Dairy farmer Andrew Walmsley moved over to robotic milking for his 200 Holstein Friesian herd eight years ago and such has been the impact made he is currently looking at adding a fourth robot to the three already in action.
But his role as chairman of Ripley Show, held in the grounds of Ripley Castle, home of Sir Thomas and Lady Emma Ingilby, is unlikely to see the show adopting robots to handle the work of putting on its annual event any time soon.
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“Robotic milking is a completely different way of milking cows for myself and my wife Alison, you’ve still got routines but at least you’re not stuck in a parlour pit forever.
“It took us about a year to get used to it, but I wouldn’t go back to having a parlour. It’s a lot easier way of milking. If it hadn’t been for the robots and the systems we now have I would have been out of cows by now.”
Ripley Show celebrates its 170th show on Sunday, August 11, and Andrew has been involved with the show as man and boy.
He’s seen many changes come to the show and round about the same time as he was making the momentous decision on how he was to milk his cows in future, so too came a seminal moment for the show.
“I’m 57 and I’ll have been coming to the show almost since I was born and at very least helping out for nigh on 50 years.
“It has been a real family affair and still is. My dad Geoff ran the horse section, my mum Hilda ran the produce tent for many years and my brother Bill has also been chairman.
“Ripley Show has grown massively since eight years ago when it moved from Saturday to Sunday as there was a wedding at the castle on the Saturday.
“Change is a funny thing. At the time I thought it was terrible news, but we had such a successful show that first year it was held on a Sunday that it has remained our show day.
“Personally, I now believe if the show was still on a Saturday I don’t think it would be here. Sunday has pushed it on that much.
“It’s a day when people are looking for things to do and Ripley Show fits the bill as there’s something for everybody and it is a really good family day out whether you’re from the town or the countryside.
“We have first class livestock sections and our sheep classes carry on growing year on year. Neil Spedding who is responsible for the sheep section has done an incredible job and since their move over to the other side of the lake you can really see just how much the entries have grown.
“Our cattle numbers are particularly strong too, although we struggle a little with dairy cows as many in this area have gone out of milk.
“We’re also really proud of our increasing numbers in the young handlers classes, as this is the future of the livestock classes.
“Our main ring activities include the heavy horses, a sheepdog and geese display and the ever popular terrier races that continue not just attracting great numbers but also bring about a degree of hilarity.
“We’ve also some giant tortoises at the show this time, but they won’t be in the main ring as they may take up too much time.”
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Sadly, in common with all other agricultural shows this summer since the announcement in July of a virus, there will be no pigs at Ripley.
“Caution is the best way,” says Andrew. “Common sense told us and every other show organiser it would be appropriate not to have them this year.
“We look forward to welcoming them back in 2020. As a measure of just how important the decision has been our heavy horse judge, who has pigs, rang to say if we had them at this year’s show he wouldn’t be coming.”
Attendances at agricultural shows have not been affected other than the lack of pig competitors and Ripley has increased it attendance to a healthy 6,000 in the past eight years since the move to a Sunday, now ordained as the second Sunday in the month.
Everything appears to be on the up at the 240-acre Pasture House, Scarah Bank Farm and at Ripley Show.
“Our herd average is just shy of 10,100 litres and our milk price is now far better than three years ago. We are still with Charlie Payne of Paynes Dairies.
“The whole of Ripley Show committee is also always grateful to the Ingilby family for providing the grounds for the show each year. We hope to see as many Yorkshire Post readers as possible.”
If you don’t see Andrew at Ripley Show there’s every chance you will see him at another as he also manages the main ring activities at Nidderdale Show that brings down the summer agricultural show season in September.