Colchester livestock show is Christmas cracker
- Credit: Su Anderson
Colchester livestock market stalwarts who this year drastically reduced their farming operation were celebrating this week after regaining a coveted Christmas cup.
W A Ketley of Fingringhoe’s “superb” 513kg Limousin cross heifer took the Overall Show Champion title at Stanfords’ Colchester Christmas Prime Stock Show after brothers Gerald and Andrew and Gerald’s son, William, kept back some of the herd from a major sale in September in order to enter them into the contest.
Although plummeting prices didn’t help, the family decided to restructure the sheep and beef cattle business with the retirement of third brother, John, and due to the difficulty in finding suitable cattle housing and grazing land in the county.
The long-time supporters of the event, who are frequent past winners, were delighted with Tuesday’s win.
Judge Andrew Clarke, owner of multi-species abattoir H G Blake in Felthorpe, backed his decision by buying the beast for 580p/kg, or a total of £2,975.40, for Impson Butcher’s shop in Swaffham which he recently bought as a sideline along with wife, Hayley.
“I think it’s an ideal butcher’s shop beast,” he said. “It’s a nice size - very good conformation. Just a nice covering of fat without being too wasteful. The sort of thing I would like to use in my butcher’s shop.”
Mr Clarke, who looked at 100 prime cattle, including 39 in the show classes, admitted judging the winners had been difficult, due to the quality of entries and the number of handy weight steers and heifers.
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Gerald Ketley said they had bought in the winning animal as suckler calf.
“We had 20-odd in here, so we tried hard - we were keeping them for Christmas,” he said. “It’s fantastic. We’ll always try and support (the livestock market) where we can. We are not going to be able to support with the really big numbers.”
The beef trade was not very buoyant at the moment, he added, and had been hit by the “box” trade in imported meat.
“There’s just no market in the small cattle to the finished cattle, that’s the trouble,” he said. “Even though there’s talk of a shortage of cattle I don’t think it really matters. It’s all a matter of costs - too much box meat coming in. The public, I don’t think they know,” he said.
Mr Clarke said there were imports from Eastern Europe affecting the trade, particularly from Poland.
Prices in the UK, where the pound is strong against the euro, are very high, he said. The future of the UK industry lay with high quality, niche products, he believed.
The reserve award went to Bruce and Julie Woodward of Harleston, Norfolk, for a Limousin cross heifer weighing 608kg and sold to Swanton Morley Butchers, Norfolk, for 370p/kg, or £2,249.60. After spirited bidding, it sold to Swanton Morley Butchers at 370p/kg, or £2,249.60 the head.
Stanfords auctioneers described it as “a tremendous price for a tremendous heifer”. It also took the Broad Oak Farm Perpetual Cup for the Best Butcher’s Beast under 550kg and the Best Butcher’s Heifer under 550kg together with Best Limousin Sired Heifer in Show.
In the sheep section, judge George Colwill of Chelmondiston crowned a pair of “delightful” Dutch Texel lambs bred by Sylvia Rawlings, of J D & S H C Rawlings, Wissington Grange Farm, Nayland, show champions.
They sold for £200 a head to Ipswich butcher George Debman, Ipswich.
Mr Colwill said: “There were many stand-outs in most pens.” but added that the winners “tipped the scales in handling and appearance”.
But it had been a “close” contest, he added.
“I think it reflects the quality we have in this market, week in, week out, especially in the sheep department,” he said. “There are some very, very good sheep.”
Winner Mrs Rawlings, who has a flock with 45 ewes and has kept sheep since 1985, is a frequent winner at the event. The champions, she said, had been born at the beginning of March.
“I’m delighted. To me, these are two very good lambs,” she said. “I take a bit of pride in preparing them and it’s nice. The sheep I breed are actually used for the production of slaughter lambs. I excel in producing slaughter lambs.”
George Debman, buyer of the winning lambs, said they were “outstanding”.
“I like to see what I term a heavy lamb,” he said.
He added: “With what’s going on in the industry with cheap imports It’s important we buy the best in the local area.”