EYBS Belgium 2011

(European Young Breeders School)





Class Winners: Paul Murphy, Rachel White and Emma Behan

Catriona Neville – 2nd place

Ashling Fortune – 3rd place

Paraic Murphy – 5th place

Paul Daly – 7th place


European Champion Handler: Emma Behan.


Class winners:

Rachel White and Emma Behan

Paul Daly – 3rd place

Paul Murphy – 6th place

Ashling Fortune and Paraic Murphy – 7th place

Catriona Neville – 8th place

Honorable Mention Calf: Emma Behan

Overall Points System: (out of 150 people)

Paul Murphy U16 overall winner


Paul Murphy – 8th place overall 

Rachel White – 6th place overall

Emma Behan – 4th place overall



After another year of successful local shows, stock judging and our national YMA show it was time for the European Young Breeders School in Belgium. The Irish team this year consisted of Emma Behan (Kildare), Aisling Fortune (Slaney), Paraic Murphy (Carlow/Kilkenny), Paul Murphy and Rachel White (Cork), Caitriona Neville (Limerick) and Paul Daly of the North Eastern Club. Having only two team members who had competed in Belgium before, most of us had no clue what we were letting ourselves in for! But rest assured we knew we’d survive with the very experienced team leader Kevin Behan.

Our five day trip started on Tuesday the 30th of September when we met up in Dublin, in preparation for our 7 o’clock flight the next morning. After the bottles of Baileys were distributed, for the gastronomical evening of course not our own use! We all settled down for what we knew would be our last night of decent sleep for the week.

We arrived in Battice some time after eleven, walking in late to the welcome, but that’s nothing new for the Irish team, in fact it was practically early running on west Cork time!

We were each given a folder outlining our programme, leaders and workshop material for the five days. The week included practical workshops on everything from washing and clipping to showmanship. We also had theory workshops on marketing your herd and judging animals in both show situation and on farm classifications. These theory workshops involved a small teistí which were marked and our scores added to our overall mark for the competition. The marketing workshop was held by Holstein Quebec who kindly gave out goodie bags to the students at the top of the class. Rachel being the lucky winner from Ireland!

All this plus training your calf and a farm visit before the two show days on Saturday and Sunday. From a quick glance at the programmes one thing was for sure: it was going to be one long week, but we were going to learn more than we had ever learnt before. There was no doubting it was going to be a hard weeks work, (probably more so than some of our team members had ever done in their lives!) but it was defiantly an interesting, rewarding and, most importantly, fun week too.

After receiving our folders and being introduced to our leaders for the week, we made our way into the team (a bit apprehensively) to see our calves for the week. It must be said we had a slightly troublesome bunch this year, between needed an extra larger calf for one of the team, a very “flighty” heifer for Aisling and a yearling with a fondness for dealing out kicks whenever she felt like it, we had our hand full!! Not to be ones for self pity, we quickly launched into the job of washing and bedding. After a quick workshop on those two areas the team split up with Emma and Aisling left making the pack and the rest of us getting our hands dirty washing. After almost two hours of scrubbing we decided the calves were clean enough and were returned to the pack just in time for our next workshop; feeding and show routine. We were advised by the leaders to feed and water every 12 hours to get the calves into a routine, with fresh hay available at all times. The water rule had to be slightly adjusted for Friday and Saturday with a temperature of 26° leaving us with very thirsty calves!

The 120 participants were broken up into three groups for the workshops: English, German and French speaking countries. The English speaking group were mentored by Michael Halliwell from England who would be a familiar face having judged the YMA Nationals a few years ago, and Jaume Serrabassa from Barcelona, Spain. We could not have been luckier with our mentors as they were happy to help with anything and were always up for a bit of Irish banter too! Another great aspect to meeting these mentors is the international bonds you form. Jaume has invited an Irish team to visit Spain for their international handler show sometime in the future which would be another great experience and trip to go on! Not to mention the very nice Danish lads we got talking to. And of course we’ll expect them all to be back for our own Emerald Expo after Kevin’s extensive campaigning and clever distribution of the coveted Baileys!

Our first night we were let off very easily at five o clock to meet with our host families. The lack of English/French made for some comical charades games, not everyone was lucky enough to have a 19 year old daughter in the house that had lived in Texas for a year on exchange! But with the language barriers aside we really could not be more grateful for the efforts the families put in on our stay, dropping us and collecting us from the show at all hours of the day and night, supporting us in the classes and even bringing some of us parting gifts of traditional Belgian food on our last day! We could not have managed without them and they will be friends we keep for many years.


We should have known better than to thing we were getting off easy on the Wednesday night, as our four a.m. start Thursday morning let us know exactly what we were in for for the week! The team split up again, washing and bedding, and by the time we were finished our second wash we began to see the potential in our calves. And what we saw looked promising enough! Being the highly organised and efficient team that we are, we had all our calves washed and fed before some teams had even started. Which left a lot of time for us to make ourselves look busy! With the stand to prepare and different things to get ready, it was easy to fill the time! We just managed to squeeze in a bite of breakfast before the morning workshop started. A very detailed clipping and handling demonstration prepared us well for the next job at hand: getting ready for show day! Our next workshop didn’t allow any time for resting. Our stock judging and classification workshop taught us exactly what to look for in a good animal before we had to put our teaching into practise on a nearby farm. Here we judged five groups of different aged animals and one class on estimating how many hours should be put up on an udder before show time. This was a very interesting class and something completely different from and of our judging at home. We arrived back to the show with about two hours to take care of our calves and eat before our final workshops that night. After a long days work, the workshops were not very welcome and it was a struggle for some to keep awake! By 10 o’clock that night we were all glad to get “home” to our showers and beds.

