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Beef Special: Blue Bandits do the UK proud in Canada

Fresh after returning from Toronto’s Royal Winter Fair, four young UK ambassadors reflect on what they experienced during their once-in-a-lifetime trip to Canada. Louise Hartley reports.


Last April, Stephanie Dick, Millie Hendy and Issy Hartley were celebrating their success at the inaugural National Young Stars competition.

Held at the Three Counties Showground, Malvern, the ‘Blue Bandit’ British Blue team won the Beef Challenge title. The event saw them prepare, show and judge cattle and give a marketing presentation to finish top of the 20 teams. At the same event, North West Auctions’ Will Alexander won the Young Auctioneer Challenge.

Off the back of their success, these four livestock enthusiasts were offered the chance to attend the Royal Winter Fair, Toronto, Canada, taking on competitors from leading youth organisation 4-H and seeing first-hand what the Canadian auctioneering style is like.



The trip, organised as part of an exchange with Team Canada – who competed at the Young Shows Stars event in April and came second to the UK team – saw Steph, Millie and Issy once again preparing their designated show calves. Helped by members of Wellington County 4-H, they then competed in showmanship and conformation classes.

The team quickly learned a rather different showing style to what they were commonly used to. Calves were led around the ring in a calmer, more relaxed manner; bull clips were not used and handlers did not use their show sticks as frequently as in the UK. The girls also had to quickly master different techniques for blowing up and dressing the cattle.


All three did the UK proud, with Issy qualifying in the intermediate heat to the semi-finals, while Stephanie and Millie narrowly missed out on qualification in the senior classes.

Talking about the three UK competitors after the event, showmanship judge Dave Vikse, Alberta, said: “It is not easy changing a showing style you have been perfecting for many years and all three girls paraded their calves well.
“With a bit more experience, it would not be long before they were up with the best of the best 4-H exhibitors.”

The second day of competition saw the girls take to the ring again, this time for calf conformation classes. All three came a credible fourth in strong classes under leading commercial judge Emily Griffiths, Indiana.


Will Alexander, 25, got the chance to meet some of Canada’s finest auctioneers and take part in handling the telephone bidding in the noted Queen’s Guineas steers auction.


“It was a fantastic experience to be part of a world renowned sale. The style of selling is much faster than in the UK, with a number of spotters working all corners of the ring. The atmosphere is electric and you really have to have your wits about you,” said Mr Alexander.

Issy Hartley, 18, Lancashire

Issy Hartley,  18, Lancashire
Studying Agriculture with Animal Science at Harper Adams while also breeding British Blue cattle, Blue Texel, Lonk and Zwartbles sheep under the family’s Pendle prefix.


Issy says: “This was a trip I will never forget and a once-in-a-lifetime chance, thanks to National Young Stars. I learned new showing and dressing skills and worked with a different type of stock to what I get the chance to at home.

“The Canadians’ attention to detail and time spent dressing and preparing stock is second to none. It was fascinating to sit back and watch some of the top fitters prepare their exhibits.”

Millie Hendy, 19, Gloucestershire

Millie Hendy,  19, Gloucestershire
Freelance showman working for various pedigree beef breeders while also having her own small Beef Shorthorn herd.

Millie says: “Along with Steph, I have been fortunate enough to compete at Agribition in Canada, so was incredibly excited to get the chance to head out there again and represent the UK.

“It is always difficult working with new people in a different style but the 4-H club were great and we received fantastic support from the Canadian breeders who loaned us cattle.

“We were even offered the chance to return to Canada and work as part of a show team for a year.”

Stephanie Dick, 21, Stirling

Stephanie Dick,  21, Stirling
Works at home on the family farm running Limousin, British Blue and Aberdeen-Angus cattle under her Stephick prefix and the family’s Ronick prefix.

Stephanie says: “Going to Canada was an amazing opportunity, right through from meeting new breeders, learning new techniques and seeing the differences in the farming industry. The showing side of the competition, although different to the style we operate in the UK, was a great experience.

“The 4-H movement is phenomenal and the interest in preparing cattle for show from such a young age is a credit to the Canadian exhibitors.”
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