Catherine Elmes won the champion Holstein and champion inter breed prizes, the local champion, the Holstein and dairy overall prizes, reserve champion and local champion pair. “We took seven trophies and I think it’s the most we’ve won,” said Catherine, who farms with her father Chris just off the motorway at Costow Farm near Swindon, Wiltshire. Chris Elmes did well at the same show in 1997. “We think he won most of these trophies back then.”
Catherine said breeding and the family line was behind this year’s success. One cow, Swallowdale Baxter Black Rose 5, won all the prizes except one which she shared with another animal. “Her mother was a good show cow as well and she looks like her mother,” said Catherine, who works full time, away from the farm for Farm XS, a farm waste and plastics recycling company. “The showing is my hobby. This cow is a Swallowdale cow, but we own her half each and she is registered in Dad’s name.”
Mr Elmes runs Swallowdale Holsteins, and Catherine keeps some of her own with her father’s: her herd prefix is Crystal Holsteins. Between them, Chris and Catherine have 280 head of cattle on a Swindon borough council farm. “Dad has been breeding his own Holsteins for just over 30 years,” Catherine said. “I’ve had my own for 14 years.” The two herds are run as one, with Mr Elmes owning most of the cattle. Surplus cattle are sold, generally for breeding and pedigree.
Milking cattle on the farm are housed all year round, with the young stock and dry cows going out. “Five years ago, we tried to go from having them in to putting them out, but all they wanted to do was come in because they were happier there.” The cows are fed cake in the parlour, grass silage and maize when it is available in the winter and brewers grains mix. Milk is sold to Mondelez International, which makes Cadbury chocolate.
“Show cows don’t have any special treatment,” Catherine explained. “They are just in the main herd and if they’re good enough to show, we’ll take them out. Swallowdale Baxter Black Rose 5 won at Alresford Show two weeks before the Royal County of Berkshire Show and was reserve champion at the Frome Agricultural and Cheese Show in Somerset the week before. Last year, she was reserve champion at the Berkshire show.
“Part of successful breeding comes from picking a bull to compliment those things which aren’t quite right on a cow,” Catherine explained. “If it is bad legs and feet, for example, we will go for a bull with good legs and feet to correct the fault.” Swallowdale Baxter Black Rose 5 is four and a half and started being shown when she was a calf. “There are things you could change on her: I would like her stronger through the top line, but she has very good udders, legs and feet so she can do the milk and walk well.” She has had one daughter who has not been shown yet, and Catherine said in theory Swallowdale Baxter Black Rose 5 should produce good offspring.
Photo: Anthony Mosley. Tel: 01822 833204 Web: www.anthonymosley-photographer.co.uk