Taking home plenty of accolades from local and national shows, Alex Robinson speaks to the successful smallholders who have learnt from their experiences and are keen to help others who may be interested in pursuing a similar route.
SETTLED in Great Torrington, Okehampton, Jethro Kimber runs 40 pedigree Zwartbles ewes on a 14 hectare (35 acre) smallholding adjacent to the family’s 500-head commercial flock.
Jethro’s foundation ewe was purchased at market 15 years ago and, when not managing his Speccott Zwartbles flock, he is a self-employed plasterer.
He began showing last season after being encouraged from other breeders and has taken the breed classes by storm this year.
Teamed with his partner Louisa Day, the flock’s biggest achievement has been at Royal Cornwall, where they took both male and female breed titles with a shearling ram and a shearling ewe, also winning the ram lamb class.
They took female and reserve breed champion at mid-Devon show with a ewe lamb, which is by their current stock ram Holmlea Ally. Another of Speccott Ally’s progeny took overall continental champion at Woolsery and District show.
Jethro credits their showing results for providing an increased private demand for their stock. Their shearling lamb Barmol Daniel won classes at Devon County, mid-Devon and Honiton and was sold off the back of its wins.
The team aims to hit the show ring again next season, and Jethro advises anyone looking to enter the scene to just have a go.
He says: “Fellow breeders are extremely helpful and will always be there to offer advice or lend a hand. Remember not to take results too personally, as it is just one person’s opinion on the day. A sheep which stands at the bottom of the line at one show could excel at the next.”
Describing the Modern Game bantam as the perfect exhibition fowl, health and safety manager and part-time poultry breeder Dean Adams only started taking an interest in the breed 18 months ago.
Keeping a variety of colours including Birchen, Pile, Silver Duckwing and Whites, he also shows a team of Silkie birds, which he manages alongside Silkie crosses, Seramas, Houdans and a mixed hybrid flock.
He first exhibited at the Derbyshire championship show in February last year and, despite not coming home with a win, he credits it for being an invaluable experience to speak to other seasoned exhibitors.
Dean’s 2017 season began in May at Staffordshire County where he won four Modern Game classes, followed by the overall hard feather championship with a Birchen Modern female.
At Leicester County and Royal Cheshire, his show team won first, second and third in the respective Modern classes. He has claimed best hard feather titles at Bakewell, Ashbourne, Leicester and Ipstones, and awarded reserve best in show at tickets at both Leicester and Nantwich shows.
Dean’s son Trystan is also showing an interest, and has clinched junior titles at several shows, including the prestigious Royal Cheshire.
Dean says: “Make sure you know your breed and ensure birds are match fit before a show. The standard of perfection for a Modern is quite explicit. In my opinion, the ideal example will have both tallness and hardness of feather, combined with a snake-like head, whip tail and perfection in colour.”
JUST under 10 year ago, Caroline Williams and her two sons moved into a National Trust farm house in Broadclyst.
Soon after, Caroline was presented with the opportunity to take on some nearby land.
After purchasing her first pig, a Gloucester Old Spot sow, which was quickly accompanied by a Berkshire gilt, there born was the Mutterton pig herd.
A keen showing enthusiast from the beginning, Caroline decided she wanted to take her passion to the next level, after competing on the local circuit for some time.
Caroline said: “I renovated a few old buildings at the house and decided to focus solely on Berkshire breeding. Over the years, the placings have got better and I have started winning a championships.
“I enjoy the element of competition which comes with showing and I often go head to head with another Devon-based Berkshire breeder.
This season, Caroline won the Berkshire gilt class with a pig she had been given by a breeder to show.
She continues: “I have worked hard with this gilt, teaching her to walk with a board and a stick, as she had been sat in the field before I got her. It takes about 6 weeks to get them show ready, and ensuring both you and the pig have enough ring craft is very important.”
The same gilt went on to win Royal Cornwall, also taking the breed championship, standing above Caroline’s homebred boar, Mutterton Namatjiira 229, which took reserve.
The Mutterton herd also had a win at Dorset with a homebred July-born gilt.
