The Walker farming family, from Brennand Farm, Dunsop Bridge, dominated the Craven Champions double-header, the annual opening show and sale of 2017-born store cattle with show potential at Skipton Auction Mart (Tues & Wed, Feb 13 & 14).
The Walkers – father Jeff and his two sons John and Rob, who farm high above the Hodder Valley – added to their multiple past title wins at the winter showcase when landing a high profile hat-trick at the 2018 renewal.
They claimed the supreme and reserve supreme championships with a brace of heifers, along with the champion steer, all three sired by their highly regarded main British Blue stock bull, Cromwell Fendt. The first-class home-bred trio are seen as having great future potential, both as show cattle and for breeding.
It was the Blue heifer show class that produced the family’s frontrunners, with North Wales judge, commercial suckler breeder and showman, Aled Roberts, from Anglesey, tapping out the two Walker entries in the 11-strong class as his first and second prize winners and later awarding them reserve and supreme honours. He said the 10-month-old title winner stood out because of her “style and squareness.”
At the following day’s sale, Mr Roberts then proceeded to buy his chosen champion, who is the first calf out of a pure Limousin cow, Procters Iris, acquired two years ago, for a new centre record price for a store animal for the second year in succession of £3,600.
Mr Roberts, from Garnedd Fawr, Gaerwen, said he had high hopes for his new acquisition in the show arena and first planned to parade her at this year’s Beef Expo in Shrewsbury in May, followed by a tilt at the Royal Welsh Show in July. She will then take her place in his 50-strong suckler herd with an appointment with his Limousin stock bull.
The supreme champion secured an unprecedented seventh Craven Champions’ title for the Walkers and, fittingly, received the Jack Walker Trophy, first presented by Jeff Walker in 2014 in memory of his late father.
The family’s 12-month-old reserve supreme champion is a full sister to their 2016 Craven Champions best in show. She, too, created a buzz in the sale ring, before falling for £2,000 to York farmer and butcher Anthony Swales, a regular Skipton buyer, who also paid £1,150 for another Walker rosette winner, the third prize February-born bullock in the un-haltered show class, again by Fendt.
Both all-black youngsters are well matched and will be also paraded on the summer show circuit as pairs by Mr Swales’ two sons, Luke, 21, and 22-year-old Harry, who help out on the family farm in Melbourne, as well as working at their Knavesmire Butchers in Albermarle Road, York.
The brothers won local show championships with Skipton-bought store cattle last year and Mr Swales said the 2018 reserve supreme champion could well return to CCM’s high profile Christmas primestock show the final Sunday in November this year.
The Walkers’ first prize bullock and champion steer, a January-born son of Fendt, sold for £1,700 to another regular buyer at the fixture, Michael Wynne, of Hall Farm, Matlock in Derbyshire, who in the past has purchased the family’s Craven Champions title winners.
Mr Wynne also paid second top price in show of £2,400 for the first prize winner in the young handlers’ show class from Sheila Mason’s Keasden Head herd in North Craven. The July-born Blue-cross heifer was halter-trained, prepared and shown by her 17-year-old daughter Georgia, who attends Settle College and has been helping out on the farm since she was just six-months-old.
Known as Beauty, the heifer is by Bringlee Activator, acquired from Graham Brindley’s Staffordshire herd as a tiny calf and since used with great success at Keasden Head – he has now turned 12 and been responsible for many Skipton prize winners over the years.
Both the champion bullock and young handlers red rosette winner will again be shown by Mr Wynne’s 16-year-old daughter Ellie, a member of Bakewell Young Farmers Club who is in her final year at Highfields School in Matlock.
Back in the Walker pen, Fendt was responsible for four of the family’s six-strong Blue-cross consignment. The renowned sire has produced some leading store cattle performers at Skipton, among them the 2015 and 2016 Craven Champions title winners. He is still working well, with his next crop of calves due on the ground soon.
The other two in the Walker pen were sired by their home-bred Blue stock bull, Brennand Hercules, and both picked up runners-up rosettes, one in the young handlers’ show class, a February-born heifer sold for £2,100 to Bordley’s John Stephenson, and another in the un-haltered heifer show class, this one January-born and claimed for £1,250 by RC Turnbull & Son, of Coxwold, York.
