DROMARA members of a leading family of cattle-breeders have helped mark 30 years of breeding pedigree Limousin cattle with a special Stormont reception attended by the Duke of Westminster.
The Crawford family welcomed guests including the Duke, Minister of Enterprise, Trade and Investment, Arlene Foster MLA and the BBC's Richard Wright.
Emma, Martin and Lucy Rodgers from Hillhead Road, Dromara, whose grandparents Herbie and Margaret founded the Rathkeeland Herd in 1980, were on hand to present gifts to the VIPs.
Their mum, Elizabeth, moved to Dromara from Fermanagh 14 years ago when she married Geoff Rodgers.
Elizabeth is still actively involved with the family business, Crawford Brothers, which now supplies cattle-breeding products, such as bull semen and embryos, to 14 countries worldwide and recently invested in an export development project with support from Invest Northern Ireland.
The Duke of Westminster, Major-General Gerald Cavendish Grosvenor, and his family, own Cogent Breeding, the UK's largest bull stud.
The Dule said, "The Crawford family has housed bulls with us at Cogent since 2006; Vigot was with us for a year and Sauvignon was with us for a year before winning prize after prize, including the European Limousin Male Champion, the European Limousin Carcass Champion and the European Progeny Champion in Paris.
"Innovation is key to our business and it is through working with families like the Crawfords that we are able to be truly innovative.
"With Sauvignon the Crawford family has shown how innovative they can be. Along with Vigot he was marketed as the first Limousin bull in the world, as well as the first beef bull in the world, for female sexed semen.
"Last year he became the first Limousin bull in the world from which male sexed semen became available.
"I am glad to say he currently stands with us at the Cogent Stud and we look forward to continuing to work in partnership with the Crawfords on more prosperous and innovative ideas in the future."
Raymond Crawford added, "When the ban was lifted on exporting Northern Ireland livestock, we immediately seized the opportunity to capitalise on our reputation for award winning livestock and pursue growth in new markets with innovative, high value products.
"Invest NI has helped us to enhance our online, marketing and design capabilities to improve competitiveness and promote the business in target markets.
"The sales of the bull semen and embryos from our highly prized pedigree bulls and heifers are growing year on year and are now amongst the most sought after agricultural breeding products in the world. As we celebrate our 30th anniversary, we are now planning to target the South American and South African markets."