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Minister Smith presents the Bailey Cow Competition Cup at Virginia Agricultural Show, Co. Cavan

Mr. Brendan Smith T.D., Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture and Food attended the Virginia Agricultural Show where he presented the prestigious trophy to Cyril Dowling of Baldonnel, Co Dublin, who once again was the winner of the Baileys Cow Competition.

Minister Smith welcomed the generous sponsorship by Glanbia Ingredients, Virginia and Baileys for the Baileys Irish Champion Dairy Cow competition. This competition, now in its 23rd year, is recognised internationally as being a showpiece for top class dairy animals. He went on to say that the competition was the first to recognise the importance of both production and type traits in dairy cows.

Minister Smith stated that cattle breeding has become an international business and is increasingly commercially driven. He added that genetic improvement will deliver increased profitability to the farmer and quality raw material to the processing and food industries. Experience in many countries has shown that the most effective way of achieving genetic progress in the national herd is through a comprehensive co-ordinated national breeding programme in which all sections of the cattle breeding industry participate. Minister Smith said that the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation, or ICBF as it is widely known, is making great strides in providing all players in the industry with the information necessary to achieve the greatest possible genetic improvement in the national cattle herd for the benefit of Irish Farmers, the Dairy and Beef industries and its member organisations.

Minister Smith said that the production of quality cattle is dependent on a viable national suckler cow herd. He outlined how this has been highlighted as a priority in the Department of Agriculture and Food's 'AgriVision 2015' document and that new measures to ensure that the suckler cow continues to play its key role will be implemented in the future.

Minister Smith acknowledged that events such as Virginia Show do not happen without a lot of hard work and much of the success of Virginia Show can be attributed to the very committed and energetic committee involved under the Presidency of Mr Ned Duffy and he congratulated the Committee for their enthusiasm and effort. The fact that huge crowds attended the Show today is testament to the great job done by Ned and his team.

Given the large attendance of horse and pony exhibitors at the show, the Minister also outlined the details of the government's package of financial measures to assist horse owners. Where horses are subject to movement restrictions and consequently are required to undergo a programme of Department-determined tests for Equine Infectious Anaemia a State contribution of €50 will apply for each visit by a veterinarian to take blood samples from horses that are subject to movement restrictions and, a payment to the Irish Equine Centre (IEC) for the cost of analysing the sample. It is intended that this package will greatly ease the burden on those horse-owners whose horses are required to complete a programme of testing for EIA.

The Minister emphasized that the restricting and testing of horses that have been in-contact with earlier confirmed cases was the central element of the Department's approach to containing and eradicating this disease and, despite any inconvenience caused, this had to be the Department's primary objective at all times.

In conclusion, he took the opportunity of congratulating all the competitors and winners at the show and in particular the winner of the Baileys Cow Competition Cyril Dowling from Baldonnel, Co Dublin.

24 August, 2006

Date Released: 24 August 2006