Prices down but dairy makes a timely comeback at Penistone Show

Jill Fleetwood with her sons Charlie and Oliver. Picture: Scott Merrylees SM1009/30b
Jill Fleetwood with her sons Charlie and Oliver. Picture: Scott Merrylees SM1009/30b
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POSITIVITY MAY be a difficult state of mind for dairy farmers right now but it’s not doom and gloom for everyone. Although a disaster for those receiving poor prices it isn’t every farm that has seen theirs fall way beneath the cost of production and next week even sees the return of dairy classes to Penistone Show.

The Fleetwood family of Lower Stoneroyd Farm and Croftside Farm in Hopton near Mirfield will be there with their Dairy Shorthorns, and the reinstatement of the classes is a triumph for cattle and sheep show secretary Elaine Earnshaw, who has worked hard to bring them back to a show that’s always had a good turnout of sheep and beef cattle.

“I’ve been involved with the show all my life. My father Frank Clegg was the show manager, a role that Nicholas Hoyland took over and still holds today; my mother Dorothy was the trade stand secretary for many years and my sister Jacqueline took over from her. I remember the dairy classes being strong when I was a steward. We always had lots of trophies but entries dwindled and the classes stopped. Getting them back going again is something I’d wanted to try for a while.”

It started six years ago, Elaine says. “George and Pauline brought some of their cows so that we had some here and then two years ago we came up with young handlers classes that have gone really well. Our assistant show manager Sam Raines and the Penistone YFC took the competition to heart and although we just had two heifers that move has brought about this year’s first actual competitive dairy classes for quite some time.

“We had a lady from Derbyshire who brought a heifer last year and she said that if we would be prepared to put classes on she would also show.”

Next Saturday’s show now looks set to see around 12-15 cows, heifers and calves at Penistone.

“We’ll have Jerseys, Holstein Friesians and Dairy Shorthorns in addition to our excellent beef classes that always have a good turnout of Highlands and Herefords. I go to shows at Otley, Emley, Honley, Halifax as well as many others handing out schedules every year and hopefully having the dairy classes back will also attract more in coming years.

“One of the things I’ve found is that the young handlers classes are a great way of getting new people involved. Those who used to show are now coming back not necessarily through their children but through their grandchildren competing.”

The Fleetwood family is well-known in the Dairy Shorthorn world whether it’s George, Pauline, son Chris or daughter Jill. They show at the Great Yorkshire and this year picked up two firsts, four second places and reserve junior champion. Pauline was born into a dairy farming family in Ackworth and showed dairy cattle from being 12-years-old until three years ago when Jill took over. Their herd prefix is Hutchinwood. George and Pauline have another son Edward who is not involved with the farm.

Having once been producer-processors and retailers with a milk round in the villages of Kirkheaton and Lepton which saw them have 13 roundsmen, they’re now purely dairy and suckler herd farmers with 80 milking cows of which 30 are Dairy Shorthorns and 50 Holstein Friesians producing a herd average of 7,710 litres per cow per annum. The suckler herd runs to 70 cows with around 40 followers and they’re hoping to increase their dairy herd in the coming year or two. Currently they have 80 dairy heifers to bring in to the herd as either replacements or simply add to their existing milking team. They own 110 acres and rent a further 230 acres. The whole farm operation is ring-fenced apart from 25 acres at Kirkheaton. They also run a DIY livery stable.

They’ve had their share of bad luck, as many of their fellow dairy farmers suffered the same fate, when the Dairy Farmers of Britain co-operative went bust, but rather then languishing their fortunes changed. They’re careful not to crow over where they are at in comparison to some of their industry colleagues right now but they are a lot happier than they were.

“We now sell our milk to Longley Farm in Holmfirth. They’ve been absolutely brilliant to us,” says George. “I won’t mention the price because it might not be fair on others and we’re not trying to be clever but I have to say they are a model dairy for any dairy farmer. They produce added value products and we try our best to fit in with their requirements.

“They had approached us prior to the Dairy Farmers of Britain collapse but when it happened they came to us immediately and said that all the time we had been dealing with DFB we’d been filling up a tanker that was going to them anyway. All they asked was whether we were still quite happy to keep sending our milk with the same tanker and the same tanker driver and going on to their contract. We were very happy to do so and we are in a far better place as a result.

“We’re not ones to swap and change,” says Chris, who is a partner in the farm business with his parents. “But the traditional farmers’ loyalty to one company can sometimes not work out. Farmers will often stay with somebody even though they know they’re not getting the best deal.”

Tiny twins making progress

Regular readers of The Yorkshire Post may recall the birth of Chris Fleetwood and his wife Lindsey’s twin girls Abigail and Rebecca born three months premature earlier this year.

They were just 1lb 7ozs and 1lb 14 ozs at the time. Happily they are now both bouncing babies of 18 and 16lbs.

Penistone Show was established in 1853 and remains South Yorkshire’s premier agricultural show. Anyone who would like to enter the show’s dairy cattle classes still has time - call Elaine Earnshaw by Wednesday’s deadline on 07799 720139.

Penistone Show takes place on Saturday, September 12 and despite the building of a supermarket on part of the showfield some years ago, the show remains in the town.