WHILE most 12-year-olds spend their spare time playing Minecraft or watching YouTube clips, Fred Powdrill-Swinscoe is out in the fresh air preparing his beloved bullock Pocket Rocket for the Derbyshire County Show.
The Ecclesbourne School pupil, who lives in Mackworth Village, has been showing cattle since he was just four years old and has high hopes that Pocket Rocket will pick up a plethora of rosettes at the popular agriculture show, which this year returns to Elvaston showground.
Fred, who is a member of the Young Farmers’ Association, is following in the footsteps of mum, Lisa, and step dad Andrew, who have more than 35 years’ experience in showing livestock. His sisters Ella (14) and Blossom (6) will also take part in the show while little Seth, who is just 18 months old, could make his debut in 2020.
Fred said: “Preparation for the Derbyshire County Show begins months in advance. Cows have to be ‘broken in’ when they’re just a few weeks’ old; this means getting them used to being handled at close range.
“The calves tend to be a bit naughty and keeping them clean on show day is always tough, especially if the field is muddy.
“To prepare a bullock for a show, they need a good clean. I’ll take Pocket Rocket out in the yard before heading to the show and scrub his knees and bottom with soap.
“We have a big, industrial dryer which we use to dry the cows and we then follow this by brushing them. Cows have to be brushed in an upwards motion, to make their fur look shiny before you parade them in front of the judges.”
The family keep 40 cows – mainly commercial – at their Derby home. They are helped out greatly by Andrew’s Dad, Alan Dickinson, and the 11 cows which they take to shows are kept at a small holding in Heage, which is owned by Lisa’s parents, Margaret and Bernard Powdrill.
“Mum and Dad were pig farmers and we always had pigs and goats at home when I was growing up,” said Lisa (35).
“We live and breathe agriculture. We haven’t had a family holiday in years, as all our time is taken up by the animals. There is a show almost every week to prepare for – even in winter.”
All the family muck in ahead of a show and rivalry between the siblings is rife. Little Blossom has high hopes of success with her heifer, Annie – named after the star of the hit musical set in an orphanage.
“Blossom showed her heifer, Lydia, last year but we’re taking Annie to the Derbyshire County Show in 2019,” said Lisa.
“Her mum died shortly after giving birth to her, so we took care of her – and aptly named her orphan Annie. She has a very sweet nature and Blossom is great with her.
“My elder daughter, Ella, competes with her ponies – we have five at home in Mackworth Village – and she shows cattle, too. It’s a real family effort and there is definitely a bit of sibling rivalry among the children!”
So, what makes a prize-winning bullock?
“Judges, who are either butchers or showmen, like an animal which shows great potential – they’re judged on how well they walk and if there is enough meat in the loin area; the sides between the lower ribs and pelvis and the lower part of the back,” said Lisa, “they look to see if they’re a good, shapely beast.”
This will be the 15th consecutive year that the family have competed in their local show, which will celebrate its 139th year in 2019.
The Derbyshire County Show was first held at Elvaston in 1970 but, after heavily waterlogged conditions forced the 2016 event to be cancelled, the show was moved to Locko Park in Spondon.
Last year’s event attracted 11,000 people last year and organisers are hoping for similar – if not more – visitors this year in its ‘spritual’ home of the Elvaston showground.
Returning to the Derbyshire County Show for 2019 are Big Pete Monster Trucks; two giant trucks – the biggest weighing in an a whopping 7.5 tonnes – who will take centre stage in the main arena.
As well as Big Pete Monster Trucks there will be plenty of old favourites at the Derbyshire County Show, including livestock displays, vintage cars and tractors and show jumping.
The Charnwood Forest Alpacas and the Aldabra Giant Tortoises will be there, providing a hands-on experience for visitors, while the National Farmers Union will be bringing their Discovery Barn – popular with younger visitors - to Elvaston.
“We pride ourselves on offering a wide variety of entertainment that all the family can enjoy,” said Edward Hicklin, chairman of the Derbyshire Agricultural and Horticultural Society – organisers of the Derbyshire County Show.
“The county show has a very grand history stretching back to 1860 and we have a proud reputation to uphold; staging an event which has something for every member of the family and celebrates all that is good about the countryside on our doorstep.”
Tickets for the Derbyshire County Show are now on sale at selected outlets or via the show website - https://derbyshirecountyshow.org.uk/ - priced at £10 for adults and £9 for senior citizens. Entry is free for under-5s and £7 for under-16s.
NOTES: The Derbyshire County Show began life as the Derbyshire Agricultural Show in 1860, when it was established by a group of landowners and farmers led by Dr John Hitchman.
The emphasis has changed over the years from showcasing predominantly agricultural activities and equipment to organising a more all-round day-out for everyone.
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