Why farm animals are still the beating heart of the Royal Norfolk Show
PUBLISHED: 11:08 27 June 2019 | UPDATED: 11:08 27 June 2019
Jamie Honeywood Archant Norwich Norfolk
The big beasts which are the beating heart of the Royal Norfolk Show are rising in number every year - a trend which organisers attribute to the event's growing national reputation for top livestock competitions.
This year's show attracted more than 800 cattle entries, 150 pigs and 146 dairy goats. And, even in a lowland agricultural county more famed for its arable expanses of wheat, barley and sugar beet, it also attracted almost 1,200 sheep.
Breeders and exhibitors travelled from every corner of the UK to compete against their Norfolk counterparts for trophies and rosettes which are equally sought after in the rest of the country as they are within our county's borders.
Event organisers at the Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association put this popularity and reputation down to the quality of the competition, and the efforts of the team behind it.
Livestock coordinator Holly Whitaker said: "Livestock numbers are up across the board this year, and they are increasing year on year. We seem to be breaking records all the time in recent years.
"We attribute that to our great stewards and judges who put on such an amazing show, and the exhibitors who bring such good quality livestock. They come from the length and breadth of the UK.
"When we invite a judge they often say it is on their bucket list of shows to come to. They come back saying it is great to see large numbers of these animals and good quality livestock - and they are seeing really good quality livestock at our show.
"It is not just the numbers. Our exhibitors come because they want to take the accolade of supreme champion, but they want to say they have won that against 10 or 15 competitors, not just one or two.
"The competition here is really stiff. When you win at the Royal Norfolk Show, it is the crème de la crème.
"That is because of the quality of the show that we put on. Exhibitors want to come to show where they are welcome and wanted, and our stewards make a good job of that. All of these are reasons that make us a premier livestock show."
The climax of the first day's livestock competitions was the Grand Parade of Cattle in the Grand Ring.
Livestock commentator Mark Cleverdon introduced the background and breeding qualities of dairy milking cows and native beef breeds like Lincoln Reds, Herefords, Aberdeen Angus and Sussex, and continental breeds such as Simmental from Switzerland and the Limousin from France - which he described as "the country's undisputed top beef breed today".
It culminated in the award of the day's top cattle prize, the Heygates County Feeds Team of Five Trophy, which was presented by show president Sophie, Countess of Wessex.
The winning team of five Simmental beef cattle - one bull, two cows and two heifers - was a composite team made up by three farms, selected by their section's judges and breed society representative.
Bridget Borlase from Hertfordshire contributed two animals to the team, along with two from David and Leslie Sapsed in Hertforshire, and one from David Donnolly from Derbyshire.
She said the Royal Norfolk Show was held in high esteem across the country.
"We have had a fabulous day and to win that trophy was the icing on the cake after 12 months of work," she said. "These show cattle started their feeding process and some of their grooming processes 12 months ago. They have been on a diet and fitness programme to get them ready. It is hours and hours of work.
"The Royal Norfolk Show has got a very good reputation. This is up there with the Royal Highland or Royal Welsh Show to win this trophy. There are good numbers of cattle and everyone looks forward to coming here. It is a nice showground as well, so it is a nice way to spend our working holiday."