Excitement mounting for cattle breeding couple preparing to return to 'great nights and camaraderie' at Great Yorkshire Show

Leading cattle back into the show rings for the first time since 2019 will see many handlers with a spring in their step in the coming weeks but for one West Yorkshire couple it is more than just about competing.

Eddie and Christine breed Hereford cattle on their smallholding in Barwick-in-Elmet
Eddie and Christine breed Hereford cattle on their smallholding in Barwick-in-Elmet

Eddie Warner and Christine Burnell’s Barwick Poll Herefords have picked up a number of prizes since they began showing in 2010, but Eddie said it is the friendship and social side that he loves most of all.

“Showing goes in two halves. You’ve all day there, at shows like the Great Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, but then the evening time it is a different world.

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“The whole atmosphere changes and while it is great competing and concentrating while in the ring, everyone just has a great time together. There’s just this amazing camaraderie.

The couple never imagined they would be showing at the Great Yorkshire

“You tend to be in the same shed every year or in the same area on a showground with the same gang of people and largely the same stewards. Everyone knows each other and we all look after each other too.

“Don’t get me wrong, we still like to do well, but we won’t come home like a bear with a sore head over the result.

“We’ve still got our breed trophies we picked up at Emley Show and Penistone Show in 2019.”

Christine, who works with her brother on their farm in Ossett, said that the first time she and Eddie entered the Great Yorkshire Show was a special moment for her as she recalled her dad’s days in the show ring.

“When we rolled up to the showground on the Monday I remember thinking - I never thought in my wildest dreams that I’d ever be going with cattle to the Great Yorkshire Show.

“My dad had done a little bit of showing with Belgian Blues and it brought a tear to my eye how proud he would have been. To top it all we even had a second place and a fifth our first time at Harrogate and we were on cloud nine.”

Eddie and Christine started their pedigree herd when Eddie mentioned to Christine that he would love to show cattle. Eddie said it came about through a conversation they’d had at Wharfedale Mart.

“Christine used to look after her dad’s shop at the mart selling milk powders and animal feeds. One time I told her my dream was to show Hereford cattle. Christine said it was something she’d like to do too.

“That’s how we ended up buying three little heifers from Cumbria in March 2010.

“The first show we went to was Otley Show two months later. We had a fourth place and a little lad asked whether he could show Molly and ended up getting a rosette and some money for fourth place in the young handlers competition.

“We then went and bought two more heifers and a cow that was in calf later that month and in the December of that year we bought two young bulls from fellow breeder Alan Massey of Bury.”

Christine said that The General, one of the two bulls, took a few months getting the hang of his job.

“He was going around the wrong end at first, but he did come good for us and we kept him right up until last year.”

Eddie said he still prefers traditional bulling to artificial insemination and the traditional Hereford type.

“I have never wanted to go down the AI route. The traditional Hereford is what I like. We were told when we first started not to worry about what anyone else bred and to breed what we wanted to breed.

“We’ve stuck to the lines that a Hereford is a big block of meat with a leg at each corner. That’s why they were popular years ago and it’s why they’re becoming popular again.

“There was a time when the breed was producing huge cows that were beginning to look more like Holstein cattle, but they’ve gone back to more shorter and wider again over recent years. That’s what the butchers want. They don’t want bone.”

Eddie’s main income has come from landscaping and gardening since his mid-20s but Hereford-cross cattle and pedigrees have nearly always played a part in his life from being a young boy.

Eddie said the calves he started with were delivered in a way that would be frowned upon today.

“It was my mother who got me interested. We used to have a bit of land at Threepenny Bit Cottage between Barwick and Aberford and would go to Wharfedale Mart in Otley.

“I bought my first Friesian-cross-Hereford calves when I was 10. I’d buy them at a week old and sell them to regular customers through the Yorkshire Post at six or seven weeks old.

“In those days the week-old calves would be put in a sack so they couldn’t thrash about while in transit. The sack would be tied and the calf would lay in the sack with its head out.

“I couldn’t put up with them coming that way so when I was old enough I started going to market with a Mini van to bring them back myself. I’d feed them twice a day at morning and night. Mother would do dinner time.”

Having worked as a farm labourer Eddie then started up his landscaping and agricultural contracting business which allowed him to buy three-and-a-quarter acres where he put up a cattle shed.

“I bought it for £10,000, which was a ridiculous amount of money but I realised that if I wanted land close by to home this was my best bet. We now also rent 20 acres at Parlington and eight acres at Garforth.

“We currently have 22 Herefords including a bull, cows, heifers to join the breeding herd and calves. We are really looking forward to getting back to showing at Driffield Show and returning to others in the coming months.”