Walker family maintains dominance of Skipton store cattle show arena
The Walker farming family from Dunsop Bridge again walked off with a fistful of honours, including the supreme championship, also the top price performer, at the new-look ‘Craven Champions’ double-header, the annual opening show and sale of store cattle with show potential at Skipton Auction Mart. (Tues & Wed, Feb 16 & 17)
Jeff Walker, joined by sons John and Rob, who ply their trade from Brennand Farm, high on the hills above the Hodder Valley, grabbed not only the overall title with their first prize British Blue-cross bullock and male champion, but also reserve champion male and female with two further Blue-cross entries.
They maintained last year’s domination of the Skipton store show cattle arena, when they won all three major seasonal shows for up-and-coming youngsters, including the 2015 Craven Champions fixture and further titles in April and October.
The Walkers were tasting victory at the annual highlight for an unprecedented sixth time. Their latest title winner, known as ‘Black Magic, was a home-bred ten-month-old son of their highly regarded main stock bull, Cromwell Fendt, who also produced two of the family’s 2015 Skipton champions, out of a Blue-cross cow by Brennand Viper, another home-bred bull who produced multiple show winners for the Walkers and also later for his buyer, Barden’s John Fawcett.
The 2016 victor, which retained the Jack Walker Trophy, first presented by Jeff Walker in 2014 in memory of his late father, also proved to be magic in the sale ring when selling for the day’s top price of £2,700 to Michael Wynne, of Hall Farm, Matlock in Derbyshire, who regularly buys store cattle and also sells prime lambs at Skipton.
He purchased the supreme champion on behalf of his 13-year-old daughter Ellie, who will parade her new charge on the local show circuit this year, including Bakewell, Ashover, Mottram and Penistone. Ellie is a pupil at Highfields School in Matlock, which actively encourages such enterprise.
Mr Wynne also secured last year’s supreme champion from the Walkers for his daughter, a member of Bakewell Young Farmers Club, and she went on to achieve some high profile successes at local shows, including the overall championship at Mottram. She will be hoping for further coups with her latest star. “We have always had good results from the Walkers’ cattle,” said Mr Wynne.
He made a number of acquisitions at the latest renewal, among them a smart, young Blue heifer known as ‘Domino’ from Sheila Mason, of Keasden Head, Clapham. Although a non-prize winner, the eight-month-old was spotted by Mr Wynne’s keen-eyed seven-year-old son Max, a pupil at South Darley Primary School in Darley Bridge, and dad went to £1,850 to secure it for him. Max will look after the heifer and also show it on the regional show circuit in the baby beef classes.
The Walker family was also responsible for the first prize un-haltered bullock and reserve male champion, a dark blue and white ten-month-old known as ‘Chunky Monkey’ and also by Cromwell Fendt. It joined Matt Keel, of Thirsk, for £1,500.
Their reserve champion female was a March-born chocolate-coloured heifer aptly named ‘Hot Chocolate’ that won the young handlers’ show class in the hands of Rob Walker. It was by another home-bred Blue bull, Brennand Handy, and also performed well in the sale ring when reaching £1,800 and joining the Shorrock family, of Cliviger, Burnley.
For good measure, the Walkers also stepped forward with two further Blue-cross second prize winners in the un-haltered and haltered heifer classes, along with the third prize winner in the latter.
The first mentioned sold for £1,550 to Donald and Christine Marston, of Kirkby Stephen, who with their son Andrew, his wife Rachel and their children, featured on the Lambing Live TV programme hosted by Kate Humble.
The Marstons also paid £2,600 for another Walker prize winner, with the other falling for £2,000 to show judge Robin Williamson, of Hamsterley, Bishop Auckland. The Walkers’ run of seven cattle averaged an impressive £1,915.
The family, who regularly sell store catlle, Mule gimmer lambs and Swaledale draft ewes at Skipton, have just 50 cows at home, including pure Blues and Blue and Limousin commercial crosses, which they have bred for some 20 years.
Current lines go back to their first sire, Ridgedean Theo, acquired from well-respected Leighton Buzzard Blue breeder, the late Michele Wilde, followed by the renowned Bluegrass Cyclone, Brennand Viper and Cromwell Fendt.
Adjudicator Mr Williamson, himself a successful showman, described his chosen champion as a “hands down winner, perfect in my eyes.”