Steven Ley has kept sheep for more than 20 years, but in 2013 established a Blue Texel flock.Running alongside 100 Badger Face Welsh Mountain ewes, the 25 Blue Texels are kept under the Tordown prefix, owned by the family.
Steven and partner Hannah Payne run the flock on rented plots of local grassland, which they manage alongside their full-time jobs.
With their three children, Chloe, 19, Zach, 15, and Zoe, nine, the family kicked off their show year with the Royal Cornwall, where they took both female reserve and male reserve titles with Blue Texel and Badger Face exhibits.
At Liskeard show, homebred Blue Texel ewe lambs Tordown Bounce and Tordown Baarbara were placed first and second in their classes, while a shearling ewe went on to take reserve any other continental. They also took reserve group of three inter-breed with a trio of Badger Faces.
Okehampton show was their time to excel their Badger Faced ewes where they had four class wins, followed by overall native and minority female and male championships.
A last-minute entry at the Blue Texel society show and sale, Worcester, also paid off as Tordown Baarbara returned to the ring and won a strong ewe lamb class before being named reserve female champion.
Hannah says showing is a total family venture, and they rely on the help of Steven’s father for transport, as they show both MV and non-MV accredited stock.
Steven continues: “We spend hours trimming and preparing our show sheep prior to an outing. Hannah is a trained dog groomer, meaning we can trim our own sheep rather than hiring help.
“Persistence and dedication is necessary this job. Nearly every evening and weekend during the show season is spent with the sheep.”
Dexter Logan’s passion for Highland cattle began as soon as he could walk, and it has not wavered since. Continuing the family interest in the breed, Dexter, 22, keeps his 30-head Blair Logan fold on the 25 hectare (62 acre) family farm in Clackmannanshire.
The fold began in 1990 when his parents, Kelso and Alison, bought their first pedigree calf at Oban. Chief calf handler as a young boy, Dexter took over the fold when his father suddenly passed away when he was 14. In the same year, Dexter claimed the supreme breed championship at the Great Yorkshire show.
In 2017, the Blair Logan fold took the Great Yorkshire breed honours once again with the three-year-old in-calf heifer, Solas Emma 1 of Blairlogan, whose dam, Solas Emma 4 of Benmore, followed into reserve.
These two show girl continued their successes, picking up numerous titles on the local show circuit.
The heifer Furan of Glengorm went on to win the champion of champions title at the Isle of Bute show, and their heifer calf Katie Morag 13 of Blairlogan recently won the calf championship at the society sale in Oban, before selling for 3,200gns.
Dexter admits he does not like to give many secrets away, but says while the aim of showing it to promote your stock, it is important to have fun in the process.
He says: “Showing can be very serious once you are in the ring, but outside it is all about the social scene.
“Being a young breeder, I feel I would never have been this successful if it wasn’t for the advice and tips from some off the most knowledgeable stockmen in the breed, and also without the support ofmy parents.”
THE 2017 season has been a bumper one for Northern Irish pig breeder Brian Kelly, who runs 12 sows under the prefix Donagheragh pedigree pigs.
Based in Co Armagh, Brian runs a shopping complex and keeps Gloucestershire Old Spots, Landrace, Large Whites and Large Black pigs, showing his homebreds at some of the biggest county shows in the UK and Ireland.
This year, the homebred July-born Large Black gilt Donagheragh Dorothy gave Brian his fourth consecutive Balmoral show traditional pig championship.
Second in the same July gilt class was Brian’s Gloucestershire Old Spot, while his Large White exhibits placed second in their respective gilt and boar classes. At the Great Yorkshire, Dorothy took overall breed championship, and at the Northern Ireland Rare Breed Survival Trust show in September, the same pig was overall breed champion.
Brian aims to head to the same events next year, but is aware the 30-day stand still restrictions currently in place in Ireland can hinder the show calendar.
“Ensuring you learn your breed and have the right stock for the showing job is vital,” says Brian. “Most of all, enjoy the day. If you have done your homework and believe in the stock, success will come.”