Jeff Walker, who has some 45 cows at home – seven Brennand pedigrees, the remainder Blue-cross – said afterwards: “It was a truly memorable success for us. I am as proud today as I have ever been.”
Sheila Mason, supreme champion at the 2017 fixture with a British Blue-sired heifer that set a then new centre record price for a store animal when selling for £3,200, picked up further prizes this year with her Keasden Head holding, first established in 1952.
Top performer in the show arena was her first prize Limousin-sired bullock and reserve male champion, a May-born home-bred called Hamlet and by the Genus sire, Lodge Hamlet, which found a new home in Nottinghamshire when selling for £2,000 to JK Beckitt & Son, of Newark. The second in class from the same vendor, a seven-month-old bullock, Echo, by the same sire, was knocked down for £1,750 to WA Tetley & Son, of Colchester in Essex.
Another Mason July-born bullock, himself called Activator, was runner-up in the Blue-sired show class, selling at £1,150 to G Raper, of Thorne, Doncaster.
Showing for only the second time at the annual highlight, Calderdale’s David Moore, of Upperfield House Farm, Sowerby, was rewarded with a first prize win in the Limousin-sired heifer show class with a March-born daughter of the Genus bull, Chytodden Conan, sold for £1,500 to Rodney Bros in Masham, The same vendor was also responsible for the third prize Limousin-sired bullock, which made £920.
Ian Townson, of Dunsop Bridge, the 2013 Craven Champions champion, picked up a red rosette in the any other bullock show class with his July-born Charolais-cross known at home as Ted. By Moelfre Ambassador, out of Tophill Annabelle, the steer made £1,250 when joining the Jowett family in Queensbury. Mr Townson also had the runner-up in the Limousin-sired heifer show class with a March-born entry that made £950.
Nidderdale hill farmer and commercial cattle breeder, Mark Ewbank, of Intake Farm, Middlesmoor, took first prize in the any other breed heifer show class with a June-born Blonde-cross by a Bridgend bull sold for £850.
Faring better in the sale ring were the second and third prize winners in the same class, again Blonde-cross, from North Craven mother and son, Janet and James Huck, of Sowerthwaite Farm, Austwick. The runner-up made £990, bettered by the third in class at £1,040, with the Hucks also responsible for the third prize Limousin-sired June- born heifer, which made £970.
Again from Calderdale, Stephen Horsfield, of Rough Farm. Mytholmroyd, claimed first prize in the un-haltered heifer show class with a March-born Blue-cross, home bred to a bull called Hercules, and sold locally at £1,220 to John and Jean Bradley in Giggleswick. Mr Horsfield also achieved £1,200 with his third prize April-born Blue-sired bullock.
Norfolk breeders, Henry Harvey & Son, of Waxham Hall, Waxham, regular Craven Champions prize winners, stepped up with the first prize un-haltered any breed bullock, a June-born Limousin-cross by the family’s own stock bull, which sold for £1,010 to DRM & GM Maycock in Matlock.
In the same class, the March-born third prize winner, another Blue-cross from David Broadbent, of Midgley, Halifax, made £1,150. The Calderdale breeder also finished third in the Blue heifer show class with another March-born entry sold for £1,120, picking up a further third prize in the young handlers’ show class with an April-born Blue-cross heifer shown by Megan Bailey, which also made £1,120.
From the nine show classes, the remaining prize winner, third in the un-haltered heifer show class, was an April-born Blue-cross from Trawden’s Jim Baines, sold for £1,100, again to the Tetley family.
Every single prize winner was sold, the majority making four figures and achieving an overall average price of £1,413 per head.
“It was another superb result when taking into account the across-the-board quality of these young, up-and-coming show potential animals and further cements CCM’s growing reputation as a centre of excellence for pedigree, store and breeding cattle sales,” commented livestock sales manager Ted Ogden.
Skipton’s first major store cattle showcase of 2018 again attracted multiple sponsors, with full results and prices posted at www.ccmauctions.com.