Behind the scenes blog – John Gough

John Gough

Show day means an early start for many, particularly those showing in livestock classes and our dedicated team of volunteers who look after them.

John Gough has been involved in the show for many years, initially as an exhibitor showing his Holstein cattle and then he went on to serve on the livestock committee before becoming chief steward and latterly livestock chairman. His grandfather and father were show presidents.

We caught up with John ahead of the 2019 show to talk about the running of the livestock section.

“As livestock chairman, I worked closely with Martin, the livestock secretary to get as many entries as possible, monitoring the entries as they came in and then getting on the phone to people who had missed entering, to persuade them to take part,” he said.

“The week before the show I would allocate cattle stalling, while a colleague did the same for the sheep. I would also organise our very valuable team of more than 30 stewards to administer the 20 different breed classes in the livestock section. Some stewards have been helping for many years but every year we welcome a few new ones. These guys are all allocated a job and then briefed at the stewards’ meeting on the Thursday before the show.

“At 5am on show day I and a small band of hard working stewards would welcome the cattlemen, the dairy always arrives first. We would supervise the unloading in a special facility so the cattle couldn’t escape and run off. It has happened in the past, much to the amusement of onlookers.

“Unloading the cattle takes a couple of hours and then the sheep start arriving. All the livestock are on site before 9am. Cattle passports and sheep movement licences all have to be checked to see if they are in order. We have an electronic system but it’s still quite a job, then we notify the British Cattle Movement Service.

“This system was brought in nationally following a foot and mouth epidemic and means if there is another outbreak, God forbid, then there’s a record of where cattle were at a certain time and can be isolated if necessary.

“Judging begins in most of the classes at 9.30am. It all culminates in the beef, dairy and sheep championships at around 12 noon. Last year we introduced a Strictly Come Dancing style of voting for the beef champion where judges held up a score on a card. It was a good spectacle and we’ll be doing it again this year.

“Show entries are changing a bit and, sadly, the dairy is dropping away mainly due to the issues of Tb and economic pressures but, on the positive side, sheep entries are increasing every year with new classes being added last year and this.

“The show is a vital part of the local community and beyond, it’s an opportunity for the farming community to come together for a day of celebration, to meet contacts and have an enjoyable day out. We are keen as a society to broaden the agricultural side to make it relevant to the whole community, particularly the youngsters. It’s important to get the message across of how important agriculture is in all our lives.

“As a busy livestock chairman, I was unable to see much of the rest of the show over the years but this year, in 2019, I’ll be having a good look around and I’m really looking forward to it. I will still be involved in the livestock rings this year but, I’ll be wearing a different hat as this time I’m the one presenting the prizes!”