29 November 1996

High standards envy of world

By Jeremy Hunt

THE show must go on and so it did. Despite the BSE nightmare of recent months, beef producers marched confidently into the bright lights of Earls Court this week and put on a cattle show to draw the envy of the world.

British beef bred, reared and meticulously prepared, produced a spectacle of livestock husbandry that would meet every exacting standard of farm assurance and animal welfare.

Bruises left by the BSE body-blow may not have healed completely, but stockmen working along the Earls Court cattle lines presented an image of an industry in determined mood. There was no sign of defeat and in the big ring competition was as fierce as ever.

Belgian Blue breeding was influential in many of the prize winners but the success of such great primestock sires as Shatton Pedro (Limousin) and Allanfauld Vagabond (Charolais) dominated yet again. In fact the supreme champion Am-Yer-Man is by Pedro and out of a cow by Vagabond – clearly an unbeatable combination.

Everything comes to he who waits. One man who has waited 24 years, despite having won just about every other top sheep show title, is David Gardiner. He started showing at Smithfield in 1972; hes been reserve supreme and he was the first to show Beltex lambs at Earls Court. This week he fulfilled his ambition with a pair of pure-bred Beltex weighing 89kg.

The lambs were part of a 16-strong team brought to the show. The champions, born in June and selected from a mid-summer crop of 41 lambs, were expertly prepared for the show by Derek Watkins, whose skillful handiwork with the shears has been behind many of Mr Gardiners past winners. Supreme sheep judge Richmond Harding, a regular exhibitor at Earls Court with stock from his farm at Minehead, described the winners as "the most firm and solid lambs I have ever handled".

Mr Gardiner also won the butchers weight championship and these lambs nearly took the reserve overall title but were pipped by a striking pair of South Country Cheviots from Douganhill Farms, Castle Douglas, which even at this calibre of competition were an object lesson in preparing sheep for Smithfield Show.n