Triumphant day for innovative farmers

SUFFOLK dairy farmers who set up a successful diversification business were the cream of the cream at the Suffolk Show with their award-winning cows.

Sarah Chambers

SUFFOLK dairy farmers who set up a successful diversification business were the cream of the cream at the Suffolk Show with their award-winning cows.

The Strachans, based at Rendham, near Saxmundham, saw two of their cows scoop overall breeds awards as with a Holstein which took the title in its category and a Jersey which triumphed in the Any Other Dairy Breed category.

The family set up their Marybelle milk products business in 2001 and the business has gone from strength to strength with the growth in interest in local produce.

“We have had a good day really,” said James Strachan.

“It's certainly a first for us and probably a last, but you've got to take it while you can.”

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The family sold off part of its herd to fund the expansion of its business, but has 70 cows, comprising of 50 black and whites and 20 Jerseys.

“We are getting a lot of local support - people are beginning to recognise the brand,” said James. “We just hope to keep building that base.”

Colette and David Strachan have three children, James, 31, Katherine, 29 and George, 33, who recently emigrated to New Zealand with his wife after helping to build up the family business. Katherine, who has a job at IBM, has been helping out, and hopes to be joining in October.

“I'm feeling fantastic,” said David. “It's a great atmosphere we have got in Suffolk because we are not a livestock area really. James has champion Holstein here last year but we have never actually achieved a double so we are very pleased.”

Also celebrating was Sproughton-based Red Poll owner Ben Woolf whose bull took top honours in its breed category.

Mr Woolf, who is chairman of the Red Poll Cattle Society, said they were “very pleased”.

“We are very pleased with him. He's now four and a half and fully grown and I thought it was a good competition,” he said of his winning bull.

It was a triumphant day for Suffolk owners of the rare breed as reserve overall champion went to Nick Thomson of Brent Eleigh, near Lavenham.

Mr Woolf said the breed was continuing to do very well, and was still expanding on numbers and on breeders.

“I thought overall it was about the best group of animals we have had for probably five or six years, especially in the heifer class,” he said.

Richard Lancaster, general manager and stud director at Shadwells stud was celebrating after its Aberdeen Angus took top honours in its breed category.

While the main operation is based at Shadwell just outside Thetford, the herd is based in Suffolk at Kettlebaston, near Lavenham. The business itself, which is mainly involved in breeding thoroughbred racehorses, is owned by His Highness Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum, of the ruling family of Dubai. The stockman is Tony Miller.

Mr Lancaster said: “We have not shown for a couple of years because of the bluetongue problems and it's rather nice because we have had some great success in the past but to come back for our first show of the year with a young bull who's a home bred has been an enormous achievement, a great credit to Tony and everyone else.”

They had had “a very good day” with two other animals coming second in their classes, he said.

Pig and cattle farmers Roger Harper, daughter Donna and her husband Lee McInnes, of Weybread, near Diss, were celebrating after their cow scooped the overall title in the British Charolais event with Weybread Tiffany.

“We are really pleased about winning with Tiffany,” said Donna.

“She's the best cow in our herd so we hope to breed off her and get her for our main bloodline. Showing her advertises our herd.”

She added: “This is her third time at the Suffolk and she's won every year she has been so we are really pleased with her.”

The Wilds, of Little Baddow, near Chelmsford, celebrated after taking the overall champion award in the Longhorns category.