I would like to start this report by thanking the South West Counties Shorthorn Breeders Association for choosing me to be their judge this year. It was a privilege
to be chosen and I truly loved every minute and seeing all of the farms, cows and of course, the farmers!
I started my journey at our farm near Dover and definitely travelled the width of the country! I took my sister, Philippa, along with me for company and we had a really great road trip.
First stop was sunny Wiltshire and the Rawlins’ farm. Although the Rawlins are primarily arable and beef farmers after selling up their dairy herd a few years ago they still have a few shorthorns around which was really lovely to see. Ablington farm is always a spectacle, with land as far as the eye can see on the Salisbury Plain; it is a really unique way of farming. We started the tour seeing their freshly calved Junior cow Ablington Strawberry 25 who had recently had a very sweet Bushmills Jazz heifer calf. She was just out of the placings in my junior cow class but was very close with really tremendous udder. They also had two cracking young heifers at Kevin Moorse’s farm who show great potential.
After a scrumptious lunch at the Rawlins, we headed to even sunnier Somerset to visit Tom Osborne’s Goodwick herd. We were greeted by three freshly calved Shorthorn
cows with calves running about in the sunshine which was a wonderful sight.
Goodwick Solo 124 was one of the freshly calved cows and she was the standout cow of the herd for me. A youthful, strong, junior cow with a tremendous udder, who held on to the top junior cow spot throughout my journey. We also enjoyed the tour of the new dairy unit and parlour, great to see investments being made into dairy in the current climate and caused me to have a lot of parlour envy!
Philippa and I then spent a while lying in the shade and exploring before heading to Kevin and Pam Moorse’s for the night. On arrival we took a beautiful sunset stroll around a very relaxed, peaceful and content milking herd, which was an absolute joy.
In the morning we started with a full English breakfast which fuelled us very well for the day ahead! What stood out for me at Kevin’s were his senior cows – the Horethorne herd is a wonderful advertisement for the longevity of the Shorthorn. Horethorne Lindsay took the top spot in the senior cow class, although not a show cow she is a true working cow looking fantastic and milking well in her 8th lactation with brilliant legs and feet, strength in the top line and lasting udder attachment. I really enjoyed seeing all the cows in their working clothes and in their natural environment, meaning I could judge this competition based on the type of cow I love and would want in my own herd, and I would definitely like to have taken rather a few of Kevin’s home with me!! Special mention also to
Amber Barrington Iris 139 who although didn’t make it into the placings of the senior cows really impressed me as a cow in her 11th lactation and well in calf again! Although not entered in any of the classes another firm favourite of mine within the herd was St Arvans Bluebell 60th, a pure, traditional, senior cow and exactly the type of shorthorn that needs preserving.
After Kevin’s we made our way to Devon and the Collins’ at Hale Farm. I found this herd really interesting as over the years I have developed a passion for pure, traditional Shorthorns, seeing value in their efficiency, strength and longevity. I therefore really enjoyed visiting a herd that consisted of mainly pure Dairy Shorthorns. It was the young stock that really stood out for me here, especially their Maiden Heifer Hale Pearl 20; a heifer with excellent balance and mobility and a body already showing maturity with depth and strength and very correct legs and feet, truly deserving her place at the top of a very strong class of Maiden Heifers. I was also really impressed by their bull Hale Peerless. I was able to see some of his progeny around the farm as well as viewing him out in the field with a group of heifers. He had terrific length and walked very well with a very good nature which is vital for a bull in my opinion.
Philippa and I then took the opportunity of being in Devon to stay with our Great-Uncle Tim Garratt, a retired auctioneer and Shorthorn enthusiast where we spent a both brilliant and inspiring evening putting the world to rights and learning more about our family’s background with Shorthorns and farming. From Uncle Tim’s we went onto the Slade’s farm. By far the biggest herd of the competition it was a real treat to see so many shorthorns in one place. The Slades are really centred on the Shorthorns’ best traits, focusing on a low input, organic, grass-based, efficient and sustainable way of farming. There was a fantastic selection of both cows and young stock here, but the stars of the show for me were the Brimclose Flower family. The Dam of the Flower family Brimclose Flower 8 is a brilliant senior cow with tremendous spring of rib and dairy balance along with super locomotion, clearly producing off-spring that are following in her footsteps, I would be very proud to breed a cow family like them.
On from the Slade’s we drove to Cornwall to visit the Tobarn herd at The Osborne’s farm where we were shown around by Amy. Here we found the more modern type of dairy shorthorn, with very tall, bold, milky types of animals that are clearly performing very well. Their senior cow Marleycote Patricia 20 is a tremendous cow who very nearly knocked Horethorne Linsay from the top spot, but those extra lactations clinched it. However, I’m sure Patricia will keep on going and no doubt improving. I was really impressed with her mammary system, namely the fore udder attachment and height of rear udder which will help her to continue to last lactation after lactation.
Their calved heifer Tobarn Blizzard Samanta really drew my eye with fantastic udder attachment and a beautiful deep body for a heifer I felt she was extremely deserving of her first prize in a strong class of heifers. Both Philippa and I really enjoyed being shown around by Amy, her enthusiasm was infectious, and it was clear to see how much she loved the Shorthorns and that they loved her in return!
The next day we headed further into Cornwall to see John Rowe and the Cargenwen herd. Back to a smaller, more traditional herd but none-the-less full of uniformly correct cows. It was this uniformity throughout the whole milking herd and young stock that gave John the edge above the other herds in a very close herd competition. It is not a secret that I am passionate about Shorthorns, especially purer animals and John has managed to combine traditional and modern breeding
very effectively whilst keeping animals high in percentage and maintaining the true characteristics of the breed which are at risk of being lost. John’s cows were a credit to him, the seniors in particular were brilliant, but being dry just kept them out of the top spots. Junior cow Cargenwen Bessie 24 was exactly my type of cow, so strong on her legs with brilliant udder attachment who looks like she will last forever. So many of John’s cows were of this high standard which is why I believe he was very deserving of herd champion.
We then spent Thursday as a tourist day exploring the North coast of Cornwall, our favourite sight of the day being the Botallack Tin Mines which were spectacular and not to be missed if you’re ever in Cornwall! Friday was our last day as we headed East towards home our final stop was Martin Chilcott’s Lyndale herd. Having frequently met Martin at shows before moving to Kent it was a pleasure to have a look around the herd in person. Again, this was a beautiful herd with focus on pure breeding which was great to see, and I particularly enjoyed our conversations about the breed as a whole. All of his cows were in exceptional condition and enjoying a September flush of grass. Martin’s class winners were his three cows in the bull progeny class all sired by pure bull Brooksteads Bomber. These were three very correct, lasting, deep and milky cows and Lyndale Grace was the star of those three for me and had everything I look for in a shorthorn. I think I will be purchasing some Brooksteads Bomber straws for myself!
That concluded my judging week and as we drove the 4 hours back to Kent it gave me ample time to reflect on our journey. I am so grateful I was given this opportunity, not only was it fun to see all the farmers I’ve met over the years and view their cows in their natural environment, it was also hugely educational. I learnt so much from each farmer and their different systems and I now have so much to take forward with me for planning my own herds future. So, thank you so much to the South Western Counties Shorthorn Breeders Association for inviting me – it was a fantastic week!