved herself. There is no haphazard urination allowed before competition here.

“You could call them the Marilyn Monroes of the cow world,” said Declan Hynes who was watching the work with admiration. The cow being primped by O’Neill was Glaslough Miss Petra, owned by David Boyd. There were no Daisys or Berthas in this shed. Instead Kilwarden Evolve Barbie swished her tail alongside Monamore Sevens Frauline and Ballythomas Adolph Mia.

The naming convention is complicated, according to Dowling. Farmers like to include their herd name if possible, and perhaps get in a mention of the sire, which could lead to very convoluted names. Try calling Rockfield Drake G Murial in for milking.

Lucky number

Judge Brian Miller from Somerset called in the winning cows. Thirteen was lucky for Dowling who took third prize, while O’Neill’s hair-drying skills helped win the reserve champion prize for Glaslough Miss Petra. But in a vote of confidence for all mature ladies, the contest was won by the oldest cow, Dalevalley OTI J Lulu. Her owner, Cork man Sean Murphy, said the nine-year-old had seven calves to her credit. “She’s the queen bee,” he added.