Having stormed home in the recent regional heat at Beef & Growing Cattle South West, Hatherleigh, in September with a first in the heifer class that went on to take overall Supreme Champion, Mr Alford has changed tack in his selection for the Smithfield Show final.
No stranger to both liveweight and carcass competitions – having claimed several major titles from the National Primestock Show and further afield – Mr Alford has hand-picked a seven-eights Limousin x Belgian Blue steer for this year‘s Beef Ribs final.
“I like to pick the right beast from the outset and then it’s reared specifically for the job,” says Mr Alford of Foxhill Farm, Blackborough, near Cullompton.
Most of the Alford’s show cattle are drafted from suckler herds at 6-8 months old having been single-suckled.
“It‘s important calves come in and are pushed all the way through to the finishing. If they have a store period – like steers held to claim beef subsidy – they just don’t cut as well,” he explains.
The steer, having been brought down from its breeder‘s farm near Milton Keynes to Devon, was suckled on and gradually introduced to dry feed.
“We bring all the show cattle on to a coarse mix and offer hay for roughage. This steer is yarded but goes out for a couple of hours for exercise.”
An indication of the attention to detail exercised suggests this steer would not be shown in a primestock ring, explains Mr Alford.
“It has all the qualities needed to become a winner on the hook, but it doesn‘t stand correct on its front feet – presentation in the live ring is just as important.”
With an on-farm abattoir and three retail shops operating under the name of Stillmans, experience in presenting beef will also pay dividend.
“Having that extra bit of control normally outside a finisher‘s grasp means I can prepare meat from dictating time of slaughter to its final presentation.
“The steer will be finished at 490-500kg liveweight and should kill out at 66%. It’ll come direct for slaughter to cut risk of stress and hung for 10 days before cutting. I will then take the ribs to Smithfield myself.”
The combination of rearing show cattle for the ring and seeing champions on a hook in a chill room should give Mr Alford an extra degree of objectivity for new responsibilities at this year‘s show.
Having shown cattle at every Smithfield since 1982, Mr Alford will judge the live steer classes this year in addition to exhibiting in the Beef Ribs competition.