Suffolk Show set to stage ‘first’ national Red Poll breed contest

Red Poll cattle in the fields around The Suffolk Food Hall, Ipswich.

Red Poll cattle in the fields around The Suffolk Food Hall, Ipswich. - Credit: Andrew Partridge

The Suffolk Show is set to stage the first national competition for the iconic county cattle breed, the Red Poll.

Red Poll cattle in the fields around The Suffolk Food Hall, Ipswich.

Red Poll cattle in the fields around The Suffolk Food Hall, Ipswich. - Credit: Andrew Partridge

This year’s event will host the inaugural show in recognition of its status as the “home” of the native breed, which was the main UK dairy breed in the 1950s into the 1960s before falling out of favour to the point where it was awarded ‘rare breed’ status.

There are now healthier numbers of Red Poll, which is bred across the world, and which originated from Suffolk and Norfolk. Around seven UK shows, including the Suffolk Show, now run breed classes for it.

An international judge, Mike McSweeney, will be flown in from New Zealand for the event, and organisers are hoping to attract around 80 exhibits from across the UK, rather than the usual 35 or so animals which are normally drawn to the Suffolk Show.

Competition organiser Denis Jenkins, who is on the main council of the Red Poll Cattle Society and is based at Shadwell, on the Norfolk/Suffolk border near Thetford, said there was excitement within the Red Poll breed community about the new event.

The Red Poll group watch the judging of the breed at the Suffolk Show

The Red Poll group watch the judging of the breed at the Suffolk Show


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Suffolk Show hosts the Suffolk Agricultural Association adopted the Red Poll as one of its ‘trinity’ of Suffolk breeds, which also includes the Suffolk Horse and the Suffolk Sheep and was seen as the natural home for the first event.

“It’s very much an East Anglian breed,” said Mr Jenkins. “We have Red Polls in every county in the country. We have them in Scotland, we have them in Ireland, but East Anglia is the hub of the breed. The Suffolk Show would be almost seen as the home of the breed now.

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“We felt it only fitting to start at the Suffolk Show with an inaugural national show. We have added a few special classes which will move one every year with wherever hosts the national. Next year it will go to Cheshire, then Norfolk, then the Three Counties.”

He explained that the Royal Show, last held in 2009, was regarded by many as “the ultimate show” before its demise and it held its own Red Poll breed class.

The Red Poll, which was produced by crossing the ‘milky’ Suffolk Dun with the ‘meaty’ Norfolk Red in the early part of the 19th century, is now on the Rare Breeds Survival Trust’s list of “success stories”.

The Red Poll Breed Society was established in 1888 and the breed was a popular milking cow and beef animal right up until the middle of the 20th

century but could not compete with the Friesian as a milking animal. The arrival of continental breeds triggered its decline as a beef animal. However, an army of enthusiastic breeders have ensured its long-term survival.

The Red Poll Cattle Society is hoping that some historic Red Poll trophies from the Royal Show can be secured for the new national event. After successfully preventing them from being sold at auction, it is in talks with Royal Show organisers the Royal Agricultural Society of England (RASE), as well as with their original donors, said Mr Jenkins.

He is the owner of last year’s Suffolk Show Red Poll overall champion, Bridgham Lancelot, a bull bred by Paul Rackham of Bridgham, Norwich, which went on to become breed champion at the Norfolk Show. Mr Jenkins’ maiden heifer, Heathgate Clover, was champion female at last year’s Suffolk Show. Mr Jenkins is planning to enter the heifer, who is due to calf, and the bull, at this year’s show, which is expected to be hotly contested.

The Suffolk Show takes place on May 27 and 28. For the latest news and to buy discounted tickets, visit www.suffolkshow.co.uk.

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