A special anniversary will be marked this year in the cattle rings. It was 65 years ago that the first cattle classes were held at the Aylsham Recreation Ground in 1952.
And competitive cattle classes have been central since the Aylsham Agricultural Show Association was founded on December 13, 1951.
It was just a month or two later that it was announced that the first cattle classes would be held.
The association’s aims and objectives included “to promote improvement in the breeding and rearing of livestock in agriculture and horticulture generally. . . .”
At the 1952 show, there were 90 entries in the cattle classes as cloven-hooved animals were shown for the first time.
As today, Aylsham Show organisers were forward-looking and a special award for the best heifer, bred by artificial insemination, was also offered.
A long-serving supporter of the show, Rob Alston, of Witton, near North Walsham, entered four Highland cattle. These were a sensation. The Highlands with their calves at foot from his Witton fold attracted large crowds around the cattle rings. Incidentally, the pigs, also making their first appearance, were another hit.
Incidentally, competitors also had to pay the show’s annual subscription of one guinea (£1.05) – when there were a total of 167 members in 1952.
When the show was staged at the Rec for the last time in 1954, cattle entries had risen sharply. There was a 50pc increase in cattle entries to a total of 150.
In 1957, an estimated gate of 18,000 visitors broke all records and a new class for steers raised and shown by a member of Norfolk Young Farmers’ Clubs was won by George Morton, of Aylsham YFC.
The cattle section became ever more popular in the 1960s and 1970s. In 1966, there was a record entry of 94 British Friesians – the biggest breed entry for a one-day show in the country. Again, it was “Uncle Rob” Alston who was supreme – beating Henry Martineau’s breed champion. His grading up heifer, Clan Maz, of the 75-strong Crostwight herd, had calved the day before the show. And again, unusually, a panel of the three dairy judges picked the inter-breed champion..
There were no cattle in 1968 because of the new brucellosis regulations but 125 competed in 1969.
Over the years, the cattle section evolved – and it was one of the first to introduce the highly-popular young handlers’ classes. These have become a regular fixture in both beef and dairy – and today, many of the country’s top handlers took their first steps with a halter in the grassy rings at Blickling Park.
While dairy cattle numbers have fallen sharply across the east of England, there has been a marked increase in beef cattle competition. And in recent years, new awards and trophies have been offered for competition – not least in the Lincoln Red, Hereford and other traditional native breeds.
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Cups and Trophies
For a complete list of cups and trophies for cattle and other competitions at the Show, click here.Cups and Trophies