“I walked to the show with some bantams in my box but I didn’t do any good because they were the wrong sort. When I got there I found that the rest were all these fancy legged things. My dad, who was close to dying at the time, asked how I’d got on and when I told him he said not to worry and that he’d get me some for next year. Sadly there never was a next time and I even had to sell those we had.”
Ron never returned to showing livestock but he has never missed attending and supporting, and he’s looking forward to judging at the 125th Egton Horse and Agricultural Show.
It’s his reputation for quality cattle at Barnby Tofts Farm, West Barnby, rented from the Mulgrave Estate, just a few miles up the coast from Whitby and Sandsend that brought about the invitation.
“I’m not a showing person but my daughter Carol and her husband Ed’s daughters have shown dairy cattle at the shows in Egton and Danby and my brother Frank is well-known for his involvement with heavy horses. I’ve judged the produce at Egton but not the cattle so I must have moved up a notch!”
Ron’s cattle back at Barnby Tofts are largely Herefords and Aberdeen Angus and are in the main bound for the processors of Dovecote Park before going on to Waitrose meat counters, so it would seem only natural for him to have one eye for the kind of quality his customers would look for when judging.
“With commercial cattle I’ll be looking for what I think would provide the best grades of meat, but it’s not just as easy as all that. You look for the right conformation in every beast, but when you get to look at a lot of good cattle there’s usually not a lot to judge between them.
“I know I’ll have a devil of a job picking out the winners. The thing is the more you look the more you doubt yourself so it’s important to go with your first instinct. You can keep looking and checking but I’ve found you nearly always drop back to the one you fancied on the first look. The thing is you could look another day and pick another winner just as easily.”
Ron’s farming operation is solely a beef rearing enterprise with 500 head of cattle aged between six months to two-and-a-half years on at any one time.
“We’ve been here for around 40 years and for at least four generations now we’ve always farmed in the area. Ann, my wife who sadly passed away three years ago, and I came here in the 70s and we had four children – Carol, Mike, Yvonne and Julie. I’m now a great grandfather as well as a grandfather.
“When we first came here this was a dairy farm. We moved out of dairy when the bulk milk tank job came in. We found that the beef enterprise fitted better for this farm. It’s quite a distance from the main road to the farm itself and sometimes it can be blocked with snow and ice for two or three weeks in the winter making it impossible for a tanker to collect.”
Egton Show may be the big local show around but Ron also has involvements with two other much smaller shows – Barnby Show on August 23 and Lythe Show on September 13.
“I remember in 1974 gathering up the subscriptions for Barnby Show. In that first year I managed to get £1! That took a lot of getting in those days. We now get around £200. We’ve managed to resurrect Lythe Show too. I’m always interested in maintaining everything for the next generation. I don’t go to church much but I still want it to be here and I’ll always be supportive of the Lythe village hall that was once the school, the sports club and now our own community run shop. The people who have got that back going have done so well.”
Before he turns his attention elsewhere, Ron has the task of picking out a winner at Egton Show, which takes place in the village this Wednesday.