Meet the Norfolk bull who charged north and beat the Scots at their own game
A Norfolk bull has become the county’s first national Belted Galloway supreme champion – illustrating the growing reputation of this hardy Scottish breed in the East Anglian lowlands.
The three-year-old home-bred dun bull called Waveney Harnser from Carr Farm in Burgh St Peter, near Beccles, won the top title at the breed's biennial National Show, held this year at Westmorland in Cumbria.
And the award is not the only county "first" for the farm, which became Norfolk's first Pasture for Life producer in 2017. The scheme audits and certifies livestock enterprises whose animals are 100pc grass-fed, rather than being fed or finished on cereals, concentrates or imported soya.
Nicola Chapman, who runs the Waveney herd of pedigree Belted Galloways with her husband David, said the trophy victory came against some tough competition from the breed's heartlands north of the border, who had the advantage of being able to give their animals supplementary feed.
She said it was "lovely to beat the Scots", and especially pleasing to beat the champion bull from the Royal Highland Show, where the farm was unable to compete because of a mechanical breakdown.
"We were just thrilled, to be honest," she said. "We are new-entrant farmers, and we have not been keeping Belted Galloways for that long.
"It is only our fourth year, so we are new to everything. There were people at the show who told us they have spent their whole lives trying to win that title, so it is fantastic for us.
"And for a Pasture for Life animal to win this title is very pleasing. Animals are fed for shows, because you want them looking their best, so it was a disadvantage to be standing in lines next to cattle who have massive buckets of feed.
"The trophy has never come back to Norfolk before. It takes a lot of hard work, but we had Lady Luck shining on us this year.
"He (Harnser) is a great little fella. Belted Galloways are having the same issue as other native breeds, that people want to make them more commercial. They are trying to breed them bigger and rangier, but a proper Beltie should be able to do well on really rubbish grazing, with minimal interference from us.
"Harnser is a proper traditional Beltie. He is short and stocky, with a lovely temperament."
Mrs Chapman is a former surveyor, while her husband David works in the IT department at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.
Their 60-strong herd grazes outside all year round on the couple's own 110 acres of marshes as well as on nearby nature reserves such as Suffolk Wildlife Trust's Carlton Marshes, where the animals' ability to thrive on rough vegetation helps with conservation and habitat management.
Mrs Chapman said the popularity of native breeds like the Belted Galloway is likely to continue growing as consumers demand more sustainable and healthy beef, and landowners look for ways to meet their environmental obligations through grazing.
"There is so much in the press about cattle and the environment, so I feel this is probably the way to go with cattle, as it has got to be sustainable and it has got to be carbon neutral. We are really in the spotlight with all these things," she said.
The breed's recent upsurge in East Anglia has been evident through increasing entries at the Royal Norfolk Show, the emergence of new herds, and the creation earlier this year of a new regional group affiliated to the Belted Galloway Cattle Society.
Jeremy Perkins, who keeps Belted Galloways at Pakenham near Bury St Edmunds, co-founded the new East Anglian Belted Galloway Group with Mrs Chapman.
He said there are now around 35 breeders in Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, Cambridgeshire and Bedfordshire, most of which are in Norfolk and Suffolk.
"Overall there has been a resurgence in native breeds to graze environmental stewardship areas," he said. "A lot of my grazing is referred from the wildlife trust, so people want unselective grazers for habitat management and we want something that is going to thrive on very little input.
"One of my landlords loves having the iconic Belted Galloway because it is an attractive animal and the beef it produces is second to none."
On Mrs Chapman's championship success, Mr Perkins added: "To win against very competitive Scots who come down to the national show is a wonderful thing, and for a 100pc grass-fed animal to win is really good. It is an exceptional result for someone other than a Scottish breeder to win that prize."
BELTED GALLOWAY FACTFILE
- The Belted Galloway is a traditional Scottish breed, originating from the Galloway cattle of the Galloway region of south-western Scotland.
- Although the animals' exact origin is unclear, the white "belt" for which they are named - and which distinguishes the breed from the native black Galloway cattle - is believed to be the result of cross-breeding with the similarly-coloured Dutch Lakenvelder breed in the 17th and 18th centuries.
- Sir Winston Churchill founded a herd of Belted Galloways at Chartwell Manor in Kent in 1935.
- In the days before the railways, when cattle were driven from Galloway and Dumfries to Norfolk fairs, the drovers liked to have a distinctive white-striped "Beltie" in the bunch, so they could pick out their cattle in the dark.
- The Belted Galloway is reared mainly for its quality marbled beef but it can also be used for conservation and vegetation management.
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