Having 48 cattle in eight classes to judge, he turned to the un-haltered section for his chosen reserve supreme champion, the first-prize heifer and female champion, a dark red Limousin from North Craven father and son, Jonathan and Adam Townley, of Nutta Farm, Clapham.
Described as “my type of cow, having both muscle and length” by Mr Williamson, the overall runner-up was by a Cumbrian-bought sire, out of a Limousin-cross cow. She made £1,550 when joining the Jowett farming family in Queensbury, who also paid £1,180 for a second prize-winning Blonde d’Acquitaine-cross from Austwick mother and son, Janet and James Huck.
The Townleys picked up a second red rosette when winning the Limousin-sired heifer show class with a youngster by an unregistered home-bred pure bull, out of a Blue-cross-Limousin cow. She made £1,400 when joining IK&AM Grisedale, of Crooklands, Kendal.
Local breeders John Mellin and Clare Cropper, of Mill House Farm, Long Preston, the reigning Skipton Christmas primestock show supreme champions, picked up another red rosette in the British Blue-sired heifer show class, which attracted the largest entry, with their March, 2015-born ‘Hip Hop.” By a bull acquired from Cumbrian breeder Andrew Brown, of Asby, out of a Limousin- cross cow, she sold for £1,300 when becoming a further Michael Wynne acquisition.
The same vendors also won second and third prizes in the Limousin-sired bullock and heifer show classes, these selling at £1,150 and £1,000 to, respectively, Thompson Bros in Pickering and David Nickson, of Alford in Lincolnshire.
Calderdale breeder John Midgley, of Dean House Farm, Ludendenfoot, won the Limousin-sired bullock show class with a youngster by Hunter’s Hall Rambo, acquired from Turner Farms in nearby Holmfirth. Out of a Blue-cross cow, the red rosette winner sold for £1,180 to P&BH Hodgson, of Boston, Lincs.
The remaining red rosette in the any other breed show class fell to a Blonde-cross heifer known as ‘Cheerleader’ from Nidderdale hill farmers Mark and Fiona Ewbank, of Intake Farm, Middlesmoor, out of a dam who was bought as an in-calf heifer.
The Ewbanks, who were making their debut in the Skipton show arena, though they trade cattle at the mart, saw their charge sell away at £1,120, again to Mr Wynne, who also paid £1,300 for the second prize winner in the young handlers show class from the Fawcett family in Drebley. It was shown by Samantha Fawcett.
Another debutant in the Skipton show cattle arena, Henry Harvey & Son, of Waxham Hall, Waxham, made the long trip from Norfolk worthwhile when returning home with six rosettes in total from a strong pen of predominantly Limousin-cross entries, which sold to a high of £1,350 for a bullock that fell to Baldersby Park’s Malcolm Metcalfe. The Harveys are better known at Skipton with their prize-winning Texel shearlings.
Skipton regular Brian Lund, of Walshaw, Hebden Bridge, was runner-up in the British Blue-sired bullock show class with an entry sold for £1,200 to Ian Swales, of Goole, also sending out a third prize any other breed winner, a Parthenais sold for £1,020 to TJ Curson, of Dereham in Norfolk.
The new Craven Champions format was hailed an all-round success, with the show classes, offering a guaranteed prize fund of £1,200, including a £230 cash prize for the title winner and £100 for the buyer, taking place on the Tuesday evening and attracting an estimated turnout of 250 people. The following day’s sale of prize winners, again to a packed ringside, was conducted at a set time and formed part of the fortnightly sale of store and breeding cattle.
There were ten sponsors in total – Skipton NFU Mutual, Kingsway Veterinary Group, Great Yorkshire Show, JACS Trade & DIY, Stodley Pike Rural Products, Top Tags Animal ID, Graham Edwards Trailers, DB Agriculture Animal Feeds, PV Dobson Massey Ferguson, Carrs Billington, Janet Sheard, agent for Massey Feeds and Glasson Fertiliser, and 24/7 Weighing Solutions.
At the regular fortnightly sale of 680 head of store and breeding cattle, while young bulls were varied in quality, a strong list of prices either side of £1,100 for the smart and strong entries was achieved, producing an overall Continental-cross average of £919 per head.
Outside the show, commercial cattle were good to sell, with some of the shorter keep entries showing a rise on the fortnight, while cattle rising a year old were keenly contested. The average price for the 469 bullocks and heifers sold was £1,014.22 per head.