600kg Sparky weighs in with champion title

A tip-off that led Neil Slack to buy the Limousin-sired heifer Sparky after Alston Show, Cumbria, last autumn paid dividends when she took the supreme champion title at the National Primestock Show and Sale in Birmingham last weekend.

Weighing 600kg, Sparky initially took her weight class in the crossbred section for Limousin-sired stock.

Despite stiff competition from a similarly bred and styled steer from Messrs Rice of Leeds, West Yorks, Sparky edged ahead under crossbred judge Roy Schofield and pedigree judge Richard Burton.

With just 18 cattle and 50 sheep on a smallholding at Penrith, Cumbria, Mr Slack’s five-strong beef team earned him several other first and second place cards in addition to the Baby Beef championship.

And the auction of prize-winners looked to be the icing on the cake for Mr Slack. Bids climbed steadily from a four-figure start, but the hammer failed to come down at 3900 and Sparky left the ring unsold: “Just not enough. I’m taking her home to breed,” said Mr Slack.

That decision means Mr Slack takes the 1000 supreme champion’s prize from sponsors Agri-Lloyd, but incurs commission charges and forgoes all other prize monies Sparky accrued – the second year in succession the supreme champion has gone unsold.

But there was no such drama with the reserve champion as the Rice family’s Limousin-sired steer Dans Heir took a 1700 bid from J King of Holbeach, Lincs.

This year’s sheep section was dominated by Herefordshire breeder Robin Slade, who collected awards for best Texel, best other continental breed, best pen of lambs, best purebred lambs, best butcher’s pair, champion untrimmed lambs, champion live/dead lambs – a ticket he holds jointly with R O Cox from Stoney Stanton, Leics – and overall sheep champion titles.

The quality of Mr Slade’s champion pair clearly caught buyers’ attention as bidding reached 820 apiece in favour of David Gardiner of Mere Heath, Staffs, under auctioneer Malcolm Gale of Bagshaws.

And there was more action in the carcass section. Beef carcass exhibitor Frank Page of Lodge Farm, Elkington, Northants, is no stranger to the Primestock’s league of former winners and this year saw his 296kg Limousin cross heifer take the top ticket under judge Robert Beaman, of Bridgnorth, Shropshire, and sell for 1057.

Adding to his tally, Mr Page also took the reserve ticket with a 337kg entry that sold for 1001.

It was a repeat performance in the lamb carcasses with David Wadland of Aston Le Walls, Daventry, taking both champion and reserve with Beltex cross wether lambs that made 132 to Parkin Butchers of Crowle, Lincs and 129 to P Parkin of Howden, East Yorks, respectively.

Champion pig carcass honours also went to a seasoned supporter, Peter Kirton of Kinlet, Worcs, who took both champion and reserve cards with his Welsh cross gilts.