BERWICK farmer Donald MacPherson is celebrating this week after winning the most prestigious accolade in livestock farming. And no-one is more proud than youngest son, Ross, who looked after Fizz, the prize-winning heifer, all summer.
On Friday, Fizz was declared overall champion at Smithfield in London which is the equivalent of Crufts dog show for livestock. Not only did she win the show but she also made history as it is the first time a pure-bred Charolais has won at the event and the first time since 1979 that a pure-bred animal has won.
It was an emotional moment as she was made winner exactly three months after the death of Ross’s grandmother, Carrie, the matriarch of the MacPherson family.
Carrie accompanied Donald’s father Ewan to Smithfield for many years and was there when the family took the title twice previously.
“We have had a difficult year with mum passing away and have all been a bit down,” said Donald. “This has given us a huge boost.”
Fizz was declared the winner at almost exactly the hour that Carrie died three months previously. “When she finally got the slap on the behind to say she was champion I looked over at my brother Ewan who was also in the ring with the reserve champion and he was in floods of tears. Then I looked over at my dad who had about 15 people round him and they were all crying too. “It was extremely emotional,” said Donald who farms with his wife, Sarah, at Castlehills on the outskirts of Berwick and runs the business Well Hung and Tender.
The year was made even more difficult for the family by the refusal of planning permission for a shed that is badly needed at the farm. It meant that Fizz, who weighed in at 604kg last week, had to be kept outside until it was show time.
The first big show was the Winter Fair at Ingliston a fortnight ago, but Fizz was unused to being inside and was uncomfortable on the day. “She didn’t do so well at the Winter Fair because she wasn’t used to being inside so she was sweating and not so happy,” said Donald.
Having said that, the Charolais heifer still took pure bred champion and by the time she got to London was better acclimatised to the temperatures.
Declaring her the winner, Judge Tecwyn Jones said she was: “All style, very correct and extremely good on her legs.”
Twelve-year-old Ross, a pupil at Berwick Middle School, was delighted but not surprised at her win as he had already won the Young Handler competition with her at Duns Show in the summer.
As he was at school he missed the judging but travelled down on Saturday to join the celebrations. In the sale after the show, Fizz was bought by Fred Murray of Wooler, who intends to breed with her. “Ross was pleased about that too as he was worried she would be bought by a butcher,” explained Donald.
“Now she will come back here in the summer for Ross to look after again and we may show her as a team when she matures. She will have to go back to Fred in the winter though because we still do not have a shed.”
The MacPhersons do have permission for an 80ft shed but lost an old shed in the snow last year and now need a bigger shed.
They applied for a 100ft shed but it was turned down after objections from nearby residents.
“It was only 20ft bigger and had solar panels so we could be eco-friendly but it was refused on the grounds the panels would cause glare,” Donald said.
“I don’t really understand that as they are designed to absorb light but we are going to have to drop the renewable side of it and reapply for the 100ft shed as we badly need it for our animals. Our lambs this year were down £627 each on average because we could not get them inside and now we are having to put calves away for winter instead of keeping them here.
“I don’t know when we will get permission, but it is frustrating and expensive,” Donald said.
“What bugs me is that there is an application for heaps of houses on land beside us that I don’t own and you would think the objectors would concentrate on that instead of hindering a working farm.
“I don’t understand it, but at least winning at Smithfield has given us a boost.”