30th September 2016
Twenty herds situated across the country, from the far west of Cornwall to the east of Sussex, and north into Northumberland, and each challenged by a different environment, entered the South Devons’ National Herd Competition in 2016, which this year was judged by James Eustice, Philip Tully and Robert Dimond.
From a total of over 1100 cows, 2000 youngstock and 51 stock bulls entered in the competition, the winning herd was to be found on the south Cornwall coast at Great Lizzen near Polperro.
John & Jenny Rowe together with daughter Kate and son Jonathan run a 500 acre farm which has been in the family since 1932. Their Raphael herd of pedigree South Devons was established 30 years ago and now comprises 80 suckler cows, spring-calved and housed during the winter. Apart from the purchase of new bulls, the herd is closed and all female replacements are home-bred – which is one of its great strengths.
The Open Day was held on a sunny afternoon at the end of September, and it attracted over 100 visitors to see just what it takes to win this most prestigious competition. Guests were certainly not disappointed – the cattle and the scenery were quite breath-taking, with views westwards to the Lizard Peninsula and eastwards to Start Point.
The first group of cows set the tone for the rest of the afternoon – a very strong bunch of deep-bodied beefy cows, wide and long, and with well grown spring-born calves running at foot. Next were the two-year old heifers, all with matching evenness, with good bone and conformation, and none showing any weakness. The winning heifer in the competition – Raphael Fossil 7 – came from within this bunch, and the comment was made that each of these females could have been contenders for the title
The steers out on grass looked very close to being ready, although the majority are destined for the Christmas market. Well grown with plenty of fleshing and shape, the buyer of these animals will certainly have a high quality product to offer his customers.
The first of the two current stock bulls, Grove Brutus 116, was placed second best bull in the competition, and, together with recently departed herd sire Kestle Leo 4, has really left a strong stamp in this herd.
The second herd sire, Carzise Bentley 4, was a previous breed champion at the Royal Cornwall Show when shown as a yearling, and has proven to be an easy calving bull used on heifers as well as cows within the Raphael herd.
A further group of cows with their calves gleamed in the autumn sunshine, and visitors were hugely impressed by the maternal strengths of these animals, obviously producing plentiful milk from the abundant grass.
It is quite unusual for a first calving cow to be judged the best across all the herds, and therefore a fair mark of the standards of this herd to produce Raphael Diamond 7, a 2013-born young cow, who beat off competitors to be named Best Cow.
Overlooking the sea were the groups of yearling heifers, in-calf heifers, and first calvers – all showing great breed characteristics and clear potential to continue the success of this herd in producing quality suckler replacements and finished beef.
Breed Secretary Caroline Poultney commented, “Visitors to Great Lizzen have been privileged to enjoy seeing this herd in all its glory, and it will be remembered for a long time as a highlight of South Devon breeding and beef production.” After a lavish Cornish tea, the Society Chairman Mark Thomas congratulated the Rowes for their success, and led a round of applause at the end of the afternoon. The judges spoke of their travels and expressed their gratitude to all the entrants of the Competition for their hospitality during the 2,000 mile journey.
The Society’s Herd Competition is held annually with entries being judged in September.