Last minute entries caused something of a flurry at the County Show offices within Hexham Mart yesterday (5th May). After the deadline date of Friday 1st May, entries arrived all weekend online and a bumper postage bag to open yesterday morning….
Latest calculations are seeing a large increase in the sheep section with 348 entries from last years 302 with sheep farmers reporting very good quality lambs this year due to the early good weather. ‘Last years weather knocked the lambs to bits ’ says Chief Steward Robert Raine of West Woodburn ‘but this year they’re much stronger and healthier; we might even get a look in at the champion of champions title at this years show!’ he says
Figures are down slightly in the cattle section with 283 entries, statistically nearer the 2007 show figure than last year (a bumper 310) and the news that due to a lack of entries the Aberdeen Angus class has had to be cancelled and a decision yet to be made with very few entries in the Any Other Continental Beef breed section ‘ Entries in individual classes are often in line with the market demand’ says David Carr Chief Steward of the Cattle Section ‘which is why its something of a mystery the numbers being down in Aberdeen Angus particularly’ he says but Limousin classes will always be popular and the British Blue classes are becoming more popular…every year is different’.
Last weeks news that two of the equine classes no longer being RIHS qualifiers which was predicted to have a detrimental effect, proved unsound with 412 entries so far (432 entries last year) …and still counting.
But it is perhaps the alpaca section which as taken everyone by surprise this year with 120 entries. Alpaca secretary Vicki Ridley of Slaley, herself an alpaca breeder, has negotiated throughout the show year for more space predicting a rise in interest from around the country. Last years show saw a rise in numbers from 73 to 96 and Vicki quite rightly predicted an even bigger rise this year.
‘An individual section can only house the number of entries its allotted space allows. I have been successful in negotiating more arena space to allow spectators access whilst eliminating the risk of any alpaca escapee’s’ says Vicki ‘but last week I had to close the ‘books’ early when we reached 120, its had to be on a first come first served.’
Entries have been received from Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire; Kendal, Cumbria, Lancaster; York, Stirlingshire and Melrose but there is also a very strong ‘local’ contingent with breeders from Harbottle, Wall, Corbridge, Rowlands Gill, Falstone and Lowgate bringing their animals.
Vicki explains ‘The popularity of alpacas is something to do with their very individual characters, they lovely to work with and appeal to a wide variety of people. Our exhibitors are a mixture of professional breeders, farmers, smallholders and hobbyists; numbers are growing and with the development of mini mills in this country to process the fleeces it won’t be long before we have a successful British home-grown luxury fibre of the future.’
Entries for other livestock sections like poultry are due next weekend 16/17th May. Poultry secretaries are predicting a rise in egg classes due to the growing popularity of keeping ones own hens for eggs. Last months Spring Rare Breeds sale at Hexham Mart saw its biggest ever event with 546 cages of rare and minority breeds of poultry and waterfowl and 400 registered purchasers. Typical prices for well presented soft feather birds x 4 at point of lay was typically £50-£60.
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