A hardy breed get ready for show day

The wind is blowing, rain is in the air and their driest field is at best very wet and pocked. Welcome to the world of the Prince family of Toft Gate Farm 1,200ft above sea level and a steady climb above Pateley Bridge heading for Greenhow.

One and a half miles beneath them is Bewerley Park, the home of Nidderdale Show since it started in 1895 and one of the most beautiful agricultural show locations.

In two days’ time it will almost bring the curtain down on a difficult show season marred by weather that has forced cancellations throughout the county and cost organisers, societies and trade stands millions.

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The Princes are staunch Nidderdale Show people and three generations are currently on the show committee. They are also resolute farmers, but they know that a steadfast heart does not pay bills. With costs escalating and prices not following suit, the coming months will be a real test of their resolve.

David Prince came to Toft Gate from “the other side of the valley” at Fellbeck where his father Arthur farmed, in 1965, running the 193-acre farm as a suckler cow and sheep enterprise. He arrived as a tenant but subsequently managed to buy the farm.

“When I came here our herd was made up of Aberdeen Angus X Friesian cattle put to the Hereford bull and Dalesbred sheep. When Limousin cattle were first imported we moved on to them and produced Limousin X Aberdeen Angus calves.

“Back then there would only have been a handful of farms in this area that didn’t have a dairy herd. Now there are only two left in milk and only one of them sells milk to a dairy.”

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Today the farm is run by David’s son Christopher and Caroline, Christopher’s wife. They have a flock of 200 Beulah ewes, a Welsh breed that are Caroline’s pride and joy; and a herd of 44 pedigree Limousin cows that Christopher has built up over the past 30 years having started with his first pedigree Limousins at 16.

“I thought they might have a future and I was proved right. They are now one of the most popular breeds in the world.”

The Beulahs are a slightly smaller hill breed than others but the Princes find them more prolific than the Dalesbred and they are also happier with the fleece produced. They have been with the breed for the past eight years, which goes under the full breed name of the Beulah Speckled Face.

Caroline was brought up on a sheep farm on top of Middlesmoor.

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“For little farms like us it’s a worrying time,” says Caroline. “Christopher works as a joiner so that we can make ends meet. When his father was farming here Christopher worked with him, along with another farm worker. There’s no money for that now. It’s becoming harder and harder for us and it’s very difficult for any youngster who wants to farm. We’ve steered Martin, our son, away from thinking about farming because of that.

“The expense of straw, fertiliser and fuel is getting worse. When you filled up the Land Rover 20 years ago it would have cost just £17. That’s now £80 and even then it’s not filled to the top. Prices for cattle and sheep haven’t gone up by anything like that amount..

“There are a lot of people who buy properties in the village of Greenhow just across the top here in the summer but who have them up for sale the next spring because they wouldn’t want to experience the same conditions a second time. ”

The family is hopeful that whatever weather is thrown at their farm on Monday, however bad it may be, that Nidderdale Show doesn’t fall foul. David has spent 40 years on the show committee. Christopher has been on the committee for 20 years and Martin has served for three years and currently occupies the position of chairman of Nidderdale Young Farmers Club. It’s a role that his mother, father and grandfather have all taken up in the past.

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Martin and Anna, his sister, will be in action on Monday showing the family’s Limousins in both the Young Farmers calf classes and the pedigree breed classes. Neither he nor his sister is backward in coming forward whoever they talk with, as Martin says: “I started showing cattle when I was about 10 years old. Prince Charles was at the show that year and he had walked straight past me so I collared him and had a chat.”

“I’m the fetcher and carrier on show day,” says Caroline. “They all forget things so I usually come down a little bit later on. I’m also involved with the Young Farmers Stockjudging competition.”

Despite their own financial worries the family is positive, happy and thoroughly immersed in Nidderdale YFC, Nidderdale Show and Pateley Bridge Livestock Market.

“Nidderdale Show is still a great show and its agricultural base is as strong as ever,” says David. “There may well be less actual farmers around here but we still attract many from both nearby and further afield. The show has grown massively and the facilities have also been improved. We’re also attracting all kinds of breeds in the sheep and cattle classes.”

Nidderdale Show takes place at Bewerley Park, Pateley Bridge on Monday, September 24.