BEST OF UK
The 1999 National
Primestock Show opens its
doors on Nov 21 and 22 at
Bingley Hall, Stafford. The
need to show off the best of
British beef has never been
greater, note those involved,
as Jeremy Hunt reports
ITS never been more important for farmers to support this seasons primestock shows as a mark of solidarity for our livestock industry.
That is the view of North Yorkshire farmer John Peckitt who will be among the beef exhibitors at the National Primestock Show with a team of entries from his High House Farm, Oulston, near York.
"In my opinion the National Primestock Show attracts the highest standard of cattle entries you will see anywhere. Beef producers must consolidate. The battle is not over yet and its important for the industry to present a united front – and that means both inside and outside the rings at Bingley Hall," says Mr Peckitt.
Hes a firm believer in primestock shows as a vital link between farmer, butcher and consumer and believes they should not be overlooked as an important opportunity to demonstrate British beef producers commitment to excellence.
"We have the finest beef cattle in the world and showing is one way we can put the best British beef under the public spotlight.
"Butchers can play an important role in the coming weeks. We need them to buy cattle at the shows and make sure their customers know that its the safest and highest quality beef they can buy."
Suit the local butcher
He finishes around 250 head of cattle a year on the 70ha (172 acres) plus 12ha (30 acres) rented he runs with his wife Joyce. About 40ha (100 acres) go under the plough to provide home-grown barley for the cattle yards and there are 350 mainly North of England Mules put to Suffolk rams.
Strong stores are bought all the year round at about a year-old with the majority sourced from markets at Carlisle and Leyburn. All cattle are sold through Thirsk Auction Mart with a regular weekly trade from local butchers as well as supermarket buyers. Cattle are sold up to 650kg liveweight.
"Im looking for cattle, mainly steers, at 500-550kg. Limousin crosses suit my local butcher buyers but I finish a lot of Belgian Blue crosses. The right quality at the right price is most important."
But all store cattle have to be Farm Assured. "Its a big problem because not all farms selling stores have achieved this status. My buyers demand it and so I have to meet their requirements."
Barley, bought-in protein pellets, bean meal and sometimes some soya meal produces an 18% protein ration which is fed along with silage for the first few weeks. Silage is withdrawn during the final six weeks of finishing.
Mr Peckitt, a past winner of the supreme cattle championship at the National Primestock Show with a pure Limousin, has maintained his throughput of stock despite the low returns during the BSE crisis.
"Prices are just beginning to improve slightly but store cattle are dearer. We are trying to buy at £480-£490. Theres still no fortune in finishing beef cattle."
In the raw state
A deep interest in preparing and showing prime cattle, which started in his YFC days, means he is always on the look-out for potential winners for both the summer and winter seasons.
"Its seeing a beast in its raw state that is the big challenge. While its very easy to go and buy one thats ready to show, the real buzz comes from doing all the feeding, grooming and training yourself.
"Its just something about the conformation, shape and overall presence." He acknowledges the width and conformation advantages of Belgian Blue breeding in a good show beast but knows that its equally important for good carcass cattle to move freely on sound legs.
Show-potential cattle bought in early spring will be exhibited on the summer circuit and then carefully managed to ensure they are ready for the winter primestock season. It is a skilled job ensuring cattle shown in the middle of summer are still a force to be reckoned six months later. "Its hard to keep them just right but Belgian Blue crosses are easier to keep firmer than others."
Next weeks team
Next weeks show team will include a cross-bred Belgian Blue heifer, a three-quarter Limousin steer, an Aberdeen Angus steer and a "baby beef" Charolais heifer. In recent weeks their feed intake has been monitored daily. "You have to be very careful in the final weeks before the show. Its easy for them to get too good and end up going too soft. Its vital to keep the flesh hard and firm".
All show cattle are washed twice a week to keep coats clean and prevent stock from rubbing themselves. "But we only clip once. If you clip too often its not always possible to get all the clipped hair out of the coat and it can start them itching and that leads to rubbing and the dreaded bald patch."
The National Primestock Show has drawn a bumper entry of over 370 head of cattle for its two-day event at Bingley Hall, Stafford, on Sunday and Monday, Nov 21 and 22.
There are over 150 prime lambs and 80 entries in the carcass classes. The dairy section has drawn over 70 cattle from Holstein, Jersey and Ayrshire breeders.
This years show has a prime cattle classification for 14 pedigree beef breeds as well as the hotly contested cross-bred section and two classes for "baby" beef. There are classes for six pedigree sheep breeds as well as the traditional butchers lambs and live-dead section.
All stock and carcasses will be offered by auction on Monday afternoon Nov 22 by Lichfield-based auctioneers Wintertons.
The Womens Own section includes a cookery demonstration (Sunday), Christmas shopping area, antique valuations (Monday) and a Farmers Market.
Nov 21 Show opens 8am. Live judging: beef cattle 9am; sheep 9.30am.
Nov 22 Show opens 8am. Live judging: baby beef 8.30am; beef championships 10.30am; dairy classes 1.30pm.
Entrance fee Adults (per day) £5. Under 16s free. Car parking free.