There is a lot of strong support in Northern Ireland to teach young handlers how to show livestock properly. Chris McCullough catted to pig young handler, Samara Radcliffe about her successes in the show ring.

Tell me about your family and the farm?

My name is Samara Radcliffe and I am 16 years old. My dad Brian, mum Sharon, and I farm beef, sheep and pigs on our farm just outside Banbridge, Co Down, in Northern Ireland. I am the fourth generation continuing on the family farm.

How did you get into showing livestock?

When I was five, my mum and dad took me to one of our local county shows where we met a friend of dads who asked had I seen all the animals. I hadn’t seen any pigs so I told my parents I wanted to go see the pigs.

I had a go at showing in the novice young handlers’ class and that was me hooked. On the way home I told dad I wanted a pig for my birthday.

He got me two to keep for the summer but when they disappeared I didn’t understand what happened to them, even though our freezer was suddenly very full.

Do you have a favourite animal?

When my sixth birthday came, I didn’t want piglets anymore and wanted my own sow, but she had to be in pig. So, true to dad’s word, he bought me a British Saddleback sow which was in the family way.

A couple of months later she had her piglets and I kept one of the gilts from that litter, which I named Winter. I took Winter out into the field at the side of my house to train her to walk properly with the board and stick.

One day I think she just had enough after being out for about 10 minutes and pushed her way between my legs. She picked me up on to her back so I was riding her like she was a horse.

She walked down to the gate with me on her back to where mum was calling her, stopped dead in her tracks, turned round and looked up at me as if to say ‘enough is enough, I’m going home.’ I loved her to bits, she was my baby.

What is so good about the breed?

I love rare breeds and I especially like British Saddlebacks because they are kind and docile. I also admire them for their parenting skills and they make really good mothers.

What was the first show you went to?

The first one was the local Armagh County Show and I have visited many more since then.

When did you start showing animals?

From the age of six I have taken part in all the local agriculture shows that host pig classes at them.

The crème de la crème here in Northern Ireland is the Royal Ulster Agricultural Society’s Balmoral Show. However, to show pigs at Balmoral you must be nine years or older.

So obviously, once I hit nine years old, that was me all set for the big one. I am a member of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust, the British Pig Association and the British Saddleback Breeders Club. To show my breed competitively, you must be a member of these organisations.

What’s the first show you have attended this year?

Due to the pandemic, the only show that went ahead for us this year was the Balmoral Show, in September. Balmoral Show has to be my favourite of them all.

What is your favourite thing about showing?

Meeting people you haven’t seen for a while and the craic between all the competitors.

What has been the biggest success of your show career so far?

Over my years of showing, I have won numerous awards, including show champions, reserve champions, young handler champions and numerous first and second places.

My biggest success so far I have to say would be when I first won Pig of the Year (NI) and this year at Balmoral Show when I won supreme champion of traditional breeds, the pig inter-breed reserve champion and the overall young handler title.

Is there anything you don’t like about showing?

Nope, I enjoy all aspects of showing.

Have you had any disappointments when showing?

Well, not being able to show over the last one to one and a half years due to the Covid-19 pandemic has been a major disappointment.

Who would you say you look up to in the showing world?

Brian King, of Laymore, as he has continuously encouraged me to carry on showing, breeding and preserving my breed.

What is the best bit of showing advice that sticks in your mind?

Remember to walk the pig in a clockwise direction and stand on the left hand side when showing.

How do you spend your spare time?

I am currently an active member of my local Annaclone and Magherally YFC where I hold the position of public relations officer. The rest of the time is spent on the farm looking after my sheep and pigs and my Border collie, Meg.

What are your plans for the future?

I would like to work in an allied health profession, whilst continuing working on the family farm.

Do you have any advice for other young people trying to get in to showing?

It would be amazing to see more young people get involved in young handler competitions. If anyone out there would like to give it a go, when visiting any of the local agricultural shows why not stop by the pig ring and try your hand.

Remember to walk the pig in a clockwise direction and always stand on the left hand side.