Obituary: Tributes paid to farmer and auctioneer David Ball
East Anglia’s livestock community has lost one of its most enthusiastic and indomitable characters, following the death of farmer and auctioneer David Ball at the age of 60.
Mr Ball, who had been battling cancer for 20 years, was a knowledgeable presence at county shows and sales, and the “driving force” behind the resurgence of Norwich Livestock Market when it re-opened following the 2001 foot-and-mouth crisis.
Mr Ball’s passion for livestock began in Gloucestershire, where he started milking cows on his parents’ farm in Pilning at the age of eight. After graduating in 1972 from the Gloucestershire College of Agriculture, his farming career took him to Somerset and Hertfordshire before he moved to Reydon near Southwold as livestock manager for Adnams Brewery in 1993.
In 1995, Mr Ball was diagnosed with cancer, but he carried on working throughout his chemotherapy treatment. He enjoyed a fruitful showing career, firstly for Adnams and then in his own name, travelling to most of the county shows, winning many championships and awards, and becoming a respected stock judge too. In 2003/4 he enjoyed success with a Lincoln Red bull called Squire.
He became operations director of Norwich Livestock Market in 2002, and his other jobs included becoming the landlord of the Star public house at Wenhaston, working for Earl Stonham Farms from 2009-2014 on a project to produce Suffolk-bred pure blood Wagyu beef, and he also worked for Wm Kerr Farms in Woodbridge as cattle manager from 2006-2011.
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Bruce Kerr said: “It is worth noting that David also ran the commercial pig auction from its inception at the Suffolk Show in 2007 until last year.
“It was a testament to David’s ability and encouragement that many families returned year on year to buy their pig for the freezer and were able to see it prior to slaughter being shown in the ring. There was no resistance to this as one might expect due to David’s straight-talking attitude which eliminated any squeamish thoughts that would-be consumers may have had.”
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Mr Ball’s knowledge in his field meant he became the voice of the livestock community for TV and radio, and in February 2014 he appeared on the Great British Railway Journeys programme with Michael Portillo.
Roger Long, a cattle farmer from Scarning near Dereham who was a friend of Mr Ball’s for 35 years, said: “We hear the word ‘legend’ bandied about a lot, but the way David fought cancer was quite unbelievable. He was always positive and always going forward, and he will be sadly missed by the livestock community.
“David was the driving force behind Norwich Livestock Market, and he took it to a level which we could never have dreamed of in 2001.
“Who would have thought that we would get to nearly 150 calves in one week, or 1,500 sheep? What he has achieved since 2001 is a dream not many of us had the audacity to share.”
Mike Beckett, vice chairman of the market, added: “He had been fighting cancer for so many years, but it never ceases to amaze me how his enthusiasm for the market was still so far above everyone else’s.
“Through all the pain, the first thing he always thought about was the market. David was the ‘market man’ – it is flying now, and it is all down to him.”
Market chairman Stephen Lutkin said: “David lived for the livestock market, and even with his ill health it had kept him going. He pushed himself to the limit for the market. It is a very sad loss – he was one of those larger-than-life characters who will be difficult to replace.”
Mr Ball was married three times. He had three nephews who are all involved in farming. His brother Steve and wife Wendy are tenant farmers on the Tortworth Estate in South Gloucestershire and produce commercial beef.
He is survived by his partner, Penelope Lucas, who said: “David was inspirational to all, he had an indomitable spirit, he was a special person with deep determination, he fought his illness and bravely struggled a fight he did not deserve, and he was never happier than when he was farming or dealing with farming matters. He was truly a remarkable and outstanding human being and the whole of the industry mourns his passing with great sadness.”
The funeral will be held at 11am on Wednesday February 11 at Wymondham Abbey. The cortege is due to leave at 10.30am from Norwich Livestock Market on Hall Road, where people can pay their respects.