Judging top class animals requires years of experience both in exhibiting and judging, and at this year’s Dairy Show the judges have an impressive history of awards and events behind them.
As the UK’s largest dairy show, the event is fortunate to host some of the best exhibitors and cattle in the UK, explains head of shows Alan Lyons. “That’s why we bring in the best judges the world has to offer: From home grown champions, to internationally renowned individuals.”
Judging the interbreed heifer and interbreed pairs competitions is a well-known and respected face within the UK Ayrshire scene; Blaise Tomlinson. He has been involved with the breed since the 1960s and his well-established 240-head herd is bred for longevity. Based at Charnwood Forest Farm near Loughborough, he runs a predominantly Ayrshire herd with about 40 Holsteins and a few Jerseys.
Mr Tomlinson’s showing history stretches over a 30-year period that has seen him achieve incredible success. He’s won supreme champion at most of the major shows, including the Royal, the Royal Welsh, the Great Yorkshire, AgriScot and the Dairy Show. “Showing and winning supreme champion at the last ever Royal Show in 2010 with our cow, Sandyford Clover 10, was a real highlight,” he says. “She won her last livestock show at 13 years old – that was quite an achievement.”
So what advice has he got to offer for this year’s exhibitors? “If you’re going to show cows, do it properly and to the best of your ability – and know when to leave a cow at home.”
A lot of the work goes in well before the event – selecting the right animals with good conformation and locomotion – and feeding a show cow is absolute paramount, he stresses. “You can’t do the work in the last two days before the show, it takes weeks or months before to get ready.”
Mr Tomlinson has always exhibited at the Dairy Show: “So it’s an honour to be asked to judge.”
One of his greatest highlights as a judge was presiding over the Ayrshire National Show in 2016 and the Royal Adelaide Show in Australia in the same year. “There were nearly 300 head of cattle there and it was very enjoyable.”
When it comes to judging, he knows exactly what he’s looking for. “It’s about bone quality and dairy character. I like big bodied cows that have open ribs and show power and strength. Legs, feet and mobility are a bugbear of mine and I like an animal that can move and walk, with a wide udder.”
The Jersey Cattle Society’s National Show is returning to the Dairy Show this year and judging this prestigious event is Kentucky- based dairy judge, Alta Mae Core from the USA. Mrs Core owns the Keightley and Core Jersey herd with her husband and three children, and has bred and exhibited a national grand champion, multiple reserve national grand champions, and several national Jersey Jug Futurity winners. “One of our proudest accomplishments was breeding KCJF Regency Treasure – one of the few EX97 cows and a reserve national grand champion.”
As a judge, Mrs Core has presided over the International Jersey Show at the World Dairy Expo, the Royal Winter Fair in Canada, the All American Jersey Show, the National Jersey Jug in Kentucky, Dairy Week in Australia, as well as shows in New Zealand, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Brazil, Argentina and Costa Rica. “I look forward to meeting the Jersey enthusiasts in England and judging their show,” she says.
Showing cattle gives producers the chance to highlight the very best genetics and breeding the industry has to offer, says Mr Lyons. “However, it’s also about bringing the industry together and celebrating the enduring efforts to which dairy farmers go to maintain rare breeds and progress commercial ones. This isn’t just about nice-looking animals – there is a real commercial angle, which is why it’s so important to get the best judges possible, and we really are spoilt with our selection this year.”