We had a great luxury the Friday morning of an extra half hour in bed before we got into the washing, bedding and feeding routine again. This was followed by our final theory workshop on marketing your herd, free pens and LOTS of them seemed to be the main message there! And more clipping and showmanship workshops where we were pretty much left to work away on our own devices, with Mike and Jaume close at hand to help out. Although they may have been feeling sorry for helping after leaving the Irish clipping bay sporting a lovely bruise courtesy of our kicking yearling! We were slightly under pressure to get all the calves clipped before the show the next morning and most of us managed to plough through the clipping. One team member was being very careful with their clipping though and took roughly SIX hours to clip their heifer, but we won’t name names! With the exception of Emma, none of us had much clipping experience so we did well over all to get them finished that night in preparation for the show Saturday.

With the clipping finished, the calves were washed again to minimise work the next morning. With the pack remade and the stand prepared for the next day, the lucky ones headed home, with Paraic and Emma staying on for the night shift. Suddenly Kevin’s small, dusty tent started looking very appealing!

Another early start Saturday morning to make sure we got the calves cleaned and top lines set in time for the show. Here was where Kevin’s experience was vital! Time was short and the amount to do fairly massive, but with the constant encouragement and the odd “Ah would ye come on ye feckers!” (Said in the most loving way possible!) We managed to have everyone ready for their classes in time. Kevin was also full of ideas to win brownie points with the judges. With no time for breakfast, some of the girls were sent down to the food tent to make sandwiches for the team, right next to where the judges were sitting, and there were great comments made about our “lovely teamwork”, result!

We got off to a fantastic start with Paul Murphy and Rachel both winning their classes. We had a busy, and very competitive third class with Emma, Caitriona and Paul Daly all taking part. Continuing our winning streak Emma placed 1st with Caitriona a close 2nd and Paul keeping us in their with a 5th. We had a few classes to catch our breath and make excited calls home before Aisling and Paraic competed, they continued our great results finishing 3rd and 5th respectively. Ensuring all our handlers were in the top ten of every class, a fair accomplishment!

This made for a very busy championship with four Irish handlers taking part. Not a bad thing to be complaining about! Paul and Emma were pulled into the top six line up, leaving the rest of us waiting with baited breath. The judge made his way, painfully slowly, up and down the line up before returning to Emma and tapping her out as his Champion Handler! This led to rapturous applause and the loudest cheers a team of six plus Kevin could make! Through the judges reasons and pictures after you couldn’t wipe the smiles off our faces, what a day! And no one prouder than daddy Kevin, who after 12 years of travelling to Belgium, got to celebrate an amazing win with his exceptionally talented daughter.

The celebrations set off big time that night with the European Gastronomical Tour. Every country had native dishes and drinks to share out with the competitors and the host families. The Irish stand proved very popular once world got out of Kevin’s Baileys and baby Guinness’s! The English lads especially helped make sure there was none left over! A great night was had by all and was well deserved after such a successful day. But we were all well aware of the final day ahead of us and eventually the festivities were wrapped up as we all headed home, with Caitriona and Paul M staying on for night duty.

Sunday morning was hectic to put it mildly! With the majority of our calves in the first few classes top lines were blown up in record time and cans of black magic were “borrowed” from a few countries when our own ran out. Somehow the calves seemed to know that today was the day to shine and they all filled out brilliantly resulting in Emma and Rachel’s calves winning their classes. And Emma’s calf receiving honourable mention, continuing our successful streak!

The calf classes were followed by a stock judging competition of a class of young cows. Some of us got a chance to redeem ourselves after not so great results in the heifer stock judging the day before!

Finally the moment we had all been waiting for: the overall results, this combined our clipping, workshop, handling, calf classes, stock judging and team participation scores. Spirits were high and it took a bit of organising to get us all ready for the Grand Parade around the ring and group photos. It was undoubtedly one of the most successful years Ireland have ever had will Caitriona placing 16th, Paul Murphy 8th, Rachel 6th and Emma 4th out of a staggering 120 participants! Paul also won the Under 16 overall competition. What an amazing way to finish off the competition. It made all the late nights, early mornings, hard work and bruises well worth it. Well almost anyway! We couldn’t have been more chuffed with ourselves but it was also nice to see when we got home that others had recognised our success too. The EYBS official website noted Ireland and the UK’S great results:

Ireland and United Kingdom: a big hit!

Competition is hard and teams are all talented. A lot of them already are made of a national selection of very experienced young breeders, such as United Kingdom and Ireland, two lands that are a big hit, having each 3 young breeders in the top 10. But the big winner definitively is Ireland with the prize of the best breeder younger than 16 given to Paul Murphy and the prize of the best leader given to Emma Behan (17). Her dad, Kevin Behan, who’s been accompanying the Irish teams for 12 years, can be very proud!

As was the high entry of female participants with half the entrants being female, not only were the girls competing, but we were winning too! With Emma winning Champion Handler, Cindy Jaton of Quebec winning the overall competition, and Chiara Gorlani (Italy) winning the stock judging! In fact 14 out of the top 20 were girls, not bad for the “weaker” sex now is it?!


It was an absolutely amazing week and even though it wasn’t the easiest week of our lives, I’m sure we would all love to go back and do it again. We made great friends with the other countries; especially Finland isn’t that right Paulina?! Learnt so many new things and had the best craic ever. Who could forget Caitriona’s great plan to get the UK lads to help her throw Emma into the water trough, which ended up in her going in head first as well!

One thing is for sure, it would most defiantly not have been possible with out our brilliant team leader Kevin. After 12 years of travelling to Belgium he knows all the tricks of the trade, (we managed to keep the sweet basket full until Sunday!) and can get everything done as needs be and kept us in stitches all week long! And besides who else would have put up with us?! Thanks so much Kevin and God help whoever will be landed with the job after you!

Rachel White.

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