Teacher knows best at show

Mike Southwell and daughter Joanne and children
Mike Southwell and daughter Joanne and children
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Driffield Show is next week and Chris Berry talks to a family about 60 years of success.

When four year-old Joanne Chapman went to Driffield Show, Hot Chocolate were top of the pops.

That was in 1977; next week, the primary school teacher and mother of two will be aiming high in the dairy cattle section of the show she has loved since she first attended as a toddler.

“When I was little, my dad used to show at Driffield every year,” says Joanne. “It was one of our highlights. As we got older, my sister and I nagged and nagged at him to go to the posh dairy cow sales and buy a top Canadian show cow to improve our chances, and one day he said ‘you do it’. So I did.”

An so the die was cast for Joanne’s show career, which is following on from a successful tradition started by her grandfather, Tom Southwell, who’s still going strong today at 95. Tom and his brother, Guy, bought one of the best bulls in the country back in 1948.

The Southwell family farm 460 acres from Hunt Hill Farm, Hempholme, near Brandesburton. Joanne’s parents are Jill and Mike and the farm is run in partnership between Mike, his brother, Ben, and their father.

Ben concentrates on the arable side of the farm and Mike the dairy side, helped by Joanne’s husband, Andrew, who has his own flock of Texel sheep. Their dairy herd of just under 100 is one of the few remaining herds in the East Riding and they sell their milk to Arla.

Joanne teaches Year One children at Driffield Church of England Infants’ School and she sees a lot of her enthusiasm for showing cattle reflected in the faces of those in her class.

“Many of the children come along to the show. They’re all five- to six year-olds and they seem to have a similar excitement as when I was their age. In class, we talk about my dairy cows, so it’s nice for them to be able to see them with me at the show. It’s very educational because it means the children are finding out more about farming and where milk comes from.

“My own children, Stella (8) and James (6) are very keen show people already, having been brought up around the cows.

“Stella already looks forward to the calf shows, while James is probably more of a tractor boy. They both seem to enjoy being involved with the show so much, just as I did, and this year it looks as though they will be playing an even greater part in helping with the cows we’re taking.”

The Southwells have a proud and successful history of showing dairy cows, and Joanne has recently put together a file of their most momentous achievements. It stretches back to 1949 when Hunthill Magpie took first place at Driffield Show. Successes followed at London Dairy Show and the Royal Show in the 1950s. They have also won awards for milk production, and one of their heifers produced 13,000 kgs last year from a herd average of more than 9,000 kgs.

Their best cow was Huntholme Ruby 11th which won a hat-trick of championships at Driffield Show in the 1980s before being sold at the Otley Club Show and Sale in 1983.

Mike Southwell is happy with their current milk yields, bearing in mind that they have a lack of grass on the farm at present, because a new water pipe from Hull to Scarborough is being laid across their land. A feed mix of peas, brewer’s grains and maize has been the saving grace for their yield.

Joanne is particularly proud of the cows she is showing this year, having had some success in recent years with a number of Huntholme Kitty cows. It’s a cow family that has continually produced considerable quantities of milk as well as performing well in the show ring.

“The original Kitty came from Canada and was rated best in the country back in 1993.

“We now have more than 20 cows from the Kitty family line, probably more than any other herd in the country. At Driffield, I will be showing the daughter of a Kitty cow that I had success with last year – which will be going as a yearling – along with others.”

It’s very much a family affair at Driffield Show with Andrew showing his St John’s Texels. Andrew is from Folkton, near Scarborough, and started his Texel flock around 15 years ago.

He is steadily building a reputation for quality stock around the show rings.

This year he will be showing five of his flock and is aiming to emulate last year when he won a class with a tup that went on to become champion at Ryedale Show.

He lambs around 40 ewes and his tups go to market at Skipton and Malton. Last year was his best yet for rosettes, reserve championships and a championship win in show season.

Last year also saw a big change to the Kelleythorpe showground at Driffield when the livestock was moved away from the corner entrance, near to the rugby ground, to what some regular attendees term ‘the second field’.

The organisers say it was a massive success and it certainly allowed a great deal more room for the cattle, sheep, pigs and goats. Joanne Chapman saw it as a positive move too.

“It was certainly a lot safer and as we all know safety is a priority at shows today. It was quite a walk to get into the main ring for the Grand Parade though.”

With Stella and James already starting to take their place in the show rings, it looks as though the Southwell dynasty, through the Chapmans, will be around for a long time to come.

The 136th Driffield Show, next Wednesday, July 20.