Chris Berry meets with Andrew Scarborough to look back on a show season which saw him scoop numerous accolades.
When Andrew Scarborough set off at 5am from Kilham in East Yorkshire for Stanhope Gate in Middleton in Teesdale in the depths of winter little did he know that his time was to be so well spent.
Andrew has become a familiar face around the cattle show rings in Yorkshire for much of the past 30 years and the journey north he made in February has brought about his best season ever.
His heifer Molly, crossbred from a Limousin sire and British Blue cow that he purchased from the Raine family, has won show championships at Otley, Driffield, Ryedale, Halifax and Rosedale, but it was Andrew’s achievement at Harrogate that he will cherish more than any other.
“I clip cattle for quite a few men all around Yorkshire and County Durham and I get to see some really good livestock. I’m generally called when people want to get their stock looking well for shows and suckler sales. Getting on to other farms also gives me the opportunity to spot potential in cattle that I think would do well at shows. I’d seen Molly whilst I had been clipping for Nicholas and Neville Raine and their father Fred and I knew they were planning on taking her to Darlington Livestock Market.
“The night before the sale I decided to ring and ask whether I could buy Molly. It has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made as showing her at the Great Yorkshire provided me with the highlight of my career.
“She won first place in her class and then took reserve champion heifer and finished as reserve champion overall. It’s been a fantastic last five months and we’ve still Countryside Live and the Beef Expo events left this year.
“There was even one time when I was busy harvesting for farmer John Gatenby and I couldn’t get to a show, but she still took the title. Thankfully young showman Jimmy Fawcett of Sand Hutton was able to take her for me and he was made up that he was able to bring back the trophy.”
Born in Skirpenbeck near Stamford Bridge where his father had a couple of acres with his council house, Andrew developed a love of livestock at an early age. By 11 he had bought his first calf and was working towards a formidable reputation for preparing and handling cattle.
“We’d pigs and chickens on our smallholding and my elder brother Tony had a few calves. I went to Malton Livestock Market with him and my dad and I bought my first calf for just £9. My dad worked on a farm close by, then drove lorries for Clifford Watts before working as a drover at York Livestock Market.”
Andrew’s first job on leaving school was with local farmer and renowned cattle dealer Joe Sleightholme at Haybridge Mill Farm, between Skirpenbeck and Bugthorpe. It was working with Joe that introduced Andrew to showing cattle.
“Joe had an odd beast or two that he would take to agricultural shows. The first one I went to was Bishop Wilton Show, I would have been around 18, and we took the championship. Not bad for a first time in the ring.
“I was with Joe for 10 years. It was a happy time for me, we had beasts coming and going all the time. When he sold up in about 1986 he fixed me up with a job with a farm in Strensall.”
Three years later Andrew set up in business in his own right, a milk round delivering to villages such as Thixendale, Stamford Bridge, Bishop Wilton and Bugthorpe.
“The villagers liked that I was a local lad. They all knew me and I built it up steadily over three years before selling it on for a little profit. It meant getting up at 2.30 each morning and I’d be finished by 9am and that meant that if there was a show or sale to get to I could pretty much get there on time. I’d got up to about five or six show cattle by then and was renting a fold yard at Street Farm on the Stamford Bridge Road. I would check on them on my way out and feed them when I came back.”
Andrew now works on farms in the East Riding on a self-employed basis, notably for ex-NFU York east county chairman John Gatenby who has over 600 cattle. Andrew also travels the North clipping and preparing cattle as well as showing others’ stock. He’s self-taught and unlike others doesn’t use a cattle crush in order to keep them still.
“Show time can be very busy but I wouldn’t do this if I didn’t love it. Showing cattle is a bug and because I like them I spend a great deal of time with them preparing, clipping, cleaning and blow-drying. I like to think I’m one of the best clippers around and if I wasn’t I wouldn’t have been able to find Molly. What I always look for is the shape and style of the animal.”
The coming weeks see no sign of respite for Andrew. He is looking forward to Countryside Live in Harrogate and Beef Expo in Carlisle as Molly’s last hurrah, but he’s already looking towards next year and what he will be showing then.
“I have my eye on one already. I was judging cattle at Bowes Show two weeks ago and myself and my girlfriend stopped over for the weekend. We took a little trip back to the Raines’ and I picked out a little bullock bred the same way as Molly. I usually buy calves at around 6-7 months old.”
Dreaming of his own patch
The Raine family have also been impressed with Molly and are expected to buy her back as a cow to breed from.
Like many other men in his position Andrew would love to have his own tract of land on which to have his cattle. The show team is presently at Portobello Farm just outside Norton.
“Unfortunately I haven’t the land or the money to get it. Yes, I’d love to have it that way but the kind of money involved takes some making.”