Despite growing challenges British farmers believe there is "a bright future" - was the takeaway message from the UK’s leading autumn livestock showcase, Cumbria’s Borderway Agri Expo
Harrison & Hetherington’s 2023 Borderway Agri Expo was, as always, a true celebration of British agriculture, a shop window, a showcase, and in this, the event’s 16th year, it was ‘Queen Of Hearts’ who took Supreme Champion in the Cattle Classes and 14 year old Jack Whiteford from Brampton won Overall Champion and Reserve in the sheep section.
The 10,000 visitors, representing all sectors of the agricultural industry, had the opportunity to see the showcase of some of the very best quality cattle and sheep the UK has to offer. As always, the highlight of the day was the crowning of the Supreme Champion, which this year was awarded to ‘Queen Of Hearts’, an April 2022 born, home-bred Limousin cross heifer champion from Hugh and Stewart Dunlop, followed all the way by the Reserve, Jennifer Hyslop’s home bred heifer ‘Tequila Rose’.
Held in Carlisle on Friday 27 October and organised by Harrison & Hetherington, Borderway Agri Expo, without a doubt, cemented its place once again as the UK’s foremost autumn livestock showcase. Throughout the day the atmosphere was electric with all sectors of the farming community keen to meet, compete, and share the latest developments in farming practice, breeding, environmental issues, and export opportunities, with more than 900 livestock entries welcomed across the day’s classes.
Taking place, during the day were 127 commercial and pedigree cattle and sheep classes including the five-breed society shows; The Aberdeen Angus Winter National Show; The Beef Shorthorn National Calf Show; The Simmental Regional Calf Show; The Border British Blue Club Calf Show; and The Hereford National Calf Show.
In the cattle classes it was two home bred heifers which won Supreme Champion and Reserve Champion. Ayrshire’s Hugh and Stewart Dunlop took Supreme Champion with ‘Queen Of Hearts’, while Settle based Jennifer Hyslop took reserve for ‘Tequila Rose’.
The 2023 Overall Supreme Champion, ‘Queen Of Hearts’ was shown by Stewart Dunlop: “On behalf of my father and fiancée Penny, I would just like to say how delighted we are to win this today. We have shown here for years, and we are over the moon to win Supreme Champion, the hard work has certainly paid off.”
Commenting on both of his final choices and the day overall, Cattle Judge Gwyn Edwards said: “I picked ‘Queen Of Hearts’ as she is stylish, correct, clean, and modern – the perfect package. I have had the most tremendous day here and the most amazing line up of cattle to judge, throughout the whole show it is the highest quality I have ever seen, and congratulations must go to each and every one of the competitors for their unbelievable skills and attention to details in showing, along with their commitment. The standard of presentation just cannot get better.”
Baby Beef Champion – OW & GL Williams – Penrhyn Farm, Llanfwrog, Caergybi – Lim X – Lu-Lu
Baby Beef Reserve – William Roberston & Son – Fodderletter Farms, Banffshire – Lim X- Brewdog
Steer Champion – Hannah Donaldson – Hampshire House, Tollerton Road, York – Lim X – Mr Bombastic
Steer Reserve – G & JA Sedgewick – Ricknall Grange, Newton Aycliffe, Durham – BB X – Hitma
Heifer Champion – H & S Dunlop – Holehouse Farm, Ochiltree, Cumnock – Lim X – Queen Of Hearts
Heifer Reserve – Jennifer Hyslop – Cleatop Farm, Settle, North Yorkshire – Lim X – Tequila Rose
Sheep Overall Champion – Jack Whiteford – Tercrosset Farm, West Hall, Brampton – Beltex X
Sheep Reserve Champion– Jack Whiteford – Tercrosset Farm, West Hall, Brampton – Beltex X
Single Mule Gimmer Lamb
1st – James Robinson – Carnforth, Lancs 2nd – Philip Elliott – Mungrisedale, Penrith
Pair Of Mule Gimmer Lambs
1st – James Robinson – Carnforth, Lancs 2nd – Julie Brough – Wigton
In the sheep section, the younger generation was very well represented , with 14-year-old Jack Whiteford of Brampton winning overall Champion and Reserve Champion in the sheep section for his Beltex lambs. Jack, who has his own flock and has shown for two or three years, said “I am so chuffed and proud to have won the sheep section for a few reasons; I have been attending this event every year since I can remember, and over the years have watched many noted, well-respected, and established sheep breeders win the championship and I realise how hard it is to win and how good a competition it is. I also feel that it is one of those days that make all the hard work and bad days worthwhile!
“Twin sisters Abbie and Jessica were a great help getting the next pair to the ring, putting the others away, dressing and showing too, to enable everything to run smoothly. With my school friend Josh Thompson also helping me show, and his sister Kelsey was helping behind the scenes too.”
Jack, Abbie, and Jessica aren't just a show team, they are a major part of the all-year round farming practice. According to Jack’s father, there is never a day when they aren't outside helping on the farm, so days like Friday just makes all their hard work worthwhile.
Speaking afterwards, sheep judge John Sinnett said: “This was an excellent show of sheep and at the top end quite exceptional, as good as you would see anywhere and in any other winter competition. It is nice to see so many youngsters being involved. The champion and reserve were excellent pairs of sheep, and this is what the competition is, a pairs competition and they were exceptional as pairs, the champion pair were identical which is quite unusual. It is tremendous that we have such enthusiasm and professionalism at such a young age.”
Will Sedgely had the difficult job of casting his eye over the Mule Gimmer Lambs. The NEMSA Perpetual Trophy, presented to the best pair of NEMSA tagged lambs, was awarded to James Robinson of Carnforth, the reserves were Julie Brough’s from Wigton.
The inaugural Watsons Seeds Agri Expo Silage Competition saw entries from across both sides of the Borders, with Richard McCormick of Barnbackle, Dumfries winning first prize in both the Big Bale and Clamp competitions, and Elliot Farms, Galashiels winning the Whole Crop competition.
The livestreaming of Borderway Agri Expo opens a window for the many people across the UK and beyond who cannot attend in person. Watched by over 17,000 people across the website, YouTube, and Facebook, with some viewers tuning in from as far as Australia and the US, this year’s guest commentators were Mark Phillips, presenting the commercial cattle classes, and Andrew Goldie presenting the sheep section.
With social media playing a huge part in many peoples’ lives, the younger generation were invited to get involved in promoting British agriculture through The Young Vlogger Competition. Judge Cammy Wilson, aka ‘The Sheep Game’, loved the effort put in by the winner 9-year-old Finley Ivinson, and was impressed by the dipping sheep educational element of his video. As part of the prize, Finley was given the opportunity to film alongside Cammy at Agri Expo, as well as receiving a voucher from sponsors Herd’s Media.
Discussion and debate are an important part of this event and the H&H Land & Estates seminars created an open forum for farmers to discuss Breeding Healthy Stock for a Sustainable Future and Farming Business Success and Opportunities for the Future.
Speakers in the first seminar included CEO of the British Limousin Society, Alice Swift, and Barrie Turner, CEO of the Suffolk Sheep Society, much debated was the achievability of net zero, Alice Swift, said: “I think it's so important that days like today make the community feel positive and upbeat because there is a positive future out there.
"Customers are buying British. They're looking for British. And we were able to produce beef at half the carbon footprint of the global average. We're in a great position to have a bright future ahead. But it's days like this, where farmers come together, and they can feel good about the sector."
Chaired by H&H Land & Estates Director, Mark Barrow, the second seminar of the day saw Mark’s colleagues Jonathan Hird and Chris Gill, and guest speaker Annabel Hamilton, discuss current funding streams, and opportunities for farm diversification. For Annabel Hamilton, their pumpkin patch and caravan site are both important to the overall farming enterprise, although she was keen to highlight that having a competitive edge is key to making it work.
In memory of David Thomlinson, one of the most highly respected individuals within the livestock sector, the David Thomlinson Lifetime Achievement Award was this year presented to North Northumberland farmer, George Neill. His nomination shone a light on George’s combination of passion for the rural way of life and business skills that makes farmers like George the backbone of our industry. Over the past 50 years George built his family farming business at Thornington Farm near Mindrum into one of the few major dairying success stories in the region.
On being presented with the award, George commented: “Over the years I had many discussions with David Thomlinson, and I thought the world of him. I am really honoured to be recognised and to receive the David Thomlinson Lifetime Achievement Award, and I never thought I was worthy enough to receive something of this calibre.”
For the next generation of farmers, the David Allen Stockperson of the Year Award in association with The British Charolais Cattle Society, NEMSA and Cumbrian Young Farmers tested the skills, knowledge, and capabilities of Young Farmers aged 10-28. Competing in pairs, each pair had to complete five classes including stockjudging, machinery valuation, and the auction quiz. The winning duo were Sophie Mitchell & Katie Bell from Walton YFC; second place was taken by Kerry Scott & Emma Blaylock from Longtown YFC; and third by Victoria & Jackson Twentyman Penrith YFC.
The trade exhibition is a key part of this event for those attending and this year there was a record-breaking number of trade stands. Encompassing and promoting all aspects of the industry from Breed Societies to the latest technology, farm machinery, nutrition and education. This year the stands were Judged by Alex Scott, Lord-Lieutenant of Cumbria and his wife Sam. Scooping Best Breed stand was the British Charolais Cattle Society for their tremendous display, Aspatria Farmers was awarded best indoor trade stand, and Te Pari the best outdoor stand.
In summing up the 2023 Borderway Agri Expo, Scott Donaldson Managing Director said:
“Our intention has always been to have an event that encourages participation from all ages of the livestock farming industry, and this has never been more evident than this year, and I would like to personally thank and congratulate Jack Whiteford, he epitomises, our next generation of young farmers.
“We continually hear about farming being an industry with an ageing population, however for me it is such a pleasure to see so many of our younger generations represented, both taking part in the competition presenting livestock for shows, and attending as visitors. This is a sector with so many opportunities for the next generation and it is great to see that they are being grasped.
“From very first thing in the morning the place was buzzing, we had people attending as both visitors and exhibitors from across the whole of the UK and Ireland. I would particularly like to thank the judges, the class entries were phenomenal, and to have to choose the best of the best from such a high standard of stock across both the commercial, pedigree, and sheep classes is a huge challenge and takes an exceptional eye.
“And of course, on a final note a huge thank you to our sponsors, supporters, exhibitors, and visitors, without each and every one of them Borderway Agri Expo just would not happen.”
This year's event supported Cancer Research UK and the My Name’5 Doddie Foundation, and was sponsored by Norbrook, Woodheads, and Carrs Billington.