When Geoffrey Ringland was starting his job as a compliance co-ordinator with Co Armagh transportation firm Morgan McLernon, one of the things agreed was that he would never have to work the week of Balmoral Show.
Geoffrey, a keen goat breeder, has been showing his animals at the show since 1993 with great success, and it’s a date firmly ring-fenced in his calendar.
In fact, since 1993 he hasn’t missed a show. Unfortunately, in 2001, foot-and-mouth disease and 2020, it was Covid-19, putting pay to those shows.
This year, because of coronavirus and in a break with tradition, the show is being held in September rather than the second week in May.
It will start this Wednesday, September 22 and run until Saturday.
As well as showing his own animals, Geoffrey has also sat on the council of the Royal Ulster Agricultural Society (RUAS) for the past five years, helping to organise the event.
Geoffrey, who got his first goat when he was 10, will be showing 14 animals this year, all British Saanen and Anglo-Nubians.
“We normally go to Balmoral with our goats freshly kidded in the springtime. The goats are naturally wanting to dry off now so therefore we have more young stock going this year,” he said.
“The animals will be judged on their conformation – the judges are looking for good feet, a generally sound animal that is going to go ahead and produce milk in the dairy herd.”
Geoffrey’s main aim is producing high milk yield goats for breeding, rather than selling the milk.
He said that for visitors, this week’s Balmoral show will be very similar to previous years, although this time round there will be no sheep classes, as “it’s the wrong time of year for sheep”.
Instead, there will be a display for each breed of sheep.
“The cattle numbers and horse numbers are great. There will be a really good show of them,” he added.
The Katesbridge man, who is married to Lorraine and has two daughters, also keeps beef cattle on his Co Down farm, and combines that with working four-and-a-half days for Morgan McLernon.
“I’m up early, to get the animals fed and everything done and try to be in the office for 9-ish,” he said. “I look after everything from insurance to drivers’ hours.”
Geoffrey will spend all of this week at the show, staying in a caravan on site.
“The goats will be penned up on Monday morning and will be there until Saturday night. We would normally go as a family but we are not taking the girls out of school this year as they have missed enough already with Covid,” he said.
“We are expecting a good turnout. There are a lot of people who have been looking forward to a day out. The staff at the Royal Ulster Agricultural Society have put in a lot of work to make it happen and keep it as normal as possible within the regulations.”
He reminded anyone who intends visiting the show that, due to Covid restrictions, they must pre-book and will also need proof that they are negative for COVID. All details can be found on the events website: https://www.balmoralshow.co.uk/covid-19-information.