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September 2023
Next generation takes centre stage at English Winter Fair
A record entry of young competitors is anticipated at this year’s English Winter Fair, as the event continues to build its success at attracting the next generation of stock people and animal handlers from across the country.
Set to take place at the Staffordshire County Showground on 18-19 November, the Fair has over a dozen classes specially for school-age competitors, as well as playing host to Young Farmers' stock and carcase judging championships, and the final of the Young Shepherd of the Year.
Richard Williams, chief executive at Fair organiser, the Staffordshire and Birmingham Agricultural Society (SBAS), says investing in competitions for young people keeps both traditional and commercial livestock skills alive.
“We saw a particularly large entry in the Young Farmers’ stock judging events last year, which was very rewarding,” he says.
“There are two competitions: A one-day event specially for the English Winter Fair, organised by Staffordshire Young Farmers on behalf of our committee; and a two-day competition organised by the National Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs (NFYFC). Together, they attracted well over 200 entrants throughout England and Wales last year, and we hope there will be even more in 2023.”
While competitors no longer judge the same animals live then dead, as they did when the Young Farmers’ championship was held at Smithfield, the Fair still offers the chance to evaluate both live animals and carcases because of its purpose-built refrigerated hall.
“Winners will be presented with the original Smithfield trophies during the NFYFC’s presentation of awards for its competition,” says Mr Williams.
Another competition which holds its grand final at the English Winter Fair is the Young Shepherd of the Year, organised by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust. Last year’s junior champion Logan Doyle-Tyson, aged 12, started his showing career by helping his sister show Hebridean sheep.
“I started learning at home, then doing young handler competitions at shows,” says Logan, whose family farm in Cumbria. “Our family are members of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust, and it’s good to keep people aware of rare sheep by showing them.. 
“People like our sheep because they’re black and have horns, and I enjoy it when they come to our pens and ask questions because we’re helping to educate them. Lots of people think they’re goats because of their horns and how they look when they’ve just been sheared.”
Winning last year was a real surprise in Logan’s first year competing. “I couldn’t believe it, I couldn’t speak and my mum was crying – happy tears of course,” he says.
“I was really pleased to qualify again for this year’s final at my first show of the season. I’m looking forward to competing – we make a weekend of it and have lots of fun. I think everyone should try the Young Shepherd competition. Even if you don’t have sheep, get into it by asking friends and other competitors if you can help with theirs.”  
The Fair’s special schools competition, introduced in 2017 is also going from strength to strength. Students at the Thomas Alleyne School in Uttoxeter compete each year, honing their animal stockmanship and presentation skills.
Justine North, the teacher with responsibility for farm activities at the school, says many of those who take part aspire to have careers in positions like vets, farmers, zookeepers or dog groomers.
As only 10-15% of children who get involved are from a farming background, the livestock handling skills they learn are invaluable in giving them confidence around all sorts of animals, she notes.
“The schools actually has its own farm with an array of sheep, goats, cows and poultry, run by farm manager Rosie Deakin-Gallimore, who is instrumental in preparing the students and animals for the Fair each year,” says Mrs North.
“More than 20 students competed last year in a range of classes. We used to enter the stock classes but it’s hard to win against people who are breeding champion animals for a living. So we focus on the schools’ class, and compete on handling and showing skills, as well as the sausage-making championship.”
Mrs North’s students Archie Holmes and Owen Good, both 15, won the sheep handling class last year. Archie says they first halter trained the sheep, then learned to clip and brush them, which they got confident enough to do at the show in front of other people.
Owen adds: “It was a great day, particularly because we won first prize. We’ll definitely be going again this year to defend our title, and we’ll even try taking part in other classes now we know what’s involved.”
Entries for the English Winter Fair are now open, with forms available on the Staffordshire County Showground website and in hard copy from the organisers. Advance discounted tickets for spectators are also available on the website.

Picture 1: (L to R) Archie Holmes and Owen Good (both 15) from Thomas Alleyne's High School in Uttoxeter were winners in the Fair's schools livestock handling competition last year; they’re hoping to repeat their success at this year’s event.
Picture 1: (L to R) Archie Holmes and Owen Good (both 15) from Thomas Alleyne's High School in Uttoxeter were winners in the Fair's schools livestock handling competition last year; they’re hoping to repeat their success at this year’s event.

Picture 2: Over 200 Young Farmers took part in the stock and carcase judging events at last year’s Fair; it’s hoped even more will take part this year.

Picture 3: Logan Doyle-Tyson is looking forward to competing again for Young Shepherd in 2023.

August 2023
More than £20,000 prize money at English Winter Fair

More than £20,000 in prize money will be on offer at this year’s English Winter Fair, set to take place at the Staffordshire County Showground on 18 and 19 November.
The longstanding event, which celebrates its 175th anniversary next year, encompasses both the former Birmingham Fatstock Show and aspects of the historic Royal Smithfield Show – including the prestigious Duke of Norfolk perpetual trophy for best group of three pedigree cattle.
Bagshaws partner and auctioneer Mark Elliott, who has presided over the event’s concluding sale for nearly 30 years, describes the Winter Fair as the pinnacle of the pedigree, prime and fatstock show season.
“Many competitors who end up selling their animals in the auction have been showing them all year across the country,” says Mr Elliott. “It’s an honour to see them compete at the Winter Fair against some tough opposition, then end up in your sale ring as their crescendo to the season.”
The quality of livestock at the fair, whether pig, sheep or cattle, has been consistently high, although with cattle in particular, the type of animal has changed over time, he adds.
“We’re definitely looking at smaller frames these days. The 800kg steer of the past has fewer markets now, so we see this preference for smaller carcass weights reflected in the animals being shown in the ring, then making their way through for sale.”
Entries at the fair were understandably affected immediately after Covid struck, but they have since bounced back, even exceeding 5,000 visitors last year. “People really enjoy the chance to buy and sell at this very special event, as well as coming to compete and spectate,” explains Mr Elliott.
In addition to livestock, the organisers expect another large entry for the beef, lamb, pig and poultry carcass competitions held in the unique 200m2 refrigerated hall, after a record-breaking year in 2022 when entries leapt 30% to 140 in total. Local butcher Paul Sargeant, who operates out of Bramshall near Uttoxeter, will again be the judge for these categories.  
Those invited to judge the live animals this year include Herefordshire’s Colin Phillips and Cumbria’s Neil Slack, who are presiding over the pedigree and non-pedigree cattle classes respectively. They will also join forces to decide the champion beef animals at the conclusion of the show.
Mr Phillips, who runs the Powerhouse pedigree Limousin herd alongside 60 suckler cows on the family farm just north of Hereford, himself exhibited the supreme champion at the English Winter Fair in 2008.
With his judge’s hat on this year, he will be on the lookout for a “fleshy and finished beast, but with correctness and mobility”. However, he also values “ring presence” and style.
Mr Slack keeps 30 head of beef animals aimed at the show ring on his farm near Penrith. Although he now teams up with his niece Elizabeth on the circuit, he started showing aged six with his grandfather, where he was “taught to recognise an animal in its working clothes”.
This year, as judge, he will be searching for an animal that catches his eye, is correct and walks well, and also has ring presence as well as “meat in the right places”.
The judge covering all live sheep classes is Neil Glaves from near Scarborough in North Yorkshire. As well as keeping pedigree Suffolks and Texels, Mr Glaves runs a successful catering business including a bakery and award-winning butchers, so will be looking for lambs “suitable for both shop and catering trade” to appoint winners.
Entries for the English Winter Fair will open from September, with forms available on the Staffordshire County Showground website

Image: Bagshaws partner and auctioneer Mark Elliott conducting the end-of event sale at the 2022 English Winter Fair to a packed audience of buyers, sellers and spectators.