Despite having a decade under her belt as Northumberland County Show’s cattle secretary, Diane Harrison, has yet to experience the other side of life at the leading agricultural event.
Diane Harrison, Cattle Secretary with her Hereford Calf.
Even though she grew up on High Moralee Farm, near Wark in Northumberland, the 38-year-old has always been left to look on as others take to the show field with their livestock year after year, all vying for rosettes in more than 70 competitive cattle classes.
Organisation and planning are key for the cattle section which regularly attracts 300 entries shown across five judging rings. Diane’s time is usually all swallowed up preparing everything from spread sheets to timetables, in order that every bit of information is carefully collated well in advance of the show to ensure it all runs like clockwork on the day.
However, this year, is destined to be a little different. For Diane, along with husband Thomas (35) who is a former show chairman and current Show Director of the event, are preparing and halter breaking two calves of their own which will compete in the newly-introduced Hereford cattle classes which are kindly sponsored by Swinburne Jackson Solicitors on showday, which this year will be on the Queen Jubilee weekend Bank Holiday Monday, June 4.
Their showing debut is even more poignant after organisers, Tynedale Agricultural Society, announced in November that the 2012 show will be the last to be held in Corbridge after more than 60 years at Tynedale Park. A 105 acre site at Bywell near Stocksfield will become the home of the show in 2013, offering much-needed room to grow, along with ample capacity to cope with the crowds in excess of 25,000 people which the countryside showcase regularly attracts.
Diane said: “In recent years there has been a big swing away from the continental type cattle, back towards the native breeds of cattle. To reflect the change we’ve introduced a new set of classes for Hereford cattle at the 2012 show after we saw a big increase in entry numbers of the breed.”
Hereford seemed the perfect breed for the couple to invest in themselves, a decision which was encouraged by Thomas, who reared three Hereford calves as a teenager on his family farm in Mickley, Northumberland.
Among their purchases from David and Kate Dickinson’s Mallowburn herd from Shortmoor Farm at Gunnerton, were calves Jolene and Joanie, which are being primed ready for the fast-approaching show.
“We went to Hereford for a sale and did a lot of research on the breed before we settled on it,” said Diane.
“It’s nice to know that there are lots of people around us who will point us in the right direction on how to prepare and dress them for show day.”
When Northumberland County Show’s cattle section was in need of help from young farmer’s clubs across Tynedale in the late 1990s, Diane and Thomas, who is an Estates Technician for Northumbrian Water, soon forged a links with an event which has since become a huge part of both of their lives.
Diane said: “Thomas, David Carr, who is the current show chairman, and I all went along to help and we have all been there every year ever since.”
Gradually Diane climbed the ranks from steward to allocating and distributing prize money, before eventually in 2002, she and David, who became chief cattle steward, “inherited” the section.
Diane said: “We were lucky, because after foot and mouth in 2001, the show came back but at a much smaller and manageable size, so it gave us a good chance for us to find our feet – but believe me it has taken a lot of years to get right!”
However, with the help of her team of around 20 trusty volunteers, the trials and tribulations on the lead up to the main event, all is forgotten the night before the show when the cattle marquee is buzzing with activity.
“A lot of exhibitors travel quite a distance to come to the show, so it’s often easier for them to arrive the day before so the cattle are not stressed from the journey and they have time to settle in,” explained Diane.
“It’s a really nice atmosphere with a lot of people staying overnight to spend time preparing for the show.”
With everything from combs and glitter to industrial hairdryers used to preen the cattle to perfection, there is naturally an air of healthy competition too.
Schedules for the show on 4th June will be available from the show office from early March 2012.
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