The Royal Ulster Winter Fair enters its fourth decade next week as the 31st Winter Fair in association with Danske Bank takes place at the Eikon Exhibition Centre, at Balmoral Park, near Lisburn.
Farmers from across Northern Ireland will be travelling to the showgrounds at the Maze for the one-day event on Thursday next, December 8.
Regarded as the premier event in the national dairy calendar, it provides an opportunity for farmers, exhibitors and industry specialists while in the showring, there will be keen competition as quality livestock from Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland compete for the coveted title of Supreme Champion. 
Danske Bank have sponsored the event since its inception in 1986 and John Henning, Head of Agricultural Relations at Danske Bank commented: “Our sole sponsorship of the Winter Fair now enters a fourth decade - quite an achievement in an era where such long term business relationships aren’t as common place, as they once were – and we are very proud to have sponsored one of the biggest events in the agri-food calendar in Northern Ireland during this time. 
We value our close links with the Winter Fair and hope that our investment in the event - both financial and people - has contributed to the undoubted success of this major dairy showcase. 
“Our support for the Winter Fair reflects a strong and ongoing commitment to the wider agri-food industry in Northern Ireland – both in terms of significant lending to the sector and expertise of our dedicated Agribusiness team. 
“It’s the event ‘where the dairy industry meets’ each December and I have no doubt that this year’s Winter Fair on December 8 will be another outstanding success - despite difficult times in the industry and ongoing uncertainty for dairy farmers.”
On the cusp of Christmas, visitors flock to the Winter Fair and observe the highest quality of livestock competing. This year the RUAS are delighted to welcome Paul Trapp, who is travelling from Wisconsin, USA, to judge. The event is also a great chance to interact with 200 dairy related trade exhibitors on the most relevant technological advances, difficulties and solutions in the industry.  
Rhonda Geary, Operations Director, RUAS said: “2015 saw the move of Winter Fair to our new purpose built exhibition venue, Eikon Exhibition Centre at Balmoral Park. The move has worked brilliantly and attracted one of the largest attendances to date. In preparation for the 31st Winter Fair we have increased the livestock accommodation and now have stalling, washing and milking facilities for 200 cattle. There is 4750m2 of exhibition space and a full house of 200 trade stands.”  
During the Winter Fair there is a busy Seminar Suite with talks presented every half hour from 11am until 3.30pm.
Dr. John Bailey from AFBI will speak about better phosphorous management, Bobby Irwin of United Feeds presents a paper on getting the lactation to the right start and Roberta Simmons of the YFCU and Barclay Bell, President of the UFU will speak about succession on farms.
CAFRE’s Martin Mulholland will be advising on feed efficiency this winter, making optimum use of grass silage  while Christopher Osborne form the UFU will speak about dairy commodity markets and the prospects for 2017.
Dr. Sam Strain and Sharon Verner from the Animal Health and Welfare Northern Ireland will look at improved biosecurity and BVD while Jessica Sloss from Red Tractor, speaks about the farm assurance scheme.
The live calf rearing demonstration will be making a return for the 2016 Show.  Gorteade Cow Care owned by Barry O’Loughlin will be displaying a fully functioning calf igloo with veranda and Heatwave ad lib calf feeder. 
One of the innovative technological features at next week’s Winter Fair will be the Northern Ireland launch of the CalfApp and Calf Cloud by Volac which won gold at Eurotier in Hannover. It gives information about changes in drinking pattern and fluid intakes and monitors calf health.
The launch of the Winter Fair was held at Draynes Farm, near Lisburn, where Michael Drayne led a tour of agricultural journalists and industry representatives around his farm and milk bottling plant. The milk botting plant began when his father began with a horse and cart. Now the business has a fleet of vans distributing milk and dairy produces to customers in four counties. However their products are supplied to customers across Ireland through the Henderson Food Service and other companies.
The borehole gives Draynes Farm a constant supply of water which is also useful to soften the mains water for washing.
A 50KVA solar panel plant has been installed on the roofs of some of the buildings.
Draynes Farm processes 5m litres of milk per year and operates Monday to Friday with their own supply of 1.2 million litres of farm milk held over the weekend until the beginning of a new week. A total of 35 staff are employed in all departments.
The Draynes Farm dairy herd uses three Lely Astronaut A4 milking robots. The cows visit the robots on average 3.1 times per day averaging 33 litres per day with some exceeding 50litres. Cows grazed outdoors using a Lely Grazeway  
The RUAS Winter Fair is open between 9am and 5pm on Thursday, December 8.