Northern Ireland's iconic agricultural event will be celebrating its 151st year later this month – and it has a new president in charge.

The now four-day event takes place at Balmoral Park, Lisburn, from May 15 to 18 2019 and already more than 650 trade stands have signed up to be there, plus, as usual, the very best of livestock from the province – with Scottish judges again to the fore.

With close to 3500 entries across 712 classes, judging the show’s livestock will be quite a task. One of those with probably the most demanding job of all will be Roderick Runciman, from Selkirk, who will officiate in the sheep section as the inter-breed overall judge.

A SCOTTISH Borders sheep breeder is amongst the top flight being asked to judge at this year’s Balmoral Show, which takes place at Balmoral Park, near Lisburn, from May 15-18.

With close to 3500 entries across 712 classes, the organisers, the Royal Ulster Agricultural Society, has selected judges from across Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales to place the top quality livestock competing at the show.

In the sheep section, the inter-breed championship will be judged by Roderick Runciman, from Allanshaws, Galashiels, who is a well-known breeder of Cheviot sheep, having previously been a winner of the overall title at the Royal Highland Show.

RHASS chairman, Jimmy Warnock, will be in action, too, placing the inter-breed pairs of ewe and ram lambs, gimmers and rams.

The dairy cattle inter-breeds will see Meurig James, from Telford, put his experience as the head classifier for Holstein UK to good use, while the task of selecting the overall beef champion will be in the hands of Danny Wyllie, from Staffordshire, who will also place the junior championships.

Judging the goats will be Terry Hanna, from Co Down, while Jeremy Barber, from Somerset, will oversee the pigs this year.

There will be 27 horse and pony sections in 2019 and within the Connemara section there is a qualifier class for the Clifden High Performance Final as selected by Gill Glynn, from Dublin, and Tony Ennis, from Co Offaly.

Scottish judges are scattered throughout the breeds, too, with two of the show’s biggest sections, for Limousin cattle and Texel sheep, featuring judges from across the water.

Dougie McBeath, from Stirling, will choose the Limousin ticket takers, while Robbie Wilson, from Turriff, will select the top Texels.

Other Scottish judges:

Clydesdales Peter Keron, Perthshire;

Blue Texel David Alexander, Galston, Ayrshire;

Bluefaced Leicester and Mules Clark Lamont, Crocketford, Dumfries;

Border Leicester Alex Watson, Muthill, Crieff;

Lanark-type Blackface Alan Blackwood, Auldhouseburn, Muirkirk, Ayrshire;

Perth-type Blackface and Greyface John Shearer, Hillhead of Morinsh, Glenlivet;

Charolais Matthew Milne, Lhanbryde, Elgin;

Commercial cattle Mark Robertson, Fodderletter, Tomintoul;

Salers Patrick Boyd, Drumaglea, Isle of Tiree;

Ayrshire Robin Templeton, Ayrshire.

* Back for the 2019 show will be the return of the 'Best dressed competition' for country ladies and gents on the Saturday of the show.

* The Eikon Shopping Village has a wide array of products to browse, from ladies clothing to homeware and more; while the FSB Business Pavilion provides a platform for agri-related businesses to network over the four days.

* Country music fans will like the Downtown Show Stage, which will be home to impressive musical acts including, Derek Ryan, Ireland’s Garth Brooks; Jason Hughes; The Ennis Brothers; and more.

* The Young Farmer’s Clubs of Ulster will host a number of initiatives, including a tractor handling display, the ever popular tug-of-war contest and the floral art competition.

* The Horticulture Area's highlights include CAFRE’s marquee which showcases career prospects within the horticultural industry, while the 'Growers Marquee' houses local growers of fruit, vegetables and cut flowers and the 'Tasting Theatre' focuses on supplying visitors with simple and healthy dishes centred on local fruit and vegetables.


New president elected

Billy Martin has been elected as the new president of the Royal Ulster Agricultural Society and one of his first official duties will be to preside over the 2019 show.

From Greyabbey, Newtownards, he is a partner in the family farm, which comprises primarily of sheep and willow production.

Billy has been a member of the RUAS council since 1973 and has served on the sheep, sheep shearing and works committees, but his dedication to the industry extends beyond his involvement with the society.

He was president of the Young Farmers Clubs of Ulster from 1975-1977 and the president of Ulster Farmers Union from 1985-1986. Billy has also been a board member of the Livestock Marketing Commission, chairman of Family Farm Development, a board member of AI Services and chairman of Carrowdore Show.

He said: ‘‘Our agri-food industry is the backbone of the Northern Ireland economy and the Royal Ulster Agricultural Society will endeavour to promote it in the challenges ahead.’’

Visitors to this year’s Balmoral will be able to enjoy food and drink which contributed to Northern Ireland being acclaimed as the 'World’s best food destination' at the prestigious World Travel Trade Awards, in London, last November.

Northern Ireland came out on top in the international competition. The important global award recognized the success of Northern Ireland’s Year of Food and Drink, an initiative delivered by Food NI.

Thousands of quality products will be showcased by upwards of 100 participants in the Food NI Pavilion.