12 December 1997

Primestock shows not all doom and gloom this year…

Mixed emotions are evident

at this seasons Christmas

primestock shows, with the

traditionally fun and festive

mood undermined by more

bad news in the beef

industry. FW gauges

the mood…

THE general mood is one of resignation," says auctioneer Gwyn Williams at Chelford, Cheshire. "Last weeks show, however, prompted a few brighter faces."

The champion was a 605kg Belgian Blue cross Limousin steer from Bill and James Kirk, Haybrook Farm, Poynton.

"The show brought out the usual stalwarts, who have spent many a month selecting, washing, leading and feeding their dream," says Mr Williams.

And the man to make or break that dream was judge Eric Schofield. "At the end of the day, however, you can only please one person and the rest are disappointed," says Mr Schofield. "They all leave home that morning thinking their animal is the best.

Picking a winner is still a big challenge, he says, despite having 35 years experience.

Over that time, Mr Schofield has seen primestock shows get smaller. "Theres still a premium for the champion and award winners, but there isnt the incentive to put the time and effort in that there was."

Chelfords champion was bought by Manchester-based Matthews Catering Butchers. Roger Matthews says uncertainty again hangs over the industry following last weeks announcement on bone-in beef. The mood among farmers, he says, was one of confusion.

"On this side of the trade we are dependent on a thriving and prosperous beef farming industry. Without that, we cant get the product we need."

Prices in the commercial cattle section at the mart, meanwhile, averaged 92.2p/kg. "Somewhat better than feared," say the auctioneers.

Despite the general gloom, Christmas primestock shows retain a strong band of devotees. As Nobby Bristow – fresh from his success in the carcass classes at the South-Eastern Prime Stock Winter Fayre – says: "I like the competition and Ive met so many wonderful people since I started showing."

Elsewhere, however, sentiments have been blacker. "A show day to forget," says auctioneer Maurice Wall of Highbridges last week in Somerset.

Widespread depression at rock-bottom cattle prices, plus latest government moves were the reasons. "Torrential rain didnt help, either."

Champion at Highbridge was a Belgian Blue cross steer, Mr Muscle, from Miss Jo Dennis, Wells. At 510kg, it made 224.5p/ kg, grossing £1145.

Part of the reason for the depressed commercial cattle trade, says Mr Wall, is the under-finished stock currently on offer. "Farmers say they cant afford to feed cattle: the fact is they cant afford not to, either."

Showing the way… champion at Chelford was this beast which made 155p/kg (£930).