Walker family land eighth Craven Champions store cattle crown
Supreme champion and reserve among four-strong Handley haul
Skipton Auction Mart’s annual Craven Champions highlight for 2020-born store cattle with show potential produced yet another supreme championship coup for the Hodder Valley-based Walkers
and a top call of £2,500 for the reserve supreme champion from the Huck family in North Craven. Both fell to the Handley family, who also farm in North Craven. (Wed, March 17)
Put back a month from its usual mid-February slot and the first major store cattle fixture to be staged in the newly upgraded main sales ring, the Walker family - father Geoff and his two sons John and Rob, of Brennand Farm, Dunsop Bridge – picked up a record-breaking eighth title win at an event they have virtually made their own in recent times.
Their latest victor, also the first prize un-haltered heifer and female champion, is a 13-month-old British Blue-x and one of the last two natural calves by their renowned former stock bull, Cromwell Fendt, also responsible for past Walker Craven Champions supreme champions.
The Jack Walker Trophy, first presented at the annual highlight in 2014 by Geoff Walker in memory of his late father, returned to the family after their 2021 supreme had been tapped out by Long Preston co-judges and partners John Mellin and Clare Cropper, who said their chosen champion really stood out, being “very strong and correct on its legs, with good length, stylish and well presented by the Walkers.”
Out of a home-bred Limousin cow, the title winner sold for £2,200 when joining the Handleys – husband and wife, Ian and Diane, and Ian’s brother, Peter – at Gunnerfleet Farm, Chapel-le-Dale, who bagged a total of four promising Craven Champions prize winners.
They went to a price-topping £2,500 to secure the first prize haltered Limousin heifer, reserve female and overall reserve champion from mother and daughter, Janet and James Huck, who run a 60-strong suckler herd at Sowerthwaite Farm, Austwick. The overall runner-up is a May, 2020, home-bred heifer by the Genus AI sire, Lodge Hamlet, out of a 50:50 Blue/Limousin cow.
The other two Handley acquisitions were both second prize-winning haltered heifers from fellow North Craven breeder Sheila Mason, who runs the Keasden Head herd near Clapham. First up was a Limousin by Coachhouse Lionheart at £1,900, the second a Blue by the home-bred Keasden Head Laddie at £1,800.
Ian Handley explained that the family’s farming policy is now to buy in the best possible bulling heifers, follow a strictly planned and controlled health regime, then put them to an easy calving pedigree Limousin bull, a Plumtree Fantastic son from the renowned Garrowby herd at Bugtorpe, York, who, with top genetics, is already proving his worth.
A full brother, Garrowby Gizmo, has bred multiple top show calves and, incidentally, was crowned supreme champion as a 13-month-old at the Northern Limousin Extravaganza staged at Skipton Auction Mart in 2012.
Moving forward, Mr Handley explained that the plan is to sell progeny in-calf at a special sale, hopefully at their local mart in Skipton. And, while not showing themselves, they report there are currently some 52 show potential breeding cattle on the ground.
Back with the Walkers, the other remaining natural Cromwell Fendt calf was also forward and itself picked up a red rosette when winning the haltered Blue heifer show class. The 13-month-old, out of a home-bred Blonde-x cow by the family’s own Brennand Handy, sold for second top call of £2,300 to BE&CA Allsop, of Sproxton near the Leicestershire-Lincolnshire border.
And while it may have been the end of a highly successful era concerning the prolific Fendt, the Walkers say they have retained enough of his semen to last some time and that it is also for sale through Norbreck Genetics.
Brennand Farm also stepped up with the third prize haltered Limousin heifer, sold for £1,150 to Jack Shepherd, of Bewerley, Pateley Bridge, plus a haltered Blue bullock that made £1,350.
Nidderdale husband and wife, Mark and Fee Ewbank, of Intake Farm, Middlesmoor, who landed their first Craven Champions supreme championship last year with a Blue-x heifer, returned with a home-bred Blue-x bullock which first won its show class, then the male championship.
Like year’s victor by the couple’s well-utilised stock bull, Brennand Jimmy, another solid Walker family sire acquired some six years ago, the 11-month-old sold for £1,500 to DT Todd Farming in Wragby, Lincolnshire. The Ewbanks, who are further establishing their Intake pedigree British Blue herd, also made £1,550 when their third prize haltered Blue heifer joined A Barnett, of Shap in Cumbria.
Sheila Mason, who was the 2017 Craven Champions supreme champion and last year’s reserve supreme, also presented the second and third prize haltered bullocks, both Blue-x again by her home-bred Keasden Head Laddie, now in his third year. The runner-up, also reserve male champion, made £1,280, bettered at £1,320 by the other.
Back in the un-haltered show class the runner-up from Richard and Val Brown, of Kirkby Malham, made £1,450 when becoming a further A Barnett buy, while the third prize winner from Barden’s John Fawcett sold locally for £1,200 to John and Jean Bradley in Giggleswick. The fixture attracted multiple sponsors.