Two respected primestock producers who have notched up impressive show wins themselves in the last 12 months will have the daunting task of placing the sheep and cattle at this year’s Countryside Live.
In the Farmers Weekly-sponsored sheep section the honours fall to Hay-on-Wye’s Steve Gibbons, who, along with his wife Sarah and children Mollie and Nick, took both overall and reserve championship honours at last year’s Welsh Winter Fair, the first time a Welsh exhibitor had done the double in Builth.
And while the family are firm supporters of the Beltex breed, running three pedigree flocks between them, Mr Morris is adamant there will be no breed preference shown when he enters the ring at Harrrogate. “The colour of their face will make no difference once they’re on the hook, so it won’t do in the ring.”
Mr Morris is also sure of the finish level he’s after, looking for lambs to grade at fat class two or 3L and he’ll be wanting lambs fleshed from the shoulders right the way through to the gigot. “And that includes a good deep loin. This is the valuable cut and the more of it you can get the better.”
But while some breeders use performance recording to identify sires capable of leaving these loins, Mr Gibbons has another favoured selection method. “With every stock tup we buy, we kill nearly all his progeny in the first year and see them cut at my uncle’s butcher’s shop. There is no better way to assess a ram’s capability.”
It’s these loins which help lift the killing-out percentage, another critical point in maximising carcass value, he adds. “Lambs need to have as little waste as possible in order to be of best value to the butcher, many of our lambs are killing out as high as 57% and that’s what I’ll be wanting from my champions.”
Meanwhile, stepping up to the challenge of judging the cattle section at the event will be Kevin Ludgate of Toddington, Bedfordshire.
No stranger to the show ring, having notched up many championship tickets this year with his commercial team, including the Royal and Great Yorkshire show championships, Mr Ludgate told Farmers Weekly he will be looking for an animal that has it all. “I will be looking for a perfectly well balanced carcass with a great top throughout. The animal will be full of meat, correct and have great muscling.”
And because he’s looking for a show animal, Mr Ludgate adds that presence in the show ring will also be important. “I like an animal to walk in and own the ring.”
He will also be responsible for the calf classes, in which he will be looking for a calf with maximum carcass yield potential. “It’s all about killing-out percentage, so whether they are prime or have potential, they have to be fine-boned to kill out well,” adds Mr Ludgate, who currently buys and breeds his own commercial cattle.