Concentration is etched on their faces as they step back to make their final decision. Heads turn towards fellow breeders and colleagues swap words and nods of agreement, disagreement and sometimes outrage at what has just taken place. These are the scenes that make up an essential element of the agricultural show pastiche when judges make their decisions on the best stock.
Judging and being judged is an art form and next Sunday sees Jayne Greensit-Marley of Holme House Farm, Holme-on-Swale, return to the ring as a judge at this year’s North Yorkshire County Agricultural Show at Otterington Hall where she will be running the rule over the Suffolk pedigree sheep classes.
It has been a long lay-off as Jayne has been on the Suffolk judges list for many years but one that she is looking forward to with a mixture of family fervour and just an ounce of trepidation that isn’t brought about through fear of making a wrong decision but because of what brought her severe heartache 20 years ago.
“My grandfather Lawrence Greensit had a Wensleydale flock years ago but it was my dad, John, who started with Suffolks in 1972 and I would always help him with them. We had around 110 Suffolk breeding ewes and would show them everywhere. We did very well at the Great Yorkshire and we also competed at the Royal Highland Show.
“I would go with him to deliver the Suffolk tups that we had sold to other farmers and together we would prepare the sheep ready for showing throughout the summer season. After studying sheep management at Kirkley Hall College in Ponteland, Northumberland I spent five months in Australia where I worked mainly on farms that had Suffolk sheep.
“I started judging in 1991. I’m a stickler for what is right. Suffolks have to have length and a good back end so far as I’m concerned. They also need to be good on their feet and have good wool. I don’t really like anything that doesn’t conform to that. At the end of the day judging is your own opinion and you’re not going to please everybody.”
The reason for Jayne’s long lay-off isn’t because she fell out of love with the breed. “I was diagnosed with organophosphate poisoning around 1993-94. It is contracted from sheep dip either through breathing it in or getting it on your skin. At first I didn’t know what was happening. All I knew was that I was getting tired very quickly and moody, far more than is normal anyway. There were days when I was so exhausted that I couldn’t even raise the energy to brush my hair or teeth. I was eventually confined to bed for three months.”
Jayne was also diagnosed with ME, known as chronic fatigue syndrome, that she still suffers from today. “I have days when I don’t do so much because I just can’t. It’s frustrating, depressing and annoying but over the years I’ve become used to it and try to condition myself to take every day as it comes. When Len Cragg of North Yorkshire County Show rang to ask whether I would judge this year I thought it would be really nice to be back involved as it is a lovely show. I’ve turned down quite a lot of judging invitations in the past because I didn’t want to take a risk but I want to support it as it is one of our local shows.”
The Greensits’ own pedigree Suffolk flock was sold in 1997 due to Jayne’s condition and her father’s age, and although Jayne subsequently ran a smaller flock they have now been out of pedigree Suffolks for over a decade. Today the farm is run in partnership between Jayne’s parents John and Barbara, Jayne and her husband Mark. They farm 332 acres at Holme-on-Swale and 70 acres at North Cowton. The operation is mainly arable growing wheat and barley with spring beans as a break crop.
Jayne met Mark at Bedale Agricultural College and they have two boys Andrew, 11, and Tom, eight. “I couldn’t have got through the organophosphate poisoning without the support of my family. We’re all looking forward to North Yorkshire County Show next weekend where I’m also judging the Hampshire sheep. The boys will be handing out the rosettes and Mark is stewarding so it’s going to be a real family day.”
County show details
The 36th North Yorkshire County Show will be held at Otterington Hall, between Northallerton and Thirsk on Sunday, June 15 from 8am.
Among the displays, demonstrations and entertainment will be stunt cyclist Jez Avery, a Dancing Diggers display, traction engines, classic cars and motorcycles, a dog show, country pursuits, and arts and crafts.
Show jumping will go on all day in a dedicated show ring and there will be all the usual livestock competitions featuring cattle, sheep and poultry.
Tickets bought on the day are £8 for adults, £6 children, students and senior citizens and free for under fives.