Honley Show: The cattle farmer from Yorkshire who became an accidental show judge

Who do you call, when your livestock judge goes AWOL? In Mark Ormondroyd’s case it was him, around five years ago, at Agri Expo in Borderway Mart in Carlisle.

He’d never judged before, but suddenly he was doing just that at one the most prestigious Hereford cattle shows in the UK.

In three weeks Mark, who has been successful showing his Hereford cattle at many shows over the years, with his wife Lisa and daughters Charlotte and Anna, will be back at Honley Show, this time as a judge of Hereford and other native breeds. He’s looking forward to making his decisions, this time with a little more forewarning.

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“My first judging came about by accident,” says Mark. “Lisa had gone for coffees, had come back with them, and had said to one of the lads, ‘Where’s Mark gone?’ and he went, ‘He’s stood in the middle of ring’.

Mark Ormondroyd with his Hereford cattle on his farm in  Queensbury near Bradford, photographed by Tony Johnson for the Yorkshire Post. Mark is judging the cattle at Honley Show on June 29Mark Ormondroyd with his Hereford cattle on his farm in  Queensbury near Bradford, photographed by Tony Johnson for the Yorkshire Post. Mark is judging the cattle at Honley Show on June 29
Mark Ormondroyd with his Hereford cattle on his farm in Queensbury near Bradford, photographed by Tony Johnson for the Yorkshire Post. Mark is judging the cattle at Honley Show on June 29

“I was up at Carlisle watching Agri Expo and there was a calf show where, unfortunately the judge was unable to do so and the Scottish and North of England Hereford Society were stuck. I got tapped on the shoulder and asked would I go and judge the pairs. I wasn’t too concerned because it meant I wasn’t involved the judging the overall champion, so I did that. When the judge still hadn’t appeared, I was asked whether I fancied judging the lot. Thrown to the wolves, as you might say. I think there were 130 Herefords that day.

“I never did stockjudging, because I was never a member of young farmers although both the girls were, but with showing, I must have picked something up along the way.

“I was immediately put under a bit more pressure because as they’d been waiting for the judge that hadn’t shown, it had put the timings back, so this steward, as nice as he was, was on my back saying can you get these shifted through? How quick can you judge? I said, we’ll find out. That was 2019.”

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Since then, Mark has judged at one other, Penistone Show, and now he’s been asked to judge at Honley.

Mark Ormondroyd with his Hereford cattle on his farm in Queensbury near Bradford, photographed by Tony Johnson for the Yorkshire Post. Mark is judging the cattle at Honley Show on June 29Mark Ormondroyd with his Hereford cattle on his farm in Queensbury near Bradford, photographed by Tony Johnson for the Yorkshire Post. Mark is judging the cattle at Honley Show on June 29
Mark Ormondroyd with his Hereford cattle on his farm in Queensbury near Bradford, photographed by Tony Johnson for the Yorkshire Post. Mark is judging the cattle at Honley Show on June 29

“I’m not even on the register of Hereford cattle judges, because it wasn’t something I ever considered doing, but people keep asking me, and like Charlotte says, it will look a bit ridiculous now doing a judging course when you’ve already done what I think was the Scottish National.

“Farnley Tyas is a lovely venue and Honley is one of the first shows of the year, so it’s good to get stock out, especially if you’re going to take anything to the Great Yorkshire Show. It also means you can have a look at what everybody else has got.”

Mark doesn’t think he’ll have quite the urgency over making his decisions at Honley as he had that day in Carlisle.

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“I don’t think I’ll have to go at the pace I did at Agri Expo and also you want to let the general public see what’s happening and how much work has gone into these animals from those who care for their cattle. They put a lot of time and money into getting them ready for showing, so it doesn’t want to be rushed. The cattle want to be shown off to their best.”

Mark and Lisa have always been known for their Herefords, but had Longhorns before them.

“I’ve always farmed from being 17. My mum died when I was 14 and dad when I was 19. I had to go out and make a living, but there was a small family farm that was tenanted out. I got the tenancy here at Bridle Stile Farm, Queensbury when I was 18 and I bought the farm when I was 30. I now own 20 acres and graze another 20.

“I bred Longhorn cattle long before it became a popular breed, in my 20s. We had about 40 at one time, with 15 breeding cows. We supplied our beef into the Pineberry Inn in Queensbury where Lisa and I ran the kitchen for some years, and sold a few boxes of beef, but mainly sold breeding cattle and used David Blockley’s bloodlines and others.

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“Lisa then decided Herefords were quieter and didn’t have big horns, making them better for showing, because the girls were wanting to show. We thought we’d buy a few pedigree Herefords and they just seemed to take over. We won a lot of championships at local shows. I think we won at Honley. The best we did at Harrogate was a few seconds, but we were always in prizes.

“We have a heifer that I might take to Halifax Show, but my weekends are now a bit caught up with my daughter Charlotte’s farming and showing enterprise at Claughton just outside Hornby. She has Beltex sheep.”

Mark says he enjoys judging, and that he particularly enjoys judging the native breeds classes and that he knows what he’s looking for.

“You get a bit of variety with native breeds and some might think a Hereford will win because I’m judging, but I put a Longhorn up as champion at Penistone.

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“I’ve been a member of Rare Breeds Survival Trust for many years and I’m more into breeding stock than fattening stock. I look at it like this.

"When I open my bedroom curtains and look out of my window I want to see something I like, because I’m going to have to look at it a lot of years before I make any profit. My other consideration is I don’t want anything that’s going to kill me temperament-wise.”

Mark reckons that celebrity chefs have done more good for native breeds than anyone else.

“They don’t get enough credit. They’ve pushed the native breeds of every breed.

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"Your housewife at home watching telly isn’t particularly bothered about a Red Tractor advert but she’ll sit and watch James Martin or Jamie Oliver cooking a joint of beef saying ‘this Longhorn beef is the nicest beef I’ve ever had and the same with Hereford and Angus.”

Honley Show takes place at its beautiful Farnley Tyas Showground on Saturday June 29th and Show President for 2024 is Ian Holmes of Bailey Smailes, the show’s honorary solicitors and sponsors of the Grand Parade.

Ian says he was thrilled to be invited to be President of the Honley Show Society last year, the show having celebrated its centenary three years ago.

“I feel very honoured to assist in the guidance of Honley Show and to continue my association which began in 1980.

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"I am hugely impressed with the commitment and hard work from the volunteer committee, and if you’d like to get involved, especially in the few days prior to and after the Show day, when a lot of work and effort is required on a very tight time scale, get in touch via our social media channels.”

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