Local farmers beat off tough competition at Royal Bath & West Show

Local farming talent was on top form at the Royal Bath & West Show, with Somerset exhibitors beating off close competition to claim many of the top livestock prizes.

Scooping the interbreed beef championship was David and Sue Knight’s British Blonde heifer Doncombe Madhu, on the breed’s first return to the beef classes at the show for a number of years. Bred from the family’s Ishtar as a heifer and sired by the French bull Aramis, this two year-old heifer was reserve interbreed champion at the Devon County Show and will be heading to the Three Counties and Royal Welsh shows next.

“It’s fantastic to win,” said Mr Knight, who farms near Bristol. “I bought my first pedigree heifer in 1985 – I’m from a non-farming family but I helped on a local farm, and just fell in love with the breed. We now have the largest Blonde herd in the UK at 220 head.”

Judge Iain Green from Morayshire said Madhu had tremendous length with a good shoulder and locomotion. “She’s an outstanding example of the breed and just had a bit more power and length than the reserve champion.”

He picked Ben Trim’s British Charolais bull Blabithan Napoleon as his reserve champion, chosen from a top selection of competitors. “What a brilliant show of cattle I’ve had in front of me,” said Mr Green. “All of the owners, not just the winners, should be congratulated.”

Ben Trim keeps 10 breeding cows at home at Bere Regis, Dorset, having purchased Napoleon at the Balbithan herd dispersal in October last year – the demise of a very well-known herd managed by his mother Jane Haw. He will now be taking Napoleon home to work as a stock bull over the coming year.

Over in the dairy ring, Jake Sayer took the top honours with his Ayrshire cow Denmans Cracking Touch of Red. A homebred by Des Prairies Potter and out of Huntlodge RR Crackles, this fifth calver was yielding 50 litres a day and will head to UK Dairy Day for her next outing. “She was Ayrshire champion at the Dairy Show in 2015 and has a very good rear udder – she’s a beautiful cow,” said Mr Sayer. He keeps just two milking cows at home near Cannington, Somerset, to exhibit, selling freshly calved heifers as the main enterprise.

In reserve position was Valerie Norman’s Jersey cow Perrins Minister Joyful, exhibited by her son Richard Norman. A homebred cow by Select-Scott Minister and out of Crinnisbay Exceptional Joyful, this fourth calver was giving 30 litres and will head to Yeovil show next time out.

In the poultry section, Sophie and Joe Merchant from Taunton took home the champion prize with their Croad Langshan hen, while also claiming the egg championship with a plate of six waterfowl eggs. “To win best eggs as well as best hen was fantastic,” said Mrs Merchant. At home the couple keep around 60 birds of different breeds, and enjoyed success with this same hen at the Devon Fanciers show in the spring. “We will breed from her now and any competitions after that will depend on how well she stays in condition.”

Hugh Price’s Malay Game Bantam cockerel took the reserve championship for Wales under judge Andrew Marment’s expert eye. “It’s a very good example of the breed, with a good eye colour and a nice strong head,” he said.

An impressive 1,336 sheep competed for top honours in the sheep lines, with the overall championship going to Paul and Christine Tippetts’ Texel shearing ewe. Based in Shropshire, the family keep almost 1,000 Texel, Beltex, Blue Texel and Border Leicester sheep, with shepherd Aled Groucott taking on the work in the show ring.

By an Eglur Yukon ram and out of an Oldford ewe, this was the shearling ewe’s first time out at a competition. “It’s just great to win – it’s the first time we’ve won the interbreed championship here,” said Mr Tippetts.

In reserve spot was Brandon Roth’s shearling Suffolk ewe from Redruth. “We have 3-400 commercial sheep and 10-15 Suffolks,” said Mr Roth. “I think they’re the best ram for a commercial job.” She will be heading to Royal Cornwall and the Three Counties Show next.

Over in the pig lines, the interbreed championship was scheduled to take place on Friday, so competitors were busy getting their pigs ready for the traditional breed classes on Thursday. One of the longest established exhibitors, Martin Snell, explained how he prepared his Large Black pigs for the ring.

“You need to select the best one at home, with 14 good teats, a good straight top line and a good bum,” he said. “You get to know them at home and do a little bit of training with the board so they’re nice and quiet, and then once we’re at the show I brush them off and paint them with commercial baby oil to bring out their deep colour.”

Mr Snell, who has been showing pigs since he was two years old, keeps 12 pedigree Large Black sows at home near Yeovil, and reckons the highlight of his career was winning at the Royal Show, along with countless wins at the Bath & West over the years. “It’s good to keep rare breeds going as one day we might need their genes – the climate is getting warmer, and black pigs don’t get sunburn like white pigs